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Vetting remote workers.


Dr. Neil Morelli


5 ways to tell if candidates will thrive while working from home.

Remote work options are rapidly becoming the norm among companies trying to attract and retain top talent. Employees love the option to work from home, and companies find that it improves engagement, reduces attrition, and lowers operational costs.

But being successful in a remote environment takes a certain set of skills. Most candidates will tell you they are self-motivated and deadline-driven because that’s what you want to hear. Fortunately, there are ways to vet who is being overly optimistic, and who will really shine in this environment.

  1. Written skills. A remote worker must be able to communicate with their peers and leaders with precision. If written communication is an important part of the job, ask candidates for a sample of longer-form content they’ve authored. This will tell you how well they can communicate when given the time to craft the perfect message.

    Or, give them a job-related hypothetical scenario such as writing an email to a customer or colleague to show you how well they communicate on the fly. How to score these written work samples really depends on the job, but red flag examples include being overly wordy (or too brief), incoherent, or full of errors.
  2. Verbal skills. In a survey conducted by McKinley Marketing, communication skills were ranked as a top skill for remote workers, with 50 percent of hiring managers calling them highly valued in these work environments. They argue that the limited face-to-face contact means remote workers have to be attuned to how they communicate in other forums.

    If most of their meetings will occur on screen, candidates need the confidence and control to speak up and to sum up their thoughts without rambling. Whether you meet candidates face-to-face or virtually via phone, skype, or video, look for cues that they will perform well in a virtual live environment. Can they summarize their thoughts clearly? Do they ask questions and participate in give-and-take without dominating the call? The way they behave today will show you how they will perform on the job.
  3. Self-motivation. A remote worker needs to be intrinsically driven to deliver quality work on schedule; to seek out help when they need it, and to find opportunities to support the team even if they haven’t been asked. Asking candidates how they dealt with obstacles in past roles, or how they might deal with hypothetical scenarios that require them to be proactive will give you a sense of their personal motivation.

    Also, look for examples of passion projects outside of work. Whether they run marathons, build birdhouses, or volunteer, it shows that they are self-motivated to do things that improve themselves and the community.
  4. Social skills. While a remote worker may spend a lot of time alone, they still need to be outgoing and proactive to stay engaged with their teams. Ask candidates how they have collaborated remotely in previous roles, or to describe times they’ve proactively sought help on a project, or pitched in when they saw others are in need.
  5. Problem-solving ability. Remote workers won’t have someone at their side to answer every question or steer them in the right direction. So, they need the cognitive ability to learn new skills and solve problems on their own. Studies show that employees with higher cognitive ability adjust better to new tasks by having a greater capacity to learn and apply new information to the job. This ability transcends remote work but is especially important when there are fewer colleagues or resources to rely on when working alone at home.

While behavioral or situational interview questions can provide examples of past problem-solving ability, recruiters can use pre-employment assessments to test their cognitive ability and to identify whether they have the personality traits (assertiveness or structure) to be successful in a remote environment.

In our next blog, we will explore the specific personality traits that lend themselves to remote work, and how these traits help remote workers collaborate with their teams, interact with leadership, and meet project goals with little extra oversight.

Manager looking over candidates while working from home

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