Six Attributes to Prioritize in Your Next Remote Hire

Written by Scaleocity

On September 9, 2021

More than likely, your organization has tested the waters of remote or hybrid work over the last year and a half. If you are like most, you may have had to flip the switch seemingly overnight, with little time to prepare and inadequate tools to properly meet work objectives in a virtual environment. Hopefully, your path to sufficiency was not too lengthy, and your team’s culture was strong enough to remain resilient.

The statistics surrounding remote work are eye-opening:

● 4.7 million people worked remotely prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
● In the U.S., remote work increased 173% between 2005 and 2018.
● 77% of remote employees believe they’re more productive when working from home.
● U.S. companies with remote work policies have a 25% lower employee turnover rate.
● 25% of companies that participated in a survey planned to convert 10% of their employees to permanent remote positions post-COVID 19.
● 99% of remote workers would like to continue doing so to some extent.

Most companies found that even with a rocky start, remote work served their organizations well. Their teams were still able to collaborate, and their employees were just as productive, if not more so. As organizations return to their office spaces and make plans for the future, many are making plans for continuing development of remote and hybrid workforces. As they do so, it is critical to prioritize finding the right remote hires; sometimes your best in-person employee fails in a remote environment, and vice versa.


Why Prioritize Hiring?

According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s Human Capital Benchmarking Report, the average cost-per-hire is $4,129, with an average hire time of 42 days. Most organizations are deeply burdened by having a critical position unfilled for 42 days – and many don’t have thousands of dollars to spare on extra hires, either.

In the remote working environment, you may think that employees simply want to complete their tasks and clock out for the day. However, this is not true. Employees still want connection to their peers and their organization. In 2020, there was a 9% increase in Google search interest related to team-building. In a remote work environment, and particularly a newly remote work environment, developing a team culture can be difficult without having traditional opportunities for happy hours and team lunches. However, this does not mean that team-building isn’t possible – it just means that finding the right hires is even more vital. Building a team that works together well, without regular in-person interaction, is essential in a remote or hybrid work environment.

An additional risk related to poor hiring in a remote environment comes with the potential challenges of remote talent management. Particularly if an organization’s leaders are new to managing a remote workforce, it may be challenging to hold employees accountable if they are “just skating by”. Similarly, an employee who is a poor fit but otherwise capable of completing their work assignments may have greater struggles as they may be less likely to mold into the workplace culture. Without developing an in-person connection, it may also feel difficult to assess the performance of someone who is not the right fit.

As with any hire, a wrong fit will result in costly hiring, training and onboarding efforts. Prioritizing the six attributes below in addition to stated job qualifications will assist in finding ideal remote employees.

Attribute One: Communicates Clearly and Often

Perhaps most importantly, your new hire must be able to communicate clearly and often. Twenty percent of remote workers identify communication as an obstacle. As a leader, it is essential to set up proper communication channels to allow for easy flow of communication across your team. In addition to email, encouraging use of video conferencing tools like Zoom, messaging tools like Slack, and collaboration tools like Dropbox and Google Suite will set your team up for success.

However, it is equally important to hire someone who will be eager to participate in each of those channels from day one. In a remote work environment, it is possible to “hide”, only minimally engaging with other team members. The right hire will understand the importance of clear and regular communication.

Interview questions to gauge this skill:

● Tell me about a time when you had to rely on written communication to get your ideas across to your team.
● Tell me about a time when you had team members with different opinions than yours on a high-stakes project. How did you ensure you each had your voices heard?

Attribute Two: Manages Time Productively

A challenge of remote work can be the absence of a timeclock – in both directions. For some, it can be tempting to risk a late start. For others, it can be hard to log off of the computer. In either case, effective time management and productivity skills are essential to ensure the proper amount of work is getting done in the time allotted. The right hire will show evidence of how they work productively, without a supervisor monitoring their work in person.

Interview questions to gauge this skill:

● Give me an example of a time you managed numerous responsibilities. How did you handle that?
● Sometimes it isn’t possible to complete all of the priorities on your list. Tell me about a time that you had to make a decision about something that wasn’t able to get completed according to a deadline. What did you do?

Attribute Three: Demonstrates Internal Motivation and Self-Starter Demeanor

In a remote work environment, it will be essential to still maintain regular check-ins with your staff. However, some employees struggle without seeing their supervisor in person on a daily basis. The right hire will be internally motivated and a self-starter. Since you won’t necessarily have visibility into their workload 100% of the time, you’ll want to know that this person will take the initiative to step up and ask for more when they need it.

Interview questions to gauge this skill:

● Describe a time when you saw some problem and took the initiative to correct it rather than waiting for someone else to do it.
● Tell me about a time you were dissatisfied in your work. What could have been done to make it better?

Attribute Four: Gets Results

Building off of Attributes Three and Four, a drive for results will help ensure that your new hire stays productive, busy, and moving forward. An individual who is driven by results will continue looking forward to the next milestone, interested in helping your organization advance.

Interview question to gauge this skill:

● Tell me about a time that your performance was measured based on specific metrics. What did you do to ensure they reached the proper indicators?

Attribute Five: Keeps Track of Moving Parts

In an in-person office environment, it is likely that a new hire is oriented into an office with a cubicle or office, filing cabinets, equipment and plenty of space to keep track of their visible cues that might help them recall work priorities. Equipment provided to remote employees varies, but in most situations, work is performed in a highly digital environment with less infrastructure support for “work cues” and visual reminders. This requires remote employees to set up their own systems for keeping track of deadlines and organizing work responsibilities.

Interview questions to gauge this skill:

● Tell me about a time you had to be very strategic in order to meet all your job responsibilities.
● Tell me about a time you had to create your own structure to keep track of projects and deadlines.

Attribute Six: Maintains a Healthy Dose of Flexibility

Even in the best of scenarios, remote employees should be prepared for things to shift from time to time. While this is also true for employees who report to an office in-person, extra flexibility may be required for remote employees since oftentimes informal communication channels for remote employees include very fast-paced methods such as messaging. Being ready to adapt to new ideas and methodologies is critical for a successful remote employee.

Interview questions to gauge this skill:

● Give an example of a time when you had to quickly change project priorities. How did you do it?
● Give an example of a time when you were trying to meet a deadline and you were interrupted and did not make the deadline. How did you respond?

What’s Next?

Now that you’ve considered the most important attributes of remote hires, start thinking about how to communicate them in your next remote job posting. While these attributes may not quite fall in line with your typical “desired qualifications”, they can still be communicated in a job posting clearly convey to your prospective hires what kind of skills you value. Keep an eye out for more information in a future article, where we will discuss attracting, hiring and developing remote employees.

About the Newsletter

One actionable tip on hiring employee #1 and beyond, the steps to build your Proactive HR system, and how to develop a high-performing team to help successfully grow your business.

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