What to Look For When Hiring Remote Workers

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The data is clear: employees want the flexibility to work remote. Whether it’s a desire to miss commute time, an itch to travel the world, or the simple ease of working in their pajamas, more and more employees are requesting to be remote workers. Since the COVID-19 pandemic helped prove that remote work can, in fact, be just as productive, more and more companies are shrugging their shoulders and saying “fine”.

Are there some downsides to having a remote team? Of course. There’s nothing like working alongside your employees in person.  Sometimes, collaboration is more effective and creative when done in a more tactile way, like everyone using the same whiteboard. For parents, getting out of the house to work makes a major difference in their productivity—no Encanto playing in the background can work wonders for the mind!

But having a remote team has perks, too. In today’s economy, the number one perk is that it will likely make recruitment much easier. You’ll have a wider talent pool to pull from and you’ll have an advantage over your competitors that require people to traipse into the office. Studies have also shown that remote work can lead to employees having less stress, which may mean a higher level of productivity and lower employee turnover. Companies can also save a ton of money by getting rid of their physical office space (although an investment will have to made in software to have a functioning remote team). With clear expectations and the right people in the right positions, a remote team can flourish and impact your company for the better.

That being said, there are some important traits you need to look for when recruiting remote workers. Hiring remote isn’t the same as hiring in-person, and you need to keep that in mind when sifting through your applicants. Here are four traits you should be on the lookout for when you’re looking to hire remote.

A Solid Technology Stack

If someone’s going to work remote, they need to be able to depend on their technology infrastructure. Does the person you’re hiring have a modern laptop, a working microphone, and a reliable internet connection? If you’re doing a virtual interview and the candidate is lounging on the beach in Jamaica while their internet fizzles, it’s an obvious red flag. It’s great that people feel the freedom to work anywhere, but if the job position requires the internet—as most do—it’s going to be necessary that they’re able to easily access it. Ask the candidate what kind of tech they’ll be using and how familiar with it. You can also ask how they’ll solve the problem if their internet is out for a day or their laptop isn’t working (do they have an Apple genius bar near by? A coffee shop that they like to work from? Does your company offer remote technical support?) It’s always good to be prepared—after all, remote workers won’t have the same access to IT that your in-person crew will.

Significant Self-Motivation

When an employee is working remotely, it’s essential that they’re able to get things done without someone looking over their shoulder. Out of the office, there are more distractions and more opportunities to let things slide. An employee can be so sure they’re going to tackle their to-do list from start to finish that day…until, oops—they realize they have laundry to fold, a major news story just broke and they want to read commentary of it, or their kids burst into their home office. Self-motivation is an important tool in their toolkit in such times. It’s also important to ensure the candidate has the ability to not just brainstorm, but execute. When they’re by themselves, they’re still going to have to finish products from top to bottom. To try and decipher how high someone’s self-motivation is, ask about times in the past that they’ve had to be self-motivated and how they were able to overcome the temptation to be less-than-productive. You could also consider asking how big of a role their manager and teammates have played in their work in the past—if they voice that a manager has been key to their success, it may actually be a bit of a red flag. After all, if others were so vital to their success at work, how will they be able to handle being separated from their colleagues?

Communication Skills

Okay, okay—communication is important for nearly every single job position. But with remote workers, it becomes even more important. Communicating in person requires one particular skillset, and communicating remotely takes things to a whole new level. Are they clear and concise in their speech, since they’ll need to be speaking up in Zoom meetings? Are they able to express their thoughts in a written format, since so many more e-mails will be sent on a remote team? Are they comfortable expressing their opinions, since they’ll have less opportunities to bump into teammates at their water cooler for quick debriefs? Communication is key to remote work. It should be one of your highest priorities when looking to hire. A virtual interview can be the perfect place to see how well a candidate is able to express themselves.

Reliable Judgement

Remote employees are likely going to have to make decisions by themselves. They won’t have a manager just over in the corner office, or teammates in surrounding cubicles. Of course, tools like Slack allow for teams to communicate regularly. But there’s still going to be a lot of opportunities for them to make judgement calls solo. When hiring a remote employee, make sure you have 100% confidence in their abilities to make good decisions. Ask them for times when they had to make judgement calls in their past work experience and see if their decisions align with yours. Having someone on your team who’s afraid to make decisions is never a good idea, but when that person’s remote, you’ll feel the effects even more intensely.

Claire Swinarski is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.

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