Hiring Remote Workers – What Attributes To Look For

There are a number of advantages of having all or a portion of your team work remotely. It can reduce your overhead as you won’t need to rent office space or buy office equipment and materials. It can allow you to attract talent that your competitors who haven’t made the move to remote work might not be able to attract. And there are advantages for the employee, which, if done correctly, could help to improve employee engagement and increase employee loyalty.

Whether it’s by choice – for the above-mentioned reasons and/or others – or if it’s by obligation as the pandemic dictates certain new labor restrictions, the chances are high that, if you haven’t done so already, you will soon be having to move towards a remote work environment.

However, there are many pitfalls to avoid when hiring remote workers. This style of working and the environment it requires aren’t necessarily suited for everyone. In this short article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the top skills employers look for in employees and how they pertain to the specific circumstances surrounding remote work.

Anticipating Potential Problems

If the candidate has had experience working remotely, they should have already encountered some of the problems that are specific to remote workers.

  • Staying motivated
  • Eliminating or minimizing distractions
  • Staying organized
  • Effectively using collaborative software and virtual platforms
  • Prioritizing tasks
  • Effectively respecting reporting procedures

If the candidate hasn’t had any experience working remotely, they should have still done their research and looked into the potential pitfalls that await them. They should have imagined possible solutions, and they should be prepared to handle these unique challenges.

Beyond the skills and attributes that are specific to the position you are hiring for, how the candidate is prepared to deal with the specific challenges associated with remote work should constitute a significant portion of the interview questions remote workers should prepare for.

Personality Traits of the Ideal Remote Worker

Remote work is not suited for everyone. And even someone who is not predisposed to remote work can overcome the difficulties through a good work ethic and persistence. However, when taking a look at the situation from a broader perspective, there are a few personality traits or attributes that successful remote workers tend to have in common.

Tech Savvy

Remote work means that employees stay connected through the use of collaborative software and online platforms. The ideal remote worker is perfectly at ease relying on these technologies. He or she has demonstrated in the past success in learning and using new programs and procedures.

Strong Written and Verbal Communication

In order for the team to stay focused and on track, they will need to communicate often and effectively. In a remote environment, communication skills are perhaps more important than ever. The remote worker must respond through text and chat and cannot rely on facial expression and other types of non-verbal communication.

In written communication, often the absence of tone to the words can lead to misunderstanding or misinterpretation. For the remote worker who does most of their communicating through text, emails, and chats, the ability to effectively, succinctly, and politely communicate is crucial.

Strong and Creative Troubleshooting Ability

It is inevitable that eventually – or immediately – something will not go as planned. For the remote worker, there won’t be anyone around to help identify the source of the problem and solve the issue. The ideal remote worker is good at troubleshooting (identifying the precise source of a problem). The ideal remote candidate is not prone to panic, keeps a level head, and is able to work through systems and chains to find the weak or broken link.

Assertiveness and Initiative

In a remote working environment, the team members are expected to stay motivated even when there is no physical presence around them pushing them to do so. This requires a certain level of confidence which is demonstrated by the worker being assertive and taking initiative.

During the hiring interview, the remote work candidate should be able to give examples from their previous work experiences of when they took the initiative and asserted themselves.

Checklist for Interviewing Remote Worker Candidates

Beyond assessing their skills and experience related to the specific job you are interviewing for, you should also make sure to check for the following elements:

  • Do they have the right space and equipment to be a successful remote worker?
  • If they are going to work from home, they should have a space that is dedicated to work so as to help keep their work life and their private life separate.
  • How will they stay focused and motivated?
  • They should be anticipating this problem as it is well known to affect remote workers. They should already have conceived of and possibly tested strategies to combat this problem.
  • How comfortable are they learning and adapting to new software, platforms, and procedures?
  • They should be able to give examples from their current or previous job in which they successfully learned and adapted to new software and procedures.
  • Why do they want to work remotely?
  • Perhaps it is only the circumstances related to the pandemic that are causing this need. If not, this is a good way to see if the candidate’s priorities are in line with yours.
  • Are they assertive and comfortable taking the initiative?
  • They should be able to provide examples from their current or past job in which they demonstrated their assertiveness and their ability to take the initiative.

The Bottom Line

Beyond the skills and attributes that are unique to the specific position you are hiring for, working remotely requires its own set of skills and attributes.

Making sure that a new employee will be able to handle the challenges and avoid the pitfalls that are associated with remote work requires vigilance starting from the hiring process. Allocate some time during the hiring interview to speak specifically about the challenges of remote work.

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