6 Characteristics To Look For In Remote Candidates

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If you are one of the thousands of companies currently trying to find the best strategies for effective remote working, you are no doubt going through a few growing pains. From implementing new technology to helping employees set up work-from-home spaces to juggling work and childcare, it is normal to have a few bumps along the road to successful remote working.

One of the areas where you may not have anticipated such challenges, though, is with recruitment. What you consider to be the characteristics of a good employee can take a new form once skills for remote jobs come into the mix. It is only logical—the candidate who is going to be successful working in a noisy, bustling office is not necessarily the same as the one who will be able to independently manage their schedule and stay on task when they are working from the couch. So, if you’re in the position of reassessing the skills needed for remote jobs–and thus, the skills you’re recruiting for–you’re not alone.

Why Focus On Skills For Remote Jobs?

We’re recruiting for a different world than we were two years ago; no one can argue with that. It only makes sense that the skills needed to succeed in that world have changed as well, even if the role itself has not. 

Working from home presents new challenges employees may never have had to deal with in the past. An executive with 30 years of experience may be the perfect candidate on paper, but if they’ve never managed a remote team or confronted the technical obstacles of a dispersed workforce, they might be much less qualified than someone with a different skill set. The best candidates in today’s market not only have what it takes to succeed at their job, but know how to be successful working remotely, as well. 

As you reconsider the skills and traits necessary to thrive in whatever the ‘new normal’ looks like for your business, here are six qualities of a good remote worker that will help candidates thrive, whether they’re working from home temporarily or indefinitely. If you are a candidate for a remote job, look for ways to play up these work from home skills on your resume and choose anecdotes that will help you emphasize them during your interview.

Top Traits For Effective Remote Working

1. Motivation

When you cannot be in the same physical location as your employees, it becomes essential to hire self-starters with the work from home skills to hit the ground running each morning and stay focused throughout the day without constant supervision. Since they will not be able to rely on the structure of a traditional office environment to keep them on track, the right candidate will feel comfortable setting his or her own goals for the day and will be disciplined enough to work toward them despite the unavoidable work-from-home distractions.

Look for candidates with experience leading projects, formulating creative ideas and seeing through challenging goals until their completion.

2. Flexibility

When working remotely, schedules and deadlines have the tendency to change more frequently than they would if the entire team were in the same place. Staff questions lead to impromptu conference calls, toddler meltdowns necessitate rescheduled meetings and IT challenges cause frustrating delays. The right candidate should be able to take these things in stride and adjust accordingly.

Remote workers must also be adaptable with regard to workflows and processes. Switching from onsite to remote work will come with some inevitable changes to the way you do things; if you have a staffer who is stuck on the old way of doing things, they can slow the rest of the team down or get left behind.

Look for candidates with a successful track record of juggling shifting projects or stepping up to take on new responsibilities. Candidates who have prior experience working from home can also be a plus.

3. Organization

Organization is one of those traits that, while desirable, often takes a backseat when it comes to determining success (think of the creative genius who is notoriously scatterbrained or the dynamic leader who is always running 10 minutes late, for example). In a work-from-home environment, though, organization steps into the spotlight as a must-have skill and those who lack it may find themselves floundering.

From managing their time to responding to emails to keeping track of shared documents, a remote candidate must be on top of things in a way that is not as pressing when they have office mates to help shoulder the burden. They must be adept at managing not just the busy periods, but the slow times as well, prioritizing tasks so that all necessary work gets done on the appropriate timeline.

To identify strong organization skills for remote jobs, ask candidates to share how they schedule their day, how they stay on top of multiple deadlines and what tools they use to help them stay organized.

4. Strong communication skills

When you cannot see one another in person, written and verbal communication becomes even more important. To succeed in the world of remote work, candidates must be able to give and receive instructions clearly, both over email and via phone.

In addition to the communication itself, it is equally important that the candidate can identify the proper channels to use for it. For example, it is quick and easy to pop your head into a coworker’s office to ask for clarification on an item, but it is much more burdensome if every one of those check-ins suddenly becomes a phone call.

Look for a candidate who is comfortable interfacing on all platforms—be it Slack, text message, email, phone or video chat—and who is judicious in their use of each of them. Skill-specific screening tests can help you identify this quality.

5. Independent thinking

Now more than ever, effective employees need to be able to come up with creative solutions and solve day-to-day problems on their own, without bringing every little issue to a supervisor’s attention. This may also require some shifts on your end to give your team members the autonomy required to do this.

Independent thinkers are an asset to your team because they can work confidently without supervision, which ties back to the motivation quality we discussed earlier. When they do run into a problem they cannot solve on their own, they can identify who to ask for help. They make sound decisions when dealing with clients and important work-related projects, so you can feel confident delegating responsibilities to them.

To identify independent thinkers, ask questions that will help you get a feel for a candidate’s judgement; situational interview questions (i.e. “if you were faced with X scenario, how would you respond?”) are useful for this.

6. Technologically savvy

If the computer and smartphone were critical tools for business operations before the pandemic, they are now indispensable. Modern candidates must be comfortable navigating new and changing technology, whether that is a mobile app for teamwide instant messaging, software for project management or a video platform for collaborative work.

Not every candidate needs to be a tech nerd, but they should have, at a minimum, an interest in technology that will help them do their job more efficiently and a willingness to learn the platforms you have decided to adopt.

Beware the stereotype that older workers cannot be tech-savvy—this is not only a myth that has been widely debunked, but that results in agism creeping into your hiring. In reality, studies have found that workers over 55 are less stressed about using new technology in the workplace than their younger peers.

How To Identify Skills Needed For Remote Work When Hiring

Write them directly into your job description

The most straightforward path to attract the kind of candidates you are looking for is to call for them specifically in the job posting.

Be direct about the qualities you want to see from applicants and why they matter, for example, ‘this role will be responsible for managing project timelines for multiple clients, so the right candidate will be an organized individual who is proficient with time-tracking tools and project management software.’

Tying the skills you are looking for directly to the relevant job function will help candidates imagine themselves in the role (or opt out when it is not a match), yielding a stronger, more qualified talent pool.

Related: How To Write A Job Description That Will Sizzle on Social Media

Ask the right interview questions

Once you have gathered a strong pool of applicants, the next step in paring them down is the screening and interview phase. The following questions will help you identify the traits we mentioned above.

Motivation 

  • How do you define success?
  • When you are given a goal, how do you go about achieving it?
  • Describe a time when you were asked to step up and do something you were unfamiliar with. How did it go?
  • Describe a time when you had an idea you thought would be great for your team. How did you go about introducing it?

Flexibility

  • Describe a time when you had to change direction in the middle of a project. How did you deal with it?
  • If a coworker approached you pitching a new process that was drastically different from the old one, how would you respond?
  • How comfortable are you with trying new things when it comes to your work?

Organization

  • What tools do you use to stay organized?
  • Explain your approach to time management.
  • When you’re faced with multiple important tasks, how do you prioritize them?

Strong Communication Skills

  • How do you collaborate with coworkers when you cannot meet in person?
  • How would you describe [insert complex topic pertaining to the role] to someone who is unfamiliar with it?
  • Describe a time when a misunderstanding caused a problem on the job. How did you go about correcting it?

Independent Thinking

  • Tell me about a time you were faced with an assignment that did not seem possible. How did you approach it?
  • If you disagree with your boss, how would you handle it?
  • How quickly do you make decisions?

Technologically Savvy

  • What are your favorite apps for work?
  • How do you keep your technology skills current?
  • What are some ways you anticipate the technology in our industry will change in the next ten years?

Build a Stronger Candidate Pool With 4 Corner Resources

Finding the skills needed for remote work is part science, part art. We combine both to identify individuals who bring the right mix of experience, skills, and personality to succeed in your role. Contact us today to discuss your remote staffing needs and learn how we can help you build a stronger, more qualified pool of applicants for your open position.

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the president of 4 Corner Resources, the nationally acclaimed staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. His mission back then was the same as it is today: to do business in a personal way, while building an organization with boundless opportunities for ingenuity and advancement. When not managing 4 Corner’s growth or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his sales and business expertise though public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Hire Calling podcast.