Technology has changed the workforce. The thought of working for an employer without ever meeting face to face or leading a team without shaking hands was once an impossible concept to fathom. The number of non-self-employed workers who telecommute grew by 103% between 2005 and 2015, with more than 3.7 million people working from home at least half the time.
This shift in workers from consistently on-site to mobile and frequently remote means that hiring managers and recruiters need to consider a different skillset when hiring because remote employees need their own set of requirements. Someone who is perfect at presentations and wonderful at group collaboration may struggle to work from home without that energy from their colleagues on which to feed.
So how can you know if you're hiring the right remote employee for the job?
Assess for the Right Skills
It should go without saying that remote employees must be self-starters. The best remote employees not only tolerate self-direction and maintaining their own schedule and priorities but thrive on this freedom. Assessing these skills at hiring can be a difficult task, especially if an employee has not worked remotely in the past. However, evidence of leadership skills and independence in previous positions can be good indicators. Of course, hiring employees on a trial basis to assess these skills is also a possibility.
Communication is Critical
Perhaps the most important skill of the remote employee is the ability to communicate well. This does not necessarily mean checking in on the phone every hour, but instead being able to summarize their efforts on a regular basis, knowing how to reach out and follow up with questions, and how to take and apply feedback through many different communication channels. Written communication skills are also quite important for remote employees since so much communication is done via email and instant messaging. An employee that cannot write a clear email - and do so in a timely manner - is going to have trouble staying in the loop from their home office.
Importance of the Interview Process
The interview process for a remote employee may be quite different from that of an on-site employee if the prospect lives in another state or even country. Utilizing video interviewing is a good tactic in this case. Be sure to include video interview questions about remote working skills. The video interview is also a good time to assign a trial project in order to assess those skills - from communication to deadlines to the ability to ask the right questions - for yourself.
Assess Management, Too
Employees are not the only ones who need different skills to accomplish remote work. The managers who are tasked with taking on remote employees will also need to shift their priorities and managerial tactics in order to manage remote employees successfully. For instance, it is much easier to see - or at least to assume - that employees are hard at work when they are in the office at their desks. But anyone who has worked in an office knows physical presence is no proof of productivity. Managers of remote teams need to be able to assess worker productivity in a much more concrete way, through tasks and projects accomplished day to day and week to week. This is a good reason to include managers in the remote hiring process early on.
While the overall skillset for remote employees will not be entirely different or contrary to those skills that make a great onsite employee, it is important to keep the focus on the differences that are necessary in order to hire the best possible remote workforce.