After nearly two years of remote working, many employees now say they prefer it to the office, and in the post-pandemic world of work, more and more organizations are accommodating them. When it comes to attracting talent, the option to work remotely has huge appeal, but how does recruiting remote employees compare to hiring for in-house roles?
Evaluating remote candidates can be more challenging because there’s little opportunity to assess how they will interact with their on-site colleagues and how well they might work together as a team. For the employer, there’s the challenge of effectively communicating the company culture and values over a video chat, as Kash Naqshbandi, CMO at Frank Recruitment Group, explained.
“During an in-person interview process, you get to see and feel the culture, and everyone else in the workplace, and get a sense of whether or not that company lives and breathes its values,” he said. “It’s harder to do this over a video call, but not impossible. Employers just need to be clear on their values and think about how the business culture needs to adapt to be inclusive of both on-site and remote workers.”
Skills for remote success
There are some key attributes that employers would expect remote employees to have, including great communication skills and the ability to be self-motivated. Mark Seeman, CEO and founder of Staff Circle, said: “Remote workers must be able to articulate their thoughts and ideas in a way that others can easily understand, and to motivate themselves to stay on task and meet deadlines while adhering to a strong work ethic and managing their time effectively.”
Problem-solving and team working skills should also be evident. Those who spend a lot of time working independently need to problem-solve when issues arise and feel comfortable collaborating with others, even when they are in different locations or on a different schedule to their own.
Ask the right questions
Interview questions should be designed to get candidates thinking about whether remote working is really for them and what kind of reflection and preparation they have done, said executive coach Moyra Mackie. When helping her clients interview for remote hires, candidates are asked what they like most about remote working, what the biggest challenges are, and how they compensate for them.
“They are also asked to describe their office environment, how they structure their day and week, and importantly, what kind of management and supervision brings the best out of them?” she said. “There are no right or wrong answers, the questions are there to uncover the readiness of people on both sides of the interviewing table to engage in effective remote working practices.”
Candidates applying for remote roles need to know that they’ll be properly supported, so companies need to ask themselves hard questions about how managing remote teams differs from managing people in the office. “How will managers motivate, engage and trust their remote staff?” said Mackie. “Do they know the difference between being in control and being controlling, and what will managers do differently to lead remote teams effectively?”
Keeping people connected
Remote working invariably comes with a risk of isolation, and if employers want to get the best out of their talent they need measures in place to mitigate this. Founder and CEO of employee benefits platform Juno Ally Fekaiki advocates providing a forum for non-work-related conversations to help distributed teams feel connected.
He said, “A good rewards system will also make staff feel valued and recognized, even when they’re not seen, and a choice of employee benefits, aimed at supporting mental health and work-life balance, can help keep workforces engaged and happy.”
In his recent TEDx talk, Deepak Shukla, founder of Pearl Lemon Group, highlighted the unique challenges and wins that come with hiring remote employees. “It will only work when you fully understand exactly what you are looking for and you can easily identify it, and resumes and cover letters aren’t enough to demonstrate that,” he said. “Instead, try to have an option for video resumes, video interviews, or short trial assignments that give candidates a chance to demonstrate their skills.”
Ideally, new hires should be taken through a two-to four-week probationary period to understand how well they are managing remote work and fitting in with the company culture, and also how reliable they are.
“This is a good opportunity to gauge who will be a good fit or not,” said Shukla. “Finding good remote employees remotely is more complicated because they need to be compatible with remote work and hit company targets and maintain productivity with minimal supervision.”