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In a global business environment where there is a premium on skills, and in which flexibility has become a prized asset, remote engineers are increasingly sought for prestigious positions the world over in enterprises of all sizes, and at all stages of their growth and development.

Digital technology and greater familiarity with the concept of remote working means that there is a global talent pool that is virtually accessible by businesses everywhere. However, it’s not just the way that we work that has become more flexible — the terms under which remote workers and independent contractors can be hired are considerably more flexible too.

For instance, it is no longer the case that anyone who works for you must be an employee in the conventional sense of the word— there are now several ways in which you can hire workers, giving your business the flexibility it needs to success in a fast-moving, global business environment.

Hiring remote engineers as contractors can be a quick and efficient way to access top talent, especially for specific skill sets or project needs. However, it can come with challenges like misclassification and compliance with local employment laws in different jurisdictions.

Setting up a legal entity in the country you plan to operate will ensure you are in local compliance, but this can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, especially in unfamiliar regions.

An alternative cost-efficient solution for many businesses is to work with an employer of record,(EOR) enabling them to hire foreign workers without the need for a local legal entity. This approach offers access to a global talent pool while mitigating legal and administrative complexities.

The interview process when engaging a remote engineer

Once you have decided what model is going to work best for your business (contractors, opening a legal entity or EOR, you still need to find the right person for the role. The interview process is always challenging, perhaps even more so when you are filling a remote engineer role.

Below is a list of nine tips on conducting the interview process so that you’re as fully informed about candidates’ skills and suitability as possible.

1. Emphasise Strong Communication Skills

One of the key things you should be looking into to establish when hiring a remote engineer is how effective their communication skills are.

This is because managing issues, problems and conflicts remotely can be more difficult than when being tackled face to face. Asking a candidate their approach to problems, or how they have resolved conflicts previously, may give you some useful insight into this valuable skill.

2. Evaluate Independence and Self-Motivation

It is especially important when hiring a remote engineer to assess how well they can work independently, as well as their levels of self motivation.

Naturally, it is harder to directly supervise a remote workforce, so it is crucial to be able to rely on their ability to get the work done without someone looking over their shoulder. Asking direct questions about the ways in which candidates retain their focus when working remotely, or on their own, can therefore provide a useful indicator as to their ability to work independently.

3. Clearly Define Expectations

If you want to hire a remote engineer who meets your expectations, it makes sense to establish those expectations as early as possible in the interview process.

For instance, you should clearly outline during interviews the responsibilities associated with the role, the hours you expect them to work (especially important when multiple time zones are involved), as well as what candidates can expect from the company in terms of leadership and reporting structures, and the opportunities for further advancement within the organisation.

4. Assess Technical Skills and Experience

When you are hiring a remote engineer, you will naturally want to make an accurate assessment of their technical skills and experience. This is not always straightforward to do, but there are a couple of useful techniques that you can use.

For instance, asking open-ended questions can help in this regard, as candidates can better demonstrate their approach, experience and capacity when responding in a more detailed manner.

At the same time, you should also play close attention to what the answers reveal about a candidate’s problem-solving skills, as well as their willingness to seek clarity and ask questions of you.

5. Cultural Fit Considerations

Cultural fit is a slightly difficult concept to define, but essentially it means how well a candidate’s values align with those of an organisation. There are a range of questions that you can ask a candidate to determine the extent to which their values and ethos are in sync with yours.

For instance, you can ask them to describe what they are looking for in an employer, or the sort of support they expect to receive from a manager. You might also ask them to describe how they see your organisation’s values, or other businesses in the same field that they admire.

6. Leverage Video Interviews

Interviewing by video can be different to interviewing in person (see these tips here), but when you’re looking to hire a remote engineer, this is the likely scenario. Preparation is therefore crucial to be able to get the most out of the experience — for both parties.

When you know the role you are looking to fill, and what sort of person would meet your requirements, then you should give a candidate advance notice of the points likely to be covered during the interview. This also helps to establish expectations in advance, At the same time, you should also plan to ask some questions that they aren’t notified of in advance, to avoid getting generic answers that don’t really reflect the candidate’s personality.

7. Encourage Active Participation

It can be all too easy when interviewing for a remote engineer position for the interviewer to dominate the conversation, meaning the candidate is reactive and not a full and equal participant in the process.

As discussed above, open-ended questions are a useful way of doing this, as are questions where you ask a candidate to talk about their approach in particular circumstances, how they tackle technical problems, or methods they have used to resolve conflicts and produce a productive work environment.

8. Establish Efficient Communication Channels

As discussed above in point 1, communication is an essential part of a remote engineer role. In particular, the ability to communicate effectively and with clarity via text, email, group chat or other forms of written communication will likely be essential, as there will likely be limited opportunities for face-to-face discussions. Therefore, it will be useful to ask a candidate what methods they have previously used for communicating with team members and management, why they have chosen these platforms, and what their approach is to written communications.

9. Provide Support and Resources

If you want to get the most out of the interview process, it helps if the candidate enjoys and benefits from the experience as well.

Therefore, giving interviewees support and relevant resources in advance so that they have greater clarity will benefit both parties. For instance, let candidates know how many interviews they can expect to have, how long each is planned to last, the format of the interview and who will be present, as well as the company background, a clear job description, and what the general expectations are.

This will enable a candidate to be as fully prepared as possible and avoids confusion about the sort of person you are looking for, so that you don’t waste valuable time by interviewing candidates who are not realistically going to accept or be suitable for the job.