Josh Tolan,CEO of Spark Hire, contributed this article to BusinessNewsDaily's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

If you think virtual workers and telecommuters are a rare breed, think again. According to research by Forrester, nearly 34 million people work remotely at least occasionally. And this number is only expected to grow in the years ahead. According to the same research, by 2016 the number of telecommuting employees and virtual workers will reach about 63 million, comprising 43 percent of the U.S. workforce.

So with the talent pool willing to work remotely growing ever larger, you need to develop strategies to tap these potential corporate superstars. Obviously the first order of the day should be to use telecommuting as a company perk to attract great candidates looking for a more flexible environment.

Millennials in particular love the idea of a more flexible work schedule. A study by MTV found flexible work options at the top of young workers corporate wish lists. For small businesses and startups, telecommuting can also be a cost-saving measure. It can reduce or entirely eliminate the overhead associated with renting a physical location.

But hiring the best virtual workers, especially if they'll be spending all of their time outside the office, comes with its own set of challenges. Thankfully, the same technology making it easier for employees to work remotely is also making it simpler to ensure you hire the best virtual workers. Let's take a look at a few technological tools you can use to hire and manage your virtual superstars:

Use Online Portfolios To Assess Skills

When it comes to finding the right people for your virtual jobs, it's important these future employees can hit the ground running. While it's not impossible to train a virtual worker, it might be easier and less time-consuming to find someone who already has the skills and qualifications necessary.

During the hiring process, look for candidates who are using technological tools to show off their concrete job skills. For instance, if you're hiring a Web developer you might look for candidates who can direct you to samples of their work online. Candidates with online portfolios show they're tech-savvy and thinking one step ahead. You won't have to guess if they have the skills to get the job done, you'll be able to judge hard evidence of their abilities.

Connect Personally With Video Interviews

One of the issues with finding employees who will work remotely is the lack of personal connection in the hiring process. Even though these workers won't show up in the office everyday (or in some cases, ever) doesn't mean they shouldn't also fit into the company culture.

Using video interviews, employers can easily connect on a personal level with telecommuting candidates. Employers can use one-way video interviews, where candidates answer written questions on video, to weed out candidates all wrong for the company. Since hiring managers can watch at any time, this frees up space in the hiring process to ensure you only connect with the top candidates. If you know someone is all wrong for the company immediately, you can quickly move on.

Once you have the best candidates you can then connect personally in a live video interview. It's just like meeting a candidate face-to-face, only instead of being across the desk they're on the other side of the webcam. For startups and small businesses looking to hire great virtual workers, video interviews allow for personal connection while eliminating the need to shell out money on airfare.

Utilize Instant Messaging To Keep In Contact

Once you've hired your telecommuting superstars, make sure you keep in contact with them to form a connection and make sure they're on track. Technological tools from social media to instant messaging make it easier and faster to connect in real-time, even if your employee is in a different time zone. In fact, 61 percent of workers said internal social media tools have helped them better collaborate with coworkers.

Just like any employee, you'll have to manage your remote workers by trusting their work ethic, knowing what projects they're working on, and keeping in contact. Forming a bond might not be as easy as talking about the latest episode of American Idol at the watercooler, but the real-time communication of instant messenger systems help employers engage with workers both near and far.

With the increase in telecommuting options, it might be time for your company to start hiring virtual workers. Thanks to new technology, from online portfolios to video interviews and instant messaging, hiring workers who will thrive in a virtual environment just got a little bit easier.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.