According to a 2016 Gallup survey, 43% of workers in the US spent some of their time working remotely. This is a significant increase from the same survey conducted in 2012. In fact, the survey revealed that almost a third of the workers spent more time each week working remotely, which indicates that a greater number of companies are adopting remote work. Moreover, many companies can now access a large pool of talent across the globe. The success of companies such as Upwork, Crew, and Flexjobs who connect remote freelancers with business owners is a testament to the disruption of the traditional work model.
That said, the changes have also presented hiring challenges to business owners. Essentially, remote freelancers need additional soft skills which might not be as essential for on-site staff. So, what criteria would recruiters use to identify the best remote worker candidate for an organization? Here are the top ten qualities you should look for when hiring remote workers.
1. Strong Communication Skills
While communication skills are essential for flourishing in the workplace, it is even more important for remote workers. A majority of the remote work interface involves online correspondence, so written communication skills are a must. In contrast, workers in an office setting have the ability to simply stroll down to a coworker’s desk or shout from their workstations.
As a rule, remote workers who are comfortable with getting in touch with coworkers and superiors for assistance can more easily work through challenges. In the end, this increases their productivity as well. They also have to accomplish tasks, like sending progress reports and reaching out to clients. In all these instances, being communicative with – rather than isolated from – colleagues is hugely beneficial to the remote worker. This does not mean one has to be extroverted or a professional writer. Remote freelancers should still be able to communicate clearly and concisely through all channels. However, if a remote worker has difficulty articulating their professional needs or, worse, doesn’t bother to reach out at all, this can be a huge detriment to collaborative efforts.
One way of gauging the communication skills of a prospective remote worker is to analyze their emails and how they handle the interview process. Are there any parts of their emails which lack clarity or are rife with spelling errors? Do they take their time getting back to you? Is their tone or language unprofessional? If any or all of these attributes are present, this is a huge red flag that the person you’re interviewing is a poor communicator.
2. Past Experience with Remote Work
This isn’t exactly a deal-breaker, but it always helps to have that extra bit of knowledge to kickstart a candidate’s service. Some candidates may initially feel excitement for the idea of working remotely. When faced with the challenges that come with the independent nature of the job, however, they can end up overwhelmed and may choose to back out.
Candidates who have experience in fields such as freelancing, collaborative projects, or entrepreneurial endeavors may also exhibit the skills of accountability and self-motivation required for working remotely. You can check their LinkedIn profiles or cover letters to identify these markers, like regular idea contributions or side projects they have accomplished.
3. Independent and Self-Motivated
It is relatively easy to motivate on-site workers since there is immediate physical expression. However, there’s no way to have that same kind of presence for a group of remote workers. That is why remote workers must be self-motivated, independent thinkers who do not rely so much on external sources of motivation. And although it is important for remote freelancers to fit into the company and collaborate on various projects, working remotely means that they will spend a great deal of time on their own.
According to Leadership IQ, 17% of new workers fail due to issues with motivation. As a result, many companies have made independence a priority in the recruitment process, especially when hiring remote workers. So, if a remote worker needs constant praise or reminders for deadlines to stay positive and on task, then that candidate probably won’t thrive well at all in this setting.
4. Prioritizing and Organization
Working remotely involves delivering quality work in a timely manner. In an office setting, workers can easily fall into sloppy work habits because many are more interested working as quickly as possible rather than doing the job well. Being organized, managing time wisely, and multi-tasking efficiently are all skills that you should look for when hiring new remote workers. Even if you have project management systems which can allow you to assign tasks to different remote freelancers, they still need to understand the importance of each task, especially if they are working on different projects with tight deadlines.
While it might not be easy to gauge the level of organization and time management skills of potential workers upon first meeting them, you can get a good idea of their skill level if you give them a set of tasks to complete in a specified time; you can also engage candidates in a short-term paid contract to assess their productivity and organization level before hiring them on full-time basis.
5. Flexible or Adaptable
If a candidate finds it difficult to adapt to frequent change, they likely will not be a good fit as a remote worker. You might hear them say things like, “this is the way we’ve always done it,” or “I’m only comfortable with this one method.” In these cases, you’re going to experience some resistance when new procedures or developments take place, and you’ll likely also see a drop-in productivity to go with it. And in a remote setting, there’s no time to coach them through these shifts and changes, so having a candidate who welcomes the challenge of navigating new frontier is essential to their line of work. In the interview, asses their responses to questions about natural adjustments in work protocols and company goals. If they are opposed to the idea, they probably won’t enjoy remote work.
Results-oriented people like to approach situations with goals and deadlines in mind. They create plans and strategies to tackle big projects, acknowledge the importance of finer details, and execute tasks systematically. In this way, they are more likely to deliver quality work and have more control of their time overall.
Likewise, these individuals take initiative as problem-solvers. They know that it is more efficient to troubleshoot on their own and ask for assistance only when necessary. While screening candidates, check for previous experience of working long hours with little results to show for it. And, if you want to assess their problem-solving abilities, ask how they overcome obstacles or how they’ve improved an established company method or approach.
7. Collaboration Skills
Although independence is one of the most important skills for remote workers, being cooperative is actually just as vital to completing bigger projects. Due to the nature of the position, however, this is one trait that many business owners tend to overlook. But the fact that they work almost exclusively online cannot remove the human element, because there are still people involved in the equation. Fortunately, there are several IT tools that facilitate collaborations for those working remotely.
Collaboration skills are crucial if you are working towards a mutual goal, such as larger projects that require a group of professionals from all over the world. Furthermore, strong collaborations can help workers to traverse through challenges that come with things like fixed deadlines multiple clients.
Generally, pleasant work relations are based on a foundation of trust. So, it is vital to have a group of workers that you can trust to deliver on your expectations. This is especially important with projects, because if one worker slacks off, the whole group will suffer and, consequently, so too will the project. No one can afford to spend the day chasing down one remote worker for answers.
According to a publication by CareerBuilder, 73% of companies are looking for reliable workers. Much of measuring one’s trustworthiness or reliability relies on using good judgment. However, you can garner some of that information during the interview by creating scenarios that the candidate will then have to answer to how they would react in those situations.
9. Enthusiasm and Positive Attitude
The importance of having workers who believe in your company’s mission and wish to contribute to the success of the organization cannot be ignored. Moreover, you need positive people who can motivate others and know how to maneuver through stressful situations. In most cases, workers who are enthusiastic and optimistic will transform failures into lessons that will aid in delivering better results in the future. Mostly because they are intrinsically motivated, remote workers seem to be happier and feel more valued than on-site workers.
You can judge a potential worker’s enthusiasm by assessing their energy and body language during the interview. Those that seem noncommittal or apprehensive about the job prospects will likely exhibit the same downbeat attitude as they work.
10. Tech Savvy
Basic IT skills are essential for working over the internet. Remote workers spend most of their time on computers, so they already know how to use common software applications. This helps tremendously with completing assigned tasks from the get-go. Apart from IT systems that organizations use for running their business, remote freelancers need to communicate using tools such as Google Hangouts, Skype, email, and collaboration tools. Conversely, to have a remote worker who constantly relies on IT services for the simplest of issues will waste valuable time and resources.
Fortunately, this will be easy to check for – just look for IT skills on their CV/resume and ask the candidate to elaborate on projects that required software and technical knowledge. Depending on your business type, they may require more or less skill in this area.
Working remotely is now a common approach for businesses, and trends show that it is only going to increase in popularity as time goes on. This model benefits both the productivity of the company and the remote worker who is hired by them. However, remote work won’t be satisfying for every candidate, so it’s important to hire the right people for the job. Business owners can only do this if they know what to look for on the front-end. If possible, conduct face-to-face interviews. Even if the candidate is located remotely, you can make use of tools such as Google Hangouts and Skype so that it’s a little more personal.
Ryan Bridges is a contributing writer and media specialist for the Management Training Institute. He regularly produces content for a variety of career and professional blogs, based around the challenges that come with improving one’s leadership and management skills.