Thanks to cloud-based technologies and speedy broadband connections, remote work has truly caught on. And from the looks of it, it’s here to stay.

In fact, remote working is rising in ranks so rapidly that it’s been touted as the future of work by almost everyone who’s an authority in the area.

As working remotely, or telecommuting, captures the imagination of employers and employees alike, many companies are quickly joining the club. In fact, some have taken it a step further by completely getting rid of a physical office and building an all-virtual workforce.

Because working from home, or a café for that matter, is such a different experience from working in a traditional office setting, it only makes sense to tweak your hiring practices for remote employees. If your company allows remote work in any capacity, it is critical to look for characteristics in candidates that point towards their ability to work without in-office supervision.

To build a productive and reliable remote workforce, look for these key traits in candidates before hiring them for a role.

Self-Motivation

Because your remote employee doesn’t have a boss physically supervising them, it can be easy to lose motivation through the day. Remote workers to be self-motivated to achieve things on their own, not because someone is constantly monitoring them.

How to assess

  • Ask the candidate about their work history, interests, and professional milestones
  • Specifically, enquire after their career and promotion arc – how frequently they’ve changed jobs and if they’ve been promoted in their previous roles
  • Ask them how they prioritize the day’s work. Do they use any tools, to-do apps, organize lists, etc.?
  • Because motivation is closely related to resilience and positivity, ask questions about professional failures and obstacles and how the candidate has tackled such situations
  • Motivated people carry the enthusiasm to other areas in their life. Ask the candidate about their interests outside of work, activities or sports they’ve pursued over a period of time, and if they’ve received any sort of recognition for a hobby/skill

A High IQ - Internet Quotient

Remote work involves a colossal use of the internet and online tools. While remote employees need not be digital wizards, they must certainly be comfortable working across different platforms. More importantly, they must display a keenness to quickly learn the ropes of a new tool.

How to assess

  • To gauge a candidate’s IQ, schedule the interview on a platform they’re unfamiliar with - Zoom, Zoho Meeting, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts etc. Assess their learning curve – how quickly they learn and interact with the user interface of a tool they’ve never come across
  • Check if the candidate has experience working with your company’s preferred collaboration tools - Slack, Trello, Todoist, Google Drive, etc.
  • Design the interview to include exercises like screen share to further assess technical aptitude

Reporting and Documentation Skills

Organization skills are key, especially if you are looking to remotely delegate work. In a virtual setup, monitoring work progress and tracking updates can be messy. Look for individuals that are exceptional at self-organization and document everything of importance.

How to assess

  • During the interview, describe roles and responsibilities to the candidate and request them to send across a short summary. Use it as a yardstick to check their attentiveness, recall value, and punctuality - a good summary will indicate attention to detail without running into pages
  • Ask them to write a short description of a common object. For instance, ask candidates to describe a car to an audience who doesn’t know what it is
  • Check for previous experience with reporting tools and software
  • Check if they stay organized with to-do lists, task apps, instruction manuals, SOP documents, etc.

Good Communication Skills

In a remote work environment, a quick discussion isn’t as easy as tapping a coworker on the back. In fact, most communication in remote setups happens over emails and collaboration tools like Slack. Good business communication skills – both verbal and written – in a virtual setup help everyone stay on the same page and collaborate effectively.

How to assess

  • Ask the candidate to describe a complex topic over email
  • Have them explain something they find challenging within their domain of expertise in as simple terms as possible. Was the description clear? Did it provide you with new insight, or did it confuse you further?
  • Read the candidate’s cover letter and email correspondence thoroughly to get a sense of their written communication skills
  • Use the interview to assess if the candidate remains clear and concise while answering questions. See if they get to the point quickly or beat around the bush

Attention to Detail

Workers that pay great attention to detail simply don’t make as many mistakes. A detail-oriented individual is especially an asset in a remote setup where verbal, undocumented communication often slips by.

How to assess

  • Describe an assignment and ask the candidate to repeat it a few minutes later. If they can summarize it with critical details in place, they’ve been paying attention
  • Carefully read through their resume and cover letter for proper spelling and grammar, a good marker of how detail oriented a person is
  • Do they use any tools, for eg., Grammarly, to ensure their work remains free of error?

Punctuality and Responsiveness

Working remotely demands exceptional punctuality and responsiveness. Imagine working with someone who doesn’t respond to emails and calls on time. The result can be frustration and hampered productivity - you cannot simply walk over to their desk and demand answers.

How to assess

  • A good way to identify punctuality is the interview itself. Does the candidate arrive on time, all set for the discussion?
  • Give the candidate an assignment with a deadline. Do you receive their submission on time?
  • Measure the candidate’s responsiveness by how quickly they respond to your emails and calls

Time Management

To be effective, a remote worker must be able to prioritize. Someone who can focus on the right tasks and consistently deliver on time is likely to do well remotely.

How to assess

  • Ask the candidate how they approach time management on a daily basis. Do they plan the day’s work in advance or they have a tendency to miss deadlines?
  • Give them a set of tasks of varying importance to be completed. Is the candidate able to identify urgent tasks and do away with them first? Or do they fail to prioritize and end up multi-tasking?

A Sense of Ownership

Your virtual team may be virtually anywhere across the world, and you may even be in different time zones. Hire employees who are self-starters and display a proactive attitude. A sense of ownership is especially important in remote employees since they have to get out of bed each morning and do their best through the day without the push that comes with log-in times at the office.

How to assess

  • Look for candidates with previous experience of working from a remote location, preferably for a long time
  • Ask the candidate if they were ever promoted while working remotely – this will tell you of their drive and caliber
  • Ask them if they’ve independently taken charge of a project in the past, and the time it took them to bring it to fruition
  • Ask for examples of self-reliance and initiative. Have they ever learned the ins and outs of a new tool by themselves?
  • Does the candidate ask questions about the company and the role? Do they put forth any ideas on how they can specifically contribute to the company?

A Positive Attitude and Warmth

Building healthy professional relationships with team members and clients is harder in a remote setting, a tall order even for the most sociable people. Employees that radiate warmth and a positive attitude will find it easier to work in harmony with a team and get along with members.

How to assess

  • Was the candidate able to build a rapport with you during the interview? Did you conclude the interview with a feeling of positivity? Was a genuine attempt made to answer all your questions?
  • Do they seem genuinely excited about the job? Are they able to articulate the specific parts of the job that interest them the most?

Over to You

Working in a remote setup, no matter the degree, takes a high amount of trust. The truth is, not every person is cut out for the job. When you hire candidates that fit the mold, you can hit the remote-work sweet spot and lead a successful virtual team.

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