In years past, when companies had a hard time finding qualified employees, their options were limited. However, thanks to technology, today it’s possible for people to work almost anywhere. In fact, research shows 3.1 million professionals work full-time from home.

As the economy recovers, experts believe skills shortages are going to become an increasingly large problem for employers. One of Bersin by Deloitte’s predictions for 2014 is people with key skills, especially in technical fields, will be hard to find. As a result, it will be necessary for organizations to look farther afield for talent and develop a team of virtual employees.

Companies with virtual workers enjoy several benefits, such as:

  • Lower expenses. Remote employees typically work from home offices or from shared office space. In either case, facility costs are lower than at a large, central office complex. If virtual workers are contractors, this can also reduce benefits costs for an organization.
  • Increased productivity. Taking advantage of the best talent, regardless of their geographical location, translates into greater productivity for organizations. In addition, if remote workers are located in different time zones, work can be done beyond the traditional working hours defined by one time zone.
  • Better customer service. One reason organizations often consider virtual workers is to have staff that are located closer to customers. This can increase responsiveness and improve customer service levels.

To build a remote workforce, consider the following three recruiting and hiring tips:

Identify Jobs or Projects Best-Suited for Virtual Workers

Clearly, not all positions are appropriate for remote staff. Functions like data entry, customer service, marketing and web development may be good candidates. Organizations that have experience with virtual workers suggest remote work may not be a good match for entry-level positions or for candidates who are new to an industry. It’s also important to confirm the necessary technology infrastructure is in place to support virtual workers, such as collaboration tools like email, instant messaging or voice over IP calling.

Decide How to Publicize Open Positions to Potential Candidates

Whether your organization is looking for full-time virtual employees or contractors to support a project, it’s important to reach the most qualified candidates. Online applicant tracking systems can be a huge time saver. Remote workers may be located anywhere, so it’s helpful to use an applicant tracking system that automatically posts jobs to leading online job boards.

Establish an Interview Process That Will Identify the Best Candidates

Cornell University’s Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies recently conducted research to determine which personality traits are most important for virtual employee performance. They found people who are disciplined, results-oriented, technologically savvy and effective communicators are usually well suited to remote work. As part of the hiring process, you may want to ask candidates pre-screening questions related to these characteristics.

Many applicant tracking systems include functionality that automates this process, saving time for recruiters and the HR team. As part of the interview, it is advisable to ask applicants about their past experience with virtual work, how they like to structure their work and their communication preferences. If you are using an applicant tracking system, observe how quickly candidates respond to messages, as well as whether they respond to requests for references in a timely manner. All of these things are indicators of how responsible and accountable potential employees are.

It’s important to find employees with the best skills, regardless of their geographic location. When it comes to finding trustworthy and responsible virtual workers, the key is sourcing and interviewing. A talented team of remote employees can build competitive advantage through increased productivity, reduced costs and more satisfied customers.

Applicant tracking software can help simplify the recruiting process so you can focus on sourcing and hiring the right employees. Download our free guide to discover the benefits of automated applicant tracking.