What are the Key Qualities to Look for While Hiring Remote Employees?

What are the Key Qualities to Look for While Hiring Remote Employees?

Every job role demands a specific set of qualities to produce the best outputs. Some require on-field presence but many can be conducted remotely with the assistance of proper communication tools.  Studies have found that 77% of employees are more productive when they are working from home. This suits employees and organisations alike.

If employees were asked to describe remote working in one word, it would most probably be ‘flexible’. After all, it lets them choose their own working hours. However, the key is to organise their time well – Yoga in the morning? Check. Making breakfast? Done. Working for five hours without distractions? Sure!

For recruiters, though, remote hiring poses a big challenge– it’s not easy to find remote employees who manage their time consistently well.

While hiring for a normal position in any office or workplace, you would typically look for someone who has the qualified skills, experience, and a positive attitude. However, for remote employees, apart from these typical qualities, you also need to drill down to several other key traits that are a must.

So how do you identify truly committed remote workers? Here are the top essential qualities to identify while hiring remote employees:

Essential Qualities of Remote Employees That Every Recruiter Should Look For

Only a self-driven person can handle the pressure of remote working well. Self-discipline is a must-have trait. Click To Tweet

1. Self-Motivated Persona

Only a self-driven person can handle the pressure of remote working well. Self-discipline is a must-have trait. Otherwise, the employee will end up with missed deadlines, low-quality work and, more than likely, a messy house.

So, how to recognize a highly-driven personality?

  • When you scout for candidates for a remote position, keep a tab on the emails. Send messages during work hours and see how promptly they respond. Are they clear with their ideas?
  • Always ask about their schedule and a realistic estimate of how many hours of work they can devote to and see if it fits your requirements. You can even test them for a period of one week or on a part-time basis before you offer them a full-time position.

2. Communication

This is a key skill you would look for normally, but it acquires more priority when hiring remote employees. How well are they able to communicate their ideas? Take a special note of how the candidate communicates throughout the hiring process, from the initial phone interview to follow-up emails.

Identify communication skills through the following ideas:

  • Look for how well they communicate over the phone/video call when you set up an initial phone screening to assess the candidate.
  • Also, look at how well they communicate through the emails you send and receive from them to know their email etiquette.
  • Is the candidate being clear and concise without beating around the bush?
  • Do they respond to important messages in a timely manner?

This is a non-negotiable and the most critical skill because without proper communication even simple tasks become impossible to achieve. A remote worker must be able to comprehend and communicate with other team members with ease. And, that leads us to the next important trait.

3. Collaborative

On top of being a strong communicator, a remote employee needs to work together with their peers or colleagues, depending on the nature of the job. They need to be on the same page as the team in terms of being informed about the daily happenings and what they can do to perfectly complement it.

Here’s how you can look for team-playing skills virtually:

  • Learn about their previous experiences working in a team and assess how they managed the challenges of working in a team
  • A good team-player is often a good listener so when you ask questions, see how well the candidate is able to comprehend and come up with a solution
  • Are they aware of their remote environment and the possibility of collaborating with colleagues across multiple time zones and therefore can they handle it by being available at the appropriate time?

4. Decision-Maker

Remote employees should have a knack for independent decision-making since there might be obstacles every day and no prompt help around. Click To Tweet

Of course, the manager sets the expectations, objectives, and targets for the job and employees follow the instructions. But what happens after that? Do they just sit and wait around the whole day for a simple answer from the manager or do they make a calculated decision by themselves?

Remote employees should have a knack for independent decision-making since there might be obstacles every day and no prompt help around. If troubles arise, they should research solutions, document it, and build a road map to make an apt decision so that it can be shared and referred to when needed.

Here’s a test for you to assess this skill:

  • A simple question to gauge how well a candidate managed a complex problem in their previous job to arrive at an appropriate decision can help in this regard.
  • A standardised test that assesses the number-crunching or problem-solving skills of the candidate is also another way to ascertain their decision-making skills.
  • As a part of your hiring process, give candidates an exercise that is related to the job they will be doing.

What are the Key Qualities to Look for While Hiring Remote Employees 2

5. Time Management

It’s easy to get distracted at home, and before you know it, the seemingly endless responsibilities at home can take precedence over work. However, you need to find remote candidates who are available at the right time to collaborate and contribute their efforts. This means that you need to find someone who is adept at time management and able to prioritise tasks.

If at times unforeseen problems arise at home, for instance, a child falls sick and needs attending to, they should do everything in their power to cover the gap in the work and act promptly.

How to spot this vital skill?

  • Asking how many hours per day they focus on work will give you deeper insights into how organised they usually are.
  • Assign a sample task for them as an assessment with a deadline and see how quickly they are able to submit the same.
  • How often do they take breaks between work?
  • Do they have a designated work area?

6. Accountability

The boss is not around physically to hold the workers accountable in a remote environment. However, the employee must still be held accountable for the quality of their day-to-day output. There might be umpteen revisions before you get to the final end result.

That’s why you need accountable workers who take responsibility for the quality of work they deliver and are patient to meet the expectations. They should take complete ownership of the tasks, take the right steps to improve, and stand behind it.

Here’s how you can identify this skill:

  • If you are assigning a sample assessment task to the candidate, provide feedback to improve the outcome and ask them to come up with another tweaked version, according to your requirements. This will give you insights into how they own the task and take responsibility to get it perfectly right.

7. Resourceful

Flexibility is a necessary virtue in this era. You don’t need rigid or stiff workers who only stick by what they know and follow instructions. You need people who are open to continuous learning and make efforts to up-skill themselves for personal as well as professional growth.

The ideal remote employees are self-starters who are willing to invest in teaching themselves new skills and are adept at multitasking. Why is this important? Resourceful employees find creative ways to complete the task at hand with the help of their wide-ranging knowledge and thus get the job done faster. Being resourceful also means that you identify employees who are not necessarily putting in long hours to get work done, but willing to undertake ‘smart work’ to get things done quickly.

Ask specific questions to know if they are invested in personal and professional growth:

  • You can ask questions to determine how open they are to take up professional development opportunities to expand their skill base?
  • Or whether they have been exposed to professional development opportunities in the past and willingly opted for it?

8. Passionate

It is safe to say that almost everybody likes working from home but can you find people that are really passionate about remote working? How do you find someone who is more excited about their role in the first place? How will they sustain themselves when the workload mounts?

It can be hard to provide motivation to employees who work remotely, and that is why, you need to find self-motivated, passionate workers who are genuinely committed to the work they are doing. Working for a paycheck may be one motivation but finding passionate virtual employees who love doing their job is of utmost importance.

So, what are some good indicators of this vital skill?

  • Asking the standard question of why they applied to your company is one way to know what motivated them in the first place.
  • Also, employees who are more passionate tend to jump less across jobs in their career journey.
  • Besides, take note of any entrepreneurial skills they might have if they have taken the initiative.

9. Attention to Detail

Remote employees need to have a firm grasp of their task objectives. They need to know what they are supposed to do and how to do it with the right attention to instructions and details. Without multiple iterations and follow-ups, they need to be able to meet company expectations and consistently deliver high-quality work.

For spotting this quality:

  • Send a task description that is demanding with multiple instructions and guidelines and a detailed description of the type of output you want. Then pay attention to the way they follow the instructions.
  • Also, take note of how meticulously they perform tasks or make it appealing and presentable.

10. Tech-Savvy

Whether you are hiring for a tech-specific role or not, remote employees need to be open to using tools and technology to manage their tasks without having an IT department by their side.

Ensure that they are comfortable using any of the latest remote communication tools out there and see if they have any experience using such tools.

Identify this quality with the following:

  • Take a note of the technical skills in their profile and see how adept they are using common tools like HTML, WordPress, Microsoft Office, etc.
  • Ask if they have used any specific communication tools like Zoom or Airtable and if they know how to use them independently in a remote setting or whether they need any guidance for it.

These are some of the vital skills to look for in a remote candidate. However, if a candidate is lacking in a few of the departments, don’t consider it as a deal-breaker immediately. Some skills can be entirely new for a candidate and can be learned, provided they have the grit and will for it. It can be an unfamiliar territory that can be mastered with a fair amount of practice. In such cases, take a call and, if possible, provide learning opportunities to strengthen that particular skill.

Share Information to Make Sure Candidate is Aware of your Policies

Some of the information that you should share upfront with the candidate include:

  • Challenges and benefits that come with remote working
  • Your core values as published on your company website
  • Communication guidelines to enable the candidate to share company information using approved channels only
  • Salary and benefits that come with the job
  • Interview process and levels

Being open about your policies gives the candidate enough time and opportunity to be certain about their candidature.

Identifying Red Flags While Interviewing Remote Employees

Here are some potential red flags that can indicate that a candidate is probably not the best fit for a remote environment:

  • Slow communication – It takes them weeks to respond to emails or they are generally slow in the overall communication process.
  • Not flexible with meeting times – Brushing off reasonable time slots for interview sessions means they might not be flexible.
  • A questionable culture fit – If they are not able to thrive well in a team setting and don’t match your company’s culture.
  • Not fulfilling skill assessment – Don’t hire someone who doesn’t meet the required expectations of the right skills for the role.

Don’t Settle or Hire the First Person You Come Across

The talent pool is wider when hiring remotely as there are no restrictions in terms of geographical location. This means you have to carefully assess the talent pool, and you definitely don’t want to settle for a mediocre-performing candidate just to bring the recruitment drive to a finish.

Set reasonable standards for the role after understanding the exact requirements from the team managers so that you can make a calculated decision without any haste.

It might seem like a lot of things to keep in mind when hiring remotely. Trust yourself, talk to your team and keep a steady state of mind when looking for the perfect candidate for any remote role, and soon, you’ll have a new teammate who would be worth the search.


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