Not everyone is cut out for remote work. And hiring someone who slows down your team can cost you time and money, two resources that can make or break your business. So, how can you tell if someone will make an effective addition to your workforce without meeting them face to face? As the co-founder of a company that operates 100 percent remotely, I look for three characteristics in new hires to ensure they will collaborate well on an online team.
1. Strong written communication skills
On a remote team, most of your communication will be written in emails or on your internal collaboration software. Hiring a remote worker who doesn't communicate clearly is one of the worst mistakes an entrepreneur can make. Unclear communication can delay productivity in a major way.
For instance, if the new hire has a question, their manager will have to take additional time to find out what they are asking, determine whether or not they understand the answer, and ensure the solution is utilized in the future. Each part of the collaboration process can come to a complete halt with a new hire who has a vague and imprecise communication style. Taking written communication skills into account as a part of the hiring process is an excellent idea for anyone hiring remotely.
Measuring communication skills can be as simple as adding a question to the application process. When someone is submitting their application to you, ask them to include a simple explanation of their skill set. For instance, have them describe something they find complex (preferably in their area of expertise) in as simple terms as possible. Then, assess. Was the explanation clear? Did it provide you with new insight? If so, you're on the right track.
2. The ability to work independently
Remote work involves more than the confidence that your team is working diligently without the ability to supervise them directly. Your employees are often working on very different schedules if they are scattered all over the world. So, they need to be able to make smart decisions when no one is there to answer their questions. Critical thinking skills are key, and so is self-motivation. If they show these skills throughout the hiring process, they just might be a good fit for remote work.
To determine whether or not someone can hack it in your company, familiarize them with the systems used during the interview. Then, ask questions about how they manage tech issues when they occur to get an understanding of whether they struggle or can stay cool-headed and self-reliant when problems inevitably arise.
3. A sense of when to "just Google it" and when to ask for help
Common sense is a necessity for hiring in general, but for remote hiring, it's of utmost importance to find a way to measure it throughout the hiring process. Someone who would rather disrupt another employee's day than take the time to find a simple answer for themselves will not make a good hire for your remote team. When given the choice, a remote employee needs the drive to figure out some answers on their own. Anyone who routinely burdens others for information they could easily ferret out for themselves raises red flags for hiring purposes, and this is especially true for remote companies. During the hiring process, give them opportunities to prove that they are considerate with how they spend their colleagues' time and resourceful in their research.
The confidence to ask for help is every bit as important as the ability to search for answers independently. If your employee is hitting a brick wall, it is imperative that they admit it and seek help. When they can't figure out the answer, employees on a remote team must resist the urge to stay stuck. Asking for help can save time and money when the question shows insight and initiative.
Measuring common sense can be tricky. A good place to start is to throw in a curveball question during the interview--ask them something surprising. How well do they think on their feet? Are they able to admit when they don't know the answer? Consider this before deciding whether or not the applicant would fit in with your team.
Finding remote employees who exhibit these traits is necessary for those managing virtual teams. Incorporate tests for these qualities in your hiring process, and you'll find your remote team operates smoothly.