5 Traits to Look for In Remote Workers

The novel coronavirus has required a drastic shift in how companies manage their employees and hire new talent. Fortunately, thanks to modern technologies, companies can still hire new employees even in the midst of a pandemic. For at least the near future, however, many of these new workers will likely have to work from home. If remote work is new for your organization, you may want to adjust some of the qualities you look for in your hiring process – qualities that are associated with success for remote work. While many of the most important should remain the same (emotional intelligence, cognitive aptitude, etc.), there are a few qualities to prioritize that are especially critical for remote workers.

Here are some key attributes to look for when hiring remote employees:

1. Communication

Communication is key when working remotely. Remote employees should be frequently updating their superiors and the rest of their team on project process or holdups. Lack of communication can leave a manager in the dark as to what that employee has accomplished remotely, and can cause the rest of an individual’s team unaware of how they should proceed on projects or group tasks.

2. Organization

Organization is especially important in remote workers, as these individuals will have to set up their own workspace and keep track of tasks independently. Employees working from home are not surrounded by coworkers, managers, and office calendars to remind them of the projects on their plates. Furthermore, organized individuals are more likely to create schedules to structure their work day, remind them to attend meetings on-time, and finish tasks by their deadlines.  

Asking about an individual’s planning and/or organizing system is a great way to assess their organization skills. Less-organized individuals will likely give vague responses (for example, “I respond to emails and go through a mental to-do list”), while organized individuals will give more in-depth responses, like mentioning their calendar, planner, or specific habits or routines.

3. Motivation

Being a self-starter is crucial for employees working from home. Employees who wait for their managers to tell them to do every daily task will likely underperform when working in an environment that lacks constant supervision. Look for applicants who seem especially passionate about the particular role you are hiring for, so much so that they require little external motivation or pressure to achieve.  Also consider whether an employee has any past remote work experience, and reach out to former employers to determine how that applicant performed when working out of the office.

4. Attention to Detail

Attention to detail is a must when working from home. Without the ability to supervise in-person, managers are dependent on employee feedback for updates on work progress. Strong remote employees are specific about accomplishments, and often provide quantitative details. Furthermore, much remote employee guidance will be given in the form of emails or messages rather than in conversation, so it is essential that you hire an employee who will thoroughly read these instructions.

One easy way to determine which applicants are not detail-oriented is to analyze how much of your job ad comes through in the applicants’ cover letter. For instance, if you wrote that attention to detail was crucial, did the applicant mention that they have great attention to detail? You can even go a step further by hiding a keyword in the job description and asking applicants to mention it in their application to prove they read the entire ad.

5. Problem Solving

Finally, keep an eye out for applicants who have excellent problem-solving skills. Problems will inevitably arise when working from home (such as distractions, technology failures, and miscommunications, to name a few), and an employee who is a problem-solver is likely to handle these challenges better than someone who is not. While other employees might try to complete the project without asking for help, or conversely, ask for constant instruction, problem-solvers will try to work out issues on their own before asking a busy manager for guidance. They are individuals who are persistent in finding solutions to challenges no matter the situation.

Forbes recommends asking one simple question to determine whether or not a candidate is a problem-solver: “Could you tell me about a time when you were given an assignment and you lacked the necessary skills or knowledge?” If a candidate complains about a former employee’s expectations of them or otherwise suggests they did not rise to the occasion, problem-solving is likely not their forte. However, if they expound on how they overcame the difficulty, by seeking out knowledge, requesting assistance or independently figuring out an inventive solution, they likely have the problem-solving abilities you’re looking for.

When hiring remote employees, keep in mind that these individuals will take on a more independent role than those working in a traditional office space. Organization, communication, motivation, attention to detail, and problem-solving skills are especially crucial in workers with little to no in-person supervision. These individuals should have a growth mindset, be internally motivated, and should keep you updated on their progress (or their mishaps) from home. Do yourself and your company a favor and hire remote employees that will be easy to manage from home because they are apt at managing themselves.