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Six Competencies to Look for When Hiring Work-From-Home Team Members

Kevin Parker, CEO - HireVue
The allure of working from home has been steadily growing for a number of years. Even before COVID-19 upended how and where we work, the number of people remotely had already grown 173% since 2005. 
While some businesses are taking steps towards returning to the office, many of us are still working from home and for many businesses, it’s likely that many hires in the near future will be for remote positions. For these businesses, now is the time to refresh hiring processes, to help identify candidates who will thrive in a remote working environment. But what are the 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 ability to self-motivate will be crucial for productivity in many roles that were once office based, but are currently undertaken at home. While the ‘new normal’ of remote working has brought the added challenge of juggling work-life balance in a vastly different environment, it has also enabled businesses to consider employees from all 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. It’s also still important to consider whether the candidate has the appropriate team working and collaborative skills, and the willingness to accommodate other employees’ availability. 
  1. Communication
Communication is always an important skill in the workplace and is the foundation of good remote work. It helps keep a cohesive and motivated unit, helping us to navigate the unique situation we currently find ourselves in. However, hiring managers must understand that communicating well verbally and virtually are very different competencies. Look for someone who is proactive and consciously communicates early. It’s important that the candidate understands tone and their words are unlikely to 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 ask candidates if they have worked remotely in previous roles, how they found it and what they were able to achieve. 
  1. Work Ethic 
The COVID-19 pandemic has added a huge amount of stress to professional and personal lives. This should 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 drill down into the candidates industriousness, exploring examples of times they’ve gone above and beyond and shown a willingness to get the job done, while still balancing their personal lives. For some, that might mean taking calls earlier in the morning or finishing some tasks into the evening.
At every stage, employers should be transparent and explain 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 work ethic in the new normal is about dependability and having the ability to bring results-driven work to the business. 
  1. Self-management and independence
Businesses looking to hire remote employees should ask candidates about their performance within a “regular” work environment and invite them to offer a self-assessment of their skills and ability to meet the difference presented by remote work. Besides their strengths and weaknesses, what’s their preferred working style? Are they adept at operating individually, or do they prefer to always operate as part of a team? Does your candidate take feedback well and can he/she/they manage multiple projects in the timeframes that work for your team?  What support do they need from the potential employer to be successful in a remote work 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 manage their output, schedules, and productivity, often without the need for a “hands-on” manager.
The key for many businesses is to find prospects who possess a strong level of adaptability and possess an aptitude for remote working. The ideal work from home candidates are those who can balance their personal and professional lives, while learning the core processes and procedures 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.
There is still something to be said for the old adage “there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team.” However, when hiring remote employees, hiring managers should also look for evidence of independence. 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. Companies must first establish if the role requires working from home temporarily, as a result of Covid-19, or whether the move is more permanent. With many offices remaining shut, people have little option but to work from home and not everyone can adapt. If you think a candidate would be a good fit longer term, but are not 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.

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