How to screen and interview candidates for your remote team

So, you’re ready to build your dream remote team? You’ve got the job description, you’ve got the candidates and now… it’s time to narrow them down and actually PICK your new team member.

Exciting times! But for a lot of people, the process can also be a bit scary, especially if you’ve never done it before.

  • Maybe it’s your first time hiring a remote worker


  • Maybe it’s your first time hiring ANYONE


  • Or maybe even your first time chatting with someone in a totally different country to you

Relax. You’re going to be fine.

I’ll give you some tips I’ve used when hiring remote workers myself (and I’ve successfully hired hundreds). And I’ll run you through some of the tips I give to my clients when they interview a potential candidate for a new role.

So by the time you get to the end of this article, you’ll know exactly what you need to do to screen, interview, and hire the right person for the job.

Screening: How to choose the right candidates to interview

Before you interview anyone, you’ve gotta work your way through the lovely pile of resumes on your desk (or in your email inbox).

If you work with a professional hiring company like Grow My Team, you’ll get to skip this step (yay!). We’ll do the screening for you so you don’t have to. But you might still be curious about the process we follow, so here it is (in a nutshell):

  1. Check for qualifications and certifications

  2. Check the work experience - is it relevant? Does it demonstrate loyalty and steadiness?


  3. Are they available to work your desired schedule or is that the middle of the night for them?

  4. Check if their salary expectation matches the budget


  5. Review the overall communication and assess whether they can write English to the standard that’s needed for the role


  6. Look at any portfolio items (especially if it’s a creative role) and evaluate relevance and talent


Essentially, our screening process involves matching the resume with the job requirements. Once we’ve gone through the candidates, we pick the top 2-3 and contact them to schedule an interview via Zoom (video/audio conferencing).

Any additional candidates who might be appropriate will get set aside for future potential opportunities or as a backup in case the top candidates don’t perform as expected in the interview.

Prep - What you’ll need on hand for your interview

The best way to feel more confident about your interview (and make sure it’s a success) is to spend a few minutes preparing for it.

Start by doing a little research into your candidate’s culture and communication style so you know what to expect there. For example, some candidates are normally quite reserved compared to others. They’re not overly outspoken, and you may need to prompt them a few extra times to get a direct answer to some of your questions.

Then gather together some documents that you can refer to during the interview. We usually recommend:

  • Info about your business in case you want to read it out (what you do and who you do it for)


  • Some info about your candidate (their resume and application)


  • Any points you want to clarify with your candidate (for example, you might want to ask them something specific about their skills or experience)


  • A list of standard interview questions (I’ll give you those in a sec!)


  • Info about the job, key responsibilities, and salary


Essential questions to ask during the interview

Before you jump into your questions, set the scene and give your candidate some background information. This is a nice way to kick things off because you can read it off your notes (if you want), and you don’t have to jump straight into the questions.

Remember your candidate is going to be nervous (way more nervous than you), so just be yourself, try to relax, and hopefully they’ll relax too. Introduce yourself and give them a brief overview of your business and the job you’re looking to fill.

Here are four questions we recommend asking your candidate:

  1. Can you tell me about your most relevant or recent role?


  2. What are your biggest professional accomplishments?


  3. What would you say is a mistake you’ve made in the past? And what did you learn from it?


  4. Do you have any questions you’d like to ask me?


Yep, just four questions! If you want to add more, it’s up to you. Especially if you have some questions that are specific to your role. But we’ve found that these questions (combined with proper screening) will help you draw out the right answers and discussion points to know if your candidate is a good match or not.

Bonus tip: The Internet connection is something important to consider for your remote employee. A good connection will mean they can communicate with you more clearly and load software/documents they’re working on faster. But you don’t have to ask them about it in the interview. Use the interview to assess their internet connection and stability - was the call clear? Did you have any troubles connecting?

During the interview, give your candidate time to talk

So, you’ve got your questions, done your prep, and the interview is about to start… but before you join the meeting, let me share a few more tricks of the trade that’ll help get you closer to your final decision of who you’ll hire.

First of all, remember that the goal of your interview is to get to know each candidate on both a professional and personal level. I’ve found that the best way to do this is to make sure your interviewee has plenty of time to talk (freely!).

So, how do you do that? Well, sort a start, make sure you’re not rushed. Allocate 15 minutes for the interview, plus 10 minutes buffer time before and after. You don’t want to be watching the clock while you try and listen to their answers!

And then after you ask a question, simply wait for the candidate to craft their response. Don’t get me wrong - this is a simple tip, but it’s trickier than it sounds. You’ll naturally want to fill the silence, but if you do that during your interview, this will likely lead your candidate toward the answer you want to hear, and not the one they’d have come up with on their own. So keep quiet and let them answer so you can get the full picture and get to know them properly.

Finally, it’s important to realise that not everyone performs their best during an interview, even if you pause and give them time to talk. In fact, sometimes the best workers interview badly because they’re nervous or quiet. If you don’t need an outgoing personality or someone to do calls for you, try to look past this and assess their suitability on other areas, like…

  • Timeliness - did they turn up on time? Did they respond to communication within a reasonable amount of time?


  • Experience - do they have the relevant experience and capabilities?


  • Communication - is their written communication stronger than spoken communication?

  • Proof - does their portfolio demonstrate talent and do their references confirm they’re reliable?


How to choose your new remote team member

After you’ve finished your 2-3 interviews, it’s time to choose who you’ll hire. Hopefully you’ll know straight away which candidate is going to be the best fit for your team, but just in case it’s not obvious, I’ve listed a few tips to help you narrow down your options:

  • Get more info - follow up on any references, check out their social media profiles, and Google them to see if you can find anything else out that might help you decide


  • Do a paid trial - test your two top contenders on a task (or a set period of time) 


  • Ask some more questions - you don’t need to schedule another interview to do this. Simply send an email with a few more questions about their goals, motivations, and skills to see which candidate is a better fit

And then make your choice. Don’t get analysis paralysis! Chances are, you’re stuck because BOTH candidates are excellent, so pick someone, hire them, and make it happen! You can always keep your other candidate’s details on record.

Over to you...

Hopefully by now you’re feeling more confident about the screening and hiring process for your remote team. It might sound like a bit of work, but really, it’s just a few hours of prep… which will pay off many times over once you have your new team member on board.

If you have any questions about hiring a remote team, or if you’d like to share your own experiences, feel free to leave a comment below. Let’s continue the discussion.

By the way, if you’re a Grow My Team client, we’ll be there to help with screening, prepping, interviewing, and hiring your remote staff. We make it as streamlined as possible, and you can feel confident that you’ll select the right applicant every time.

And if you’re not a client, maybe you’d like to consider it?

If you’re ready to start growing your team, we can help. We’ve got pre-screened candidates ready to go across a variety of popular roles, including customer service, accounting, web design, development, sales, and more. Get started here and you could have your new team in as little as two weeks.