Given increasing levels of global competition, today’s startups need to be faster to market, more scalable, and more flexible than ever before. One way that many startups are achieving this agility is through the use of virtual workers. Research shows that telework grew by 102.1 percent between 2005 and 2014, with a lot of this growth being concentrated in the startup arena.

Entrepreneurs have realized that they don’t need to waste time negotiating leases when they can assemble virtual teams and open their businesses overnight in garages and bedrooms.

All of this is well and good, but a strategy focused on virtual workers will only succeed if you hire the right virtual workers. In order to do that, you need to know how to specifically screen candidates in ways that will reveal how dependable and effective they will be working remotely.

To that end, I have developed 10 revealing interview questions to help you select better virtual workers. The first five questions are presented below, and the next five are available here:

1. Do you have a dedicated workspace? Please describe it to us. Explain how it is set up in such a way that it allows you to work effectively.

When it’s crunch time, the last thing you want is a call from a virtual worker who says they can’t complete a crucial piece of the project because their slow Internet connection can’t download the files or their computer crashed.

Your virtual workers should have professional workspaces – the kind you would expect to see in a traditional office. They should also have backup plans, equipment, and systems in case anything goes wrong. Ask virtual candidates about their workspaces, and you can learn a lot about how professional they are.

2. How do you manage your time effectively each day?

ClockThe best virtual workers will know their own work habits and preferences well, and they will have developed some kind of system to minimize distractions, stay focused, and manage competing priorities.

You’ll want to dig deep here. Ask candidates about their time management systems, their mood management strategies, their energy management habits, and so on. What you’re looking for is someone who is disciplined and resilient enough to withstand the ongoing pressure of work without buckling at the first sign of adversity.

3. For how long have you worked virtually?

The last thing you want is a virtual employee who’s going to leave after three months because they realized they “didn’t like virtual work.”

All other things being equal, you should probably choose a virtual worker with at least a year’s worth of experience working from home. That way, you’ll know your new employee is someone who genuinely enjoys working virtually.

4. Why have you chosen virtual work over traditional work?

Ideally, you’ll want to hire someone who sees virtual work as a way of life – someone who has consciously chosen the virtual path, rather than someone who has stumbled on it by accident. The candidate who has chosen virtual will be far more committed to the role and your organization in the long term.

The ideal virtual worker will be clear on why they have decided to work virtually. Some answers that signify a truly committed virtual worker include:

- “I am very self-motivated and love working on my own.”

- “I love the home office environment.”

- “I really love working with new technologies, and working from home lets me use all sorts of new tools.”

5. Are you willing to work on a pay-per-project basis?

PhotoNot all virtual work is suited to a pay-per-project model, but if you’re hiring specifically for certain non-recurring assignments and tasks, then pay-per-project is the way to go.

As you probably know, the pay-per-project approach can give a startup more predictable project costs, helping you to maximize profits and avoid costly overruns. Depending on your organization’s situation, it may be in your best interests to favor virtual workers who enjoy pay-per-project remuneration, rather than pay-per-hour.

If you found these questions useful, stay tuned for part two of this article, where we’ll explore five more illuminating questions to help you screen your virtual candidates.

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