How to know when candidates will be strong remote workers

Just a few short (or long, depending on how you look at it!) months ago, we were all suddenly forced to become remote workers. The transition was challenging for many, but we adapted. Many even thrived. 
Although many workers are returning to the office, many organizations are continuing to operate remotely, or at least have some team members who will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future. 
By now, you’ve got a good idea which of your employees remains productive and even thrives in a remote environment. But, it can be trickier to determine who will be strong remote workers during the hiring process. 

What to look for in strong remote workers

To help you determine which candidates will be effective remote workers on your team, here are 4 tips to consider:

See if they were remote workers pre-pandemic.

As I mentioned earlier, we’ve all got some experience working remotely now. But scrambling to make it work in a home office is a different ballgame than permanently working from home. 
The easiest way to determine who may be a good fit for remote positions is to simply look for professionals who worked remotely prior to COVID-19. If someone was successful working remotely in the past, they are much more likely to have the processes and setup in place necessary to thrive in a permanently-remote role. 

Look for cues during the hiring process.

Although looking for prior experience working remotely is the low-hanging fruit, it’s not always going to be that easy to determine who will thrive as remote workers. You’ll likely have to look for some cues during the hiring process. Some of the hidden “signals” that can help you determine whether individuals will thrive as remote workers. 
It’s important to note, though, that if your top candidates fall short in one of these areas, it shouldn’t necessarily disqualify them. You can always mention the roadblock and see if they’re willing to upgrade as necessary (you may even want to help them!). Still, if you notice one (or especially more than one) issue here, you may want to give these elements some consideration:

  • Wifi quality. Although there are several factors that can affect wifi quality during a Zoom or Skype call, pixelated images, choppy audio and other problems can signal that professionals don’t have the home technology needed to thrive as remote workers.
  • Incomplete office setup. The kitchen table or living room sofa may have worked in the early days of the pandemic, but they’re most often not suitable permanent offices and desks for full-time employees. In our experience, successful remote workers have dedicated office space with equipment, technology and resources that rival your actual office. It should feel like work — because it is!
  • Lackluster communication skills/presentation abilities on Zoom calls. Now if you notice this during the hiring process, it is one element that may definitely factor in when vetting candidates. Strong communication skills are essential for successful remote workers. If you find that candidates aren’t communicating well on Zoom calls for whatever reason, it may be a sign that they aren’t a good fit for working remotely. 

Ask the right questions.

Aside from the cues mentioned previously, asking the right questions during interviews can help you determine who’ll thrive as remote workers. Behavioral questions are an excellent fit here, since remote workers may find themselves in unique situations compared to their in-office counterparts. Here are a few ideas:

  • Tell me about a situation where you’ve had to self manage and direct your own time. How did that work out?
  • What challenges could you face working remotely on a full-time basis? How do you plan on overcoming them? 
  • Tell me about a project you led/contributed to remotely. What roadblocks did you encounter? How did you overcome them? 
  • What tools have you used previously to collaborate/communicate with colleagues? What did you like about them? What frustrated you about them? 

Better yet, proactively test their ability to overcome challenges.

Using the questions above, you’ve started to identify which candidates have the skills and discipline needed to thrive as remote workers. To help further vet talent and see who will work seamlessly from a home-office, though, it may be prudent to throw candidates some curveballs. Testing their ability to overcome unique challenges while working remotely can help you foresee any issues that could come up down the line. 
This can be accomplished by presenting specific scenarios to late-stage candidates — What will you do if…

  • The internet goes out? Coffee shops may be out for remote work in the next few months, so what would happen if the internet went out at home? Many individuals have “hotspot” capabilities and high-speed cell phone connections. Or perhaps a relative nearby would step in to help. For you as the employer, knowing how an employee can pivot in this circumstance can put your mind at ease that work contributions won’t be affected when the internet goes out.
  • Remote workers encounter unexpected home distractions? Sometimes the dog barks. Kids stay home sick. Spouses make noise. The dishwasher floods the kitchen. All sorts of crazy things can happen in our homes! But when our homes are also our workspaces, distractions can wreak havoc on remote workers.

    Stuff like this WILL happen, so it’s important for you to know how potential remote workers will respond (bonus points if they can articulate a story where they had to react in the past). It will also be helpful for YOU to know how you’ll support/be understanding when freaky issues come up.
  • Their computer crashes? No one likes seeing the spinning beach ball of death! Or maybe a computer is totally bricked and won’t boot at all. Dread fills the air! But when working from home, remote workers can’t simply march over to IT and ask for a new laptop. Do potential remote workers have a desktop or second laptop? Is there another device they can use until their primary tech is fixed? Will you provide them with tech, or will it be BYOD? There are a lot of variables and benefits to working this out during the hiring process – both for vetting candidates and determining how your organization will support or respond to remote employees regarding tech. 

Remote or on-site, we’ll help you find the right talent.

With the world changing more rapidly than ever, finding the right talent is especially critical. Here at Matlen Silver, our network of skilled talent is eager and ready to join your team. We’ll help you find the right remote workers and on-site employees to reach your goals. To learn more, contact a member of our team today.

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