James McGill, Vice President, Customer Success at HireVue

The desire to work from home has been gaining steady popularity for a number of years, even before the effects of Coronavirus pandemic were felt, with the number of remote workers utilising their company’s WFH initiatives rising significantly to 173%, since 2005.

Over the years, our experience, and that of our customers, in working with remote employees has given us an insight into some of the core values appreciated most by employees who are working from home. For example, offering increased trust, and flexibility with schedules, helps lead to the best work possible during challenging times.

While there are businesses that have been taking steps towards making a return to the office, as the UK enters into another period of lockdown, many of us are required to continue working from home and for many businesses, it’s likely that any hires in the near future will be for remote positions. 

This presents the opportunity to refresh hiring processes, identifying candidates who will thrive in a remote working environment. But what are the key predictors of success when working from home? 

Here are six competencies that every organisation should consider when hiring for a remote position: 

  1. Self-motivation and independent learning 

The capacity for self-motivation and self-guided learning will be an important step in continuing productivity for many roles that were once office based, but have transitioned to being home-based. With remote working ushering in a “new normal”, and the associated challenge of juggling a work-life balance in a much altered environment, it has also provided businesses with an opportunity to consider employees from various walks of life – including those in different time zones, single-parent candidates and those who need to work outside of the traditional 9-5; so long as they can demonstrate the ability to adapt, and the drive to get the job done. As a caveat, it’s still really important that, when hiring, businesses also consider whether the candidate has the appropriate team working and collaborative skills, and the willingness to accommodate other employees’ availability. 

  1. Communication

An important skill in the traditional workplace setting, Communication is also a crucial foundation of excellent remote working. It fosters a collaborative and motivated working environment, helping us to better navigate the unique situation we currently find ourselves in. 

However, hiring managers should understand that communicating well verbally and virtually are very different competencies. The perfect candidate is someone who can operate proactively and can make the conscious effort to communicate early. It’s important that the candidate understands tone and speaks with clarity, making sure their words won’t be misinterpreted by clients and coworkers. But most importantly, is an openness to try new communications models and a candidate that is happy to commit to your company’s communication practices. 

  1. Conscientiousness

When hiring new remote employees, hiring teams should look for those able to work in tandem with their teammates over Slack, Zoom or Google Chat, and fulfil their roles as they would have from the office. Conscientious candidates have been able to make the current remote working situation pay off for themselves and their teams, blending their personal and professional lives under one roof. 

In interviews, hiring teams should explore whether candidates have already worked remotely in previous roles, how they found the experience and what they were able to achieve. 

Using secure software and people science can also help. HireVue’s video interviewing and game-based assessments help to identify key competencies like conscientiousness, drive for results & initiative, dependability and adaptability. 

  1. Work Ethic 

The COVID-19 pandemic has added an unprecedented level of stress to both professional and personal lives up and down the country. This must be taken into account in interview situations, of course, but it also remains important to identify a strong drive and work ethic.

During the interview stage, hiring teams should aim to hire candidates with industriousness, taking the opportunity to discuss examples of times they’ve gone above and beyond for their team and shown a desire to get the job done, while still maintaining a balance in their personal lives. For some, that might mean taking calls earlier in the morning or finishing some tasks into the evening.

At each stage, employers should be open and honest, explaining specifically what the particular role will consist of. Rather than making employees feel like they’re being monitored at all times (unless their organisation utilises that type of software), employers should make it clear that a strong work ethic in the new normal is about dependability and having the ability to demonstrate results-driven work ethic and achievement to the business. 

  1. Self-management and independence

Organisations who are aiming to hire remote employees, in the short to medium term, should ask candidates about their successes within a “regular” work environment and invite them to offer an honesty appraisal of their skill-set and ability to challenges presented by remote work. Besides their strengths and weaknesses, what’s their preferred method of working? Are they adept at operating as an individual, or do they thrive when operating as part of a team? Does your candidate have constructive feedback or criticism well, and can he/she/they manage multiple projects in the timeframes that work is required in your team?  What support do they need from the potential employer to be successful in a remote working environment?

  1. Adaptability 

Employers should aim to identify candidates who have a natural capacity to manage their time effectively and produce a consistent and high-quality standard of work. Organisations that succeed in the era of working from home, will hire individuals who can maintain their output and schedules, while keeping consistent levels of productivity, often without the need for a “hands-on” manager.

The key for many businesses is to find prospects who offer a strong level of adaptability and possess an aptitude for remote working and a willingness to adapt. The ideal work from home candidates are those who can maintain a level of stability into their personal and professional lives, while learning the core processes of a new company. Essentially, organisations need to build a network of coworkers, team members, and leadership that can adapt to the new blend of work and home life.

Summary

There is still huge relevance to the old adage “there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team.” However, when trying to hire employees remotely, hiring managers should try to look for sufficient evidence of independence. Often, in the long term, the best, most successful candidates, will demonstrate the ability to both work independently and as part of a team. 

It’s also important to remember that working from home competencies are not necessarily the primary assessment criteria when hiring for new roles. Companies must first establish if the role requires working from home temporarily, as a result of Covid-19, or whether the move will be made more permanent. As offices continue to shut, people have little option but to work from home, but understandably, not everyone can adapt. If you think a candidate would be a good fit long-term, but are not entirely convinced of their aptitude at working from home, then companies should look at how they can provide support to the candidate, rather than immediately weeding them out. 

However, It’s not just the candidates that need to adapt to remote work. Employers must adapt too and need to provide support for employees in this new environment. Whether through regular calls or utilising communications software, companies must equip their workers with the appropriate tools to set them up for success.