Remote hiring is one of the best moves in talent acquisition. Some of its known benefits are having a larger talent pool, reduced hiring time and cost, and increased employee productivity and retention.
However, there’s one major drawback.
Not everyone is suitable for remote working. In fact, the people who are top performers in the office might turn out to be terrible when working remotely.
Low concentration, poor time/task management, slow learning, and lack of familiarity with tools are just some of the primary issues here.
This is why it’s extremely important to look for candidates who are comfortable with working remotely. These candidates have some personal and interpersonal skills that make them suitable for remote work.
Here are some of the skills you should look for in your new remote hires.
I- Personal Skills
1. Independent Problem Solving
In a remote workplace, it’s more challenging and time-consuming to get a message across to your team members.
Due to various factors such as uncoordinated time zones and working hours or different prioritization, you might get your response later than you actually expect. In this scenario, it’s important to maintain a level of independent problem solving when faced with various issues during work.
There are two main reasons why you should look for independent problem-solving in your new remote hires.
First, interrupting teammates for a quick question repeatedly would steal from the team’s overall efficiency and creativity. In other words, it makes it difficult for their teammates, who are also working from home, to maintain their focus.
And second, because there’s this opportunity cost where an employee spends time explaining the issue to another person yet Google can answer you much faster if not better.
Say, for instance, you’re using HubSpot’s social tools, and a marketing team member wants to know if it’s possible to upload PDFs to HubSpot’s email module.
The HubSpot Community answers this question on multiple occasions and your team member has immediate access to that knowledge if they spend some time searching through it.
But if they choose to ask other team members, aside from wasting their time explaining the issue and distracting others, they might find out that ultimately other team members might need to do their research for them to find the answer.
In short, resourcefulness and versatility are two essential soft skills that you’re looking for in a remote hire.
You can survey them at some point of the hiring process where you create scenarios and ask what they would do in those situations. There are also cognitive assessment software that try to reveal personality traits by incorporating game theory, gamification, cognitive test, AI, and ML.
Read more: Are you doing remote recruiting correctly?
2. Familiarity with Tools in Use
Project and task management tools are remote teams’ best friends.
They allow teams to follow their tasks and due dates, communicate problems, requests, action plans, give each other feedback, and share materials.
Developer teams, for instance, work in sprints and track team performance on dashboards, and the tools they use might not be exactly user-friendly.
Depending on which team you’re hiring for, familiarity with the tools they use is something to look for in your new hires.
Don’t worry if your candidate is not particularly skilled in the specific tool you’re using, because most tools on the market function about the same way.
A person who knows how to open a ticket on Asana and assign it to someone won’t struggle much to repeat the same on Assembla. Or Wrike is incredibly easy to use for someone who has used any task management tool before.
Of course, when it comes to using complex systems that demand technical expertise, you need to be more selective because training an inexperienced employee may take too long and cost too much.
In this case, look for candidates that won’t add to the workload of your team’s members or take too much resource use.
According to a recent Upwork survey on remote work, 32% of respondents claimed that extra distractions at home had a negative influence on their performance.
Remote workers have no choice but to face their distractions and do their best to mitigate their negative effects. Even if some conditions are beyond our control – such as at-home parenting – being adaptable and flexible are valuable assets for dealing with and breaking through daily barriers.
Aside from daily distractions, remote workers are also inundated with multiple requests online. A virtual personal assistant for example is responsible for various tasks such as taking phone calls, managing your email, managing social media accounts, calendar management, preparing presentations, etc.
When you work remotely, you agree from the start that Slack messages will be popping up when you’re taking meeting notes, and the Gmail notification will say that you’ll be in another meeting in 15 minutes.
A skillful remote worker knows how to deal with distractions from multiple resources striking at the same time.
They know that it’s their responsibility to keep their focus and prioritize what’s important among all the stimuli they’re exposed to. Using apps’ notification settings and directing their focus efficiently, one can guarantee no important work gets disrupted or delayed.
Multitasking skills such as time management are extremely important for remote employees.
More importantly, remote working calls for the ability to use multiple software and systems simultaneously. Think of the Zoom calls you’ve attended. One has to be able to share their screen, take notes, answer chat questions, and record the whole thing all at once.
Tech requires a certain level of multitasking capability and tech-savviness.
“Regardless of whether a position is a technical one or not, remote work candidates must be tech-savvy enough to be comfortable working with common software or hardware tools to be successful. These can range from managing internet access to using virtual communication platforms. The more digital skills a remote work candidate possesses, the higher their candidacy will likely rank among employers.” – Dr. Timothy J. Giardino, BMC Software
This is another area where you can use modern, science
-driven gamification or survey services that can help you assess candidates’ multitasking capabilities.
II- People Skills
4. Strong Communication Skills
One key personality trait to look for in a remote employee is strong communication skills.
The logic is simple: you won’t always have the chance to use your mimics or trust your friendly aura when having an online conversation.
Therefore, the ideal remote team member has to be able to deliver precise, clear, and well-structured messages using Slack, Microsoft Teams, or whatever platform you’re using.
And they must also be skilled at holding virtual meetings over Zoom, Google Meets, Discord, or similar meeting management platforms.
It’s easy to read the room when you’re physically present in a room, but online is different. Your prospective hire must be able to address and correct misunderstandings, interrupt correctly when necessary, lead the direction of the conversation, and sense the mood in the air.
In other words, high emotional intelligence is an incremental asset in a remote hire.
Lack of its existence will be evident in their first touch with you, or their attitude towards team members including HR people and managers during the hiring process.
Emotionally intelligent people will show empathy in face of a problem, express genuine interest in the information they receive, and understand what you expect from them with great accuracy.
The ability to communicate well online also adds up to the quality of an employee’s learning experience.
Since employee training activities are also remote, employees need to be comfortable with online education and using online course platforms. They must show interest in and enthusiasm to find and use online resources.
5. Open-mindedness & Cross-cultural Literacy
A common characteristic of all-remote teams is having a special multicultural environment.
Teams that are rich in terms of cultural diversity bring incredible value to a business because cultural differences bring out different ways of thinking and consequently a wide range of ideas and lots of creativity.
Also, they’re selected from a relatively larger group of people compared to local hires. They stand out from a considerably large pool of talent.
When hiring a new team member, you must try to find out if they have respect for diversity and different ways of thinking. They must be open-minded, understanding, and respectful towards people from a variety of backgrounds.
An open-minded and understanding remote manager, for instance, should be able to tailor their way of communication based on employees’ personal and cultural differences.
If an employee is motivated mostly by personal growth, they must support them with the right tools and training. But for an employee that places great value on teamwork, team projects may be more effective in encouraging them and building loyalty.
And even more importantly, they must act as a conflict resolution expert in problematic matters that arise out of cultural differences. They must be the bridge between their juniors and help establish harmony in the team.
6. Collaborative Spirit
It’s true that your remote employees should be great independent problem solvers, but they shouldn’t be trapped in their isolated remote spaces. Collaboration is still the key to high teamwork efficiency in a remote workplace.
Lack of physical presence in a remote workplace makes it difficult to encourage and maintain collaboration among team members.
While in a physical workplace you have various options for team bonding and creating a spirit of friendliness and collaboration, in a remote team there’s the risk that employees get mentally isolated from their team members and lose their collaborative spirit.
That’s why in remote hires, you’re always looking for someone with the urge to help people they work with. Someone that always will remember that they’re working for a collective cause, even if they won’t see each other for a long time.
You shouldn’t neglect personal growth and satisfaction in your employees, but you also need to make sure that your new hires are more concerned with contributing to your company’s overall performance than improving their individual KPIs and personal gains.
Their collaborative spirit determines whether they’re friends with their team members, whether they’ll help others and facilitate the workflow, or even whether they’re loyal to your company values.
Read more: 10 ways to make remote hiring a cakewalk!
In Final Words
By now you should know that remote employees should have a special set of skills and expertise to ace their job.
Independence in problem-solving, familiarity with dedicated remote work tools, the ability to multitask, strong remote communication skills, open-mindedness, high learning abilities, and the spirit of collaboration are some must-have skills for your new remote hires.
One way to facilitate the screening process without spending time interviewing each one of your potential candidates is by asking them to submit their video resumes.
Observe the candidates’ communication skills, levels of empathy, and personal values in these introductory videos before you schedule an interview with them.
Mostafa Dastras has written for companies such as HubSpot, WordStream, SmartInsights, LeadPages, and MarketingProfs. Over the past years, his clients have primarily relied on him for increasing organic traffic and generating leads through outreach campaigns. Visit his blog LiveaBusinessLife or connect with him on LinkedIn to get him to work with you.