5 Essential Qualities To Look For in Remote Employees

qualities to look for in remote employees

Work has changed and what you look for in a new hire should change too. Here are five essential qualities to look for in remote employees, and the questions to ask to assess them.

Remote work is here to stay. It’s increasingly becoming what employees want and expect, and for positions that do not require an onsite presence (ie. non-customer-facing roles), companies are going to have to offer it in order to stay competitive.

This may mean shifting some of the focus when it comes to what you look for in a job candidate, as certain qualities and soft skills are more important when people are regularly working outside the office. Here are five essential skills and qualities to look for in remote employees along with some examples of questions you can ask to assess candidates for these qualities.

5 essential qualities to look for in remote employees

Communication skills

Communication is more important than ever now that we’re communicating in so many diverse ways. When working from home, the added removal layer of online meetings and more written communication make this skill a true must-have.

How to assess communication skills

The entire hiring process is an assessment of communication skills, including written and oral skills. To dig even deeper, a good question to ask might be, “Can you tell me about a time when you miscommunicated something or there was a misunderstanding and how you handled it?”

This will tell you if the person is self-aware in their communication with others and might also tell you something about their problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Confidence

Confidence is key to good communication and making good decisions. It doesn’t matter what job you’re hiring for, an ideal candidate should be confident enough in their decision-making skills that they don’t have to come to you every time there is a problem to be solved. This is even more important in remote workers because a confident worker is an autonomous worker. And it’s doubly important at companies suffering from staff shortages due to a lack of qualified talent, where management is stretched thin. You also want team members to have the confidence to approach you if they don’t have an answer.

How to assess confidence

Again, a person’s demeanour during the hiring process can tell you about their confidence level but a good question to ask might be, “Talk to me for three minutes about something about which you’re really passionate or knowledgeable.” Everyone knows about, and/or cares about, something. The candidate’s choice of topic and ability to wing it will tell you a lot of what you need to know.

Willingness to learn

Confidence is just arrogance without a willingness to learn and a dash of humility. A willingness to learn is a must-have in a good job candidate, and, all other things being equal, should trump a few missing hard skills. Someone with great hard skills who have decided they have nothing left to learn will soon lose their value and you’ll be stuck with an underperforming employee, while a candidate who is willing to learn will continue to grow and expand in their role. A willingness to learn is also crucial in an ever-changing employment landscape where technology is disrupting the way we do things on a daily bases.

How to assess willingness to learn

To gauge someone’s willingness to learn, ask something like, “What is something you want to get better at?” Beware of responses like “I wish I was less of a perfectionist”  or “I work too hard.” These answers demonstrate a lack of self-awareness and apathy towards the hiring process. A great candidate will know where they are truly lacking and have room for improvement.

Adaptability

Like willingness to learn, adaptability is essential in this ever-shifting landscape. If COVID-19 has taught us anything about work, it’s that the ability to adapt to remain calm(ish) and function in a work environment while adapting to change is very valuable. It has also taught us that things can change on a dime and that anything can happen. You can be totally blindsided and companies and employees with a knack for adapting fared the best. Be prepared for the next disruption – be it a pandemic or something else – by finding adaptable employees.

How to assess adaptability

A good question to test for adaptability might be, “Tell me about a time when you faced a situation over which you had no control, and how you handled it.”

Integrity

Integrity is always important in an employee, so this is nothing new. But, as we have learned that adaptability is of great value, we learned the same about having people around that we can trust and rely on. Integrity is the drive, to be honest, and do what is right. Integrity is the quality behind a good work ethic, loyalty, and personal responsibility. And these are the qualities that keep employees striving to do their best – even when no one is watching – and also from jumping ship two weeks after onboarding or when times get tough.

How to assess the integrity

Try something like this question to test for integrity: “There has been a big error that could cost someone their job. Higher-ups don’t know who’s error it is but are trying to find out. In reality, many people are responsible but you bear the most responsibility. What do you do?”

There could be a few right answers here but a red flag is a candidate who confidently says they would come forward and take all the blame – because most people would not actually do that, though many might say they would. Look for a more nuanced answer and keep an eye on their demeanour.

Look for these qualities in new remote hires and you’ll be better positioned for success.

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