Working remotely is old news now. The pandemic gave us all a crash course and what was supposed to be a temporary solution has created a dramatic shift in the world of work. Both employers and employees have lived the experience, seen the pros and the cons. Processes, systems and procedures have adapted accordingly.
But what do you do when you need to hire a brand-new remote employee? How can you ensure that the great on paper candidate has the internal drive to be productive and achieve goals even when there is no one with them to motivate and guide them? That is not taking the Elon Musk approach, it is a recognition that not everyone’s personality suits the inevitable solitude and independence of working remotely and the candidate may not even be aware of it.
There are of course, a plethora of psychometric and skills assessments available that can be used as an additional tool in the recruitment toolkit but there is also much that can be discovered during an interview process.
The key skills that Brellis have identified to ascertain whether a candidate will be both happy and productive in a remote environment are:
Independence: the idea of uninterrupted productivity is an absolute dream in a middle of a complex spreadsheet, a demanding project, accounts etc but the daily reality of absolute solitude can soon take its toll. No one goes for a coffee over Teams and Zoom or calls a colleague for a nonspecific chat.
Time management: one of the biggest pros of working remotely is the flexibility it offers but it is as easy to lose time on nonwork tasks as it is to lose track of time when you are not surrounded with coworkers. It is equally important for a candidate to be able to switch off from work. Strong time management, self-discipline and a high level of accountability are essential traits for remote workers.
Communication: It is said that between 70-90% of communication is nonverbal. Working remotely, even during virtual meetings is a loss of body language cues. Effective remote communication requires stronger communication skills than working in the office where you can quickly talk to a colleague or pop into the manager’s office.
Reliability: closely associated with trustworthiness. Can they be depended on day in and day out and can they demonstrate they will login and complete a day’s work?
Tech Savvy: What can go wrong may go wrong. How an employee handles tech related issues can be the difference between a lost ten minutes to a lost half a day. Successful remote workers must be comfortable with technology with preferably the confidence to ‘google’ an issue to fix it themselves.
Arguably these are all essential traits for any employee onsite or remote, but the mix and the levels are very different. When asking the questions to judge a candidate’s suitability extra emphasis is needed to ensure that the soft skills will still be applicable in a remote environment.
Specific remote worker questions:
Why do you want to work from home?
The answers to this question can be very telling. I had a candidate answer this by saying ‘she didn’t like people’. The role she was applying for still had considerable collaboration in the team albeit virtually. She wasn’t sent to the client! Answers that are framed with professional career slant are considerably better than personal reasons.
“There are fewer distractions at home, so I find I am more productive”
“I can squeeze more work hours in without commuting”
“I can develop my career without having to move locations”
These types of answers show the candidate is thinking from a professional perspective.
Personal reasoning is not necessarily a red flag but certainly requires further probing questions. The goal is to determine whether it is a logistical decision to optimize the smooth running of their circumstances or whether it is an attitude of self-serving. Empowered yes. Entitled no.
“What challenges do you think you will encounter working remotely and how will you deal with them”
We love this question as it instantly shows how much thought the candidate has given to the reality of working remotely. Many have thought of the pros of working from home but not all give much thought to the specific challenges they may face and how they will handle them.
“Where will you work?”
Instagram has a lot to answer for with images of a remote workers perching on the edge of a cliff with a laptop on their knees or lazing on a beach. Seriously how have they got Wi-Fi on that cliff and how can they see their screen in that sun? Where a remote employee works does matter. Many a great enterprise has begun on the kitchen table but does your potential candidate have the space and the peace to work from home.
“How do you communicate with a remote team or manager?”
This can be a tough one for a candidate when they do not know what systems and platforms you use but it is a good question to determine their technical capabilities of the wide range of communication options. It also provides an insight into how much consideration they give to the location and availability of their team or manager and how they would handle the inevitable difficulties
After speaking to hundreds and hundreds of candidates since remote work became a viable option Brellis is in a great place to assist you recruit your next remote employee. To speak with one of our experienced Consultants call 01926 830736 to see how we can help.