Article: What to look for when hiring 'remote employees'

Strategic HR

What to look for when hiring 'remote employees'

The new normal has given rise to the buzzword “REMOTE EMPLOYEES”. This was certainly not an alien word but not a common one too as earlier organizations preferred to have the physical presence of employees in the office.
What to look for when hiring 'remote employees'

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the organizations had to undergo compulsive transformations in multiple forms in order to sustain in the business. These transformations gave rise to new normal in the form of rapid digitization and working remotely for well being of employees. Had it been normal circumstances, it would have taken a few more years to adapt and accept the changes which were made overnight in the current scenario. In a matter of a few days and a sudden notice, employees’ workstation moved from their office cubicles to their homes. Knowingly or unknowingly a contingency like this turned out to be a kind of experimentation too, whether this model can actually work or is it we had just created mental blocks to working remotely.

The new normal has given rise to the buzzword “REMOTE EMPLOYEES”. This was certainly not an alien word but not a common one too as earlier organizations preferred to have the physical presence of employees in the office. Post-COVID-19, the practical feasibility of remote working has been acknowledged and accepted by the businesses. In fact, few organizations like TCS announced that it will allow 75 percent of its 3.5 lakh employees to work from home by 2025, up from 20 percent at present. TCS plans to adopt the remote working revolution. Such wide acceptance by industry also means that we need to redefine the traits we should look for specifically in remote employees considering that this trend is here to stay for long and remote employees may get equivalent to regular employees soon. Not everyone is carved out to work remotely; some would still prefer to work from office spaces. Therefore, hiring managers/recruiters need to look at a few different skills/competencies and include those in revised job descriptions and specifications to create a future remote workforce.  Functional/Technical competencies may remain the same for a particular role but behavioral competencies required for maximum productivity might differ when employees are put in different physical set ups. It becomes important for the organization to assess the candidate with a different lens on a few aspects so that they end up hiring an effective remote employee saving on early turnover employee cost. Here are the points to check on –

  • Candidate’s need: Why is the candidate looking for a remote role? Is it a conscious decision to work remotely or is it just “Let’s try it” approach. Recruiter/Hiring manager needs to dig the genuine reason and requirement of the candidate to opt for remote roles. It may be personal reasons like some of the Gen Z candidates whose lifestyle may suit this or family reasons (for talented/skilled women who opt out of regular job post-maternity due to kids/family), or any other reason. This will help to do away with candidates who are just looking for anything or everything and sound indecisive. Candidates with genuine need are more likely to stay longer and be committed.
  • Passionate to work for the organization: These candidates are the ones who are not shooting in the dark and are mindful of what they are applying for. One should sense if they are passionate about the organization and done their research well through annual reports/resource centre/articles/follow company page on LinkedIn etc. to know more about the organization and how they can be the best fit. As it has been seen that there is a positive correlation between employee engagement and employee productivity, one should be able to gaze in interviews if the candidate’s interest or career growth plan matches with the business goals. They should have a belonging feeling of “My organization” and how “My work” will also help it to grow. It’s a mutual deal.
  • Trustworthiness: It’s a highly intangible aspect that can’t be assessed right away but an important one on which a remote relationship stands strong. An attempt should be made to gaze this during an interview by examples quoted by the candidate or reference check may also help in this.
  • Self-motivated/Self initiator: It’s very important that a remote employee has an internal push to deliver and need not be pushed externally by the supervisor to finish the tasks assigned. One should appear to be proactive and committed to working as per the timelines and deliverables. As a remote employee works out of office premises, he/she would not have managers to question every hour or keep a track. The zeal to be productive irrespective of the environment they are working in should be there.
  • Effective Communication Skills: This is the key to have a smooth exchange of information. The candidate should have good written, oral, or interpersonal skills. He/she should be clear, professional, and social at the same time. It would be good to check on the same during the interview process - how he/she handles the whole process, how quickly and professionally replies to the mail, how he/she connects with the recruiter or hiring manager etc. Does he/she ask correct questions if not sure of something or ask for help? Open communication within the team is a must to achieve the same goals. 
  • Collaborative/Team Player: Since the person will have to work in isolation at a physical location, the recruiter/hiring manager needs to check if he/she is still able to build relationships with teams through virtual means of audio/video calls. Will the team feel connected to consider this person as part of the team which believes in similar culture, values, and goals? Will he/she show empathy for team members? Some Behavioural Interview questions on Team skills could help to get an answer to this.
  • Tech Savvy: It’s obvious that technology plays a big part in making the virtual set up to succeed. Had it not been for technology, post-Covid would have been a disaster for businesses. The candidate needs to be technically sound to connect with the teams through various digital platforms- Zoom, Microsoft, Google, Cloud etc. whatever medium is used to communicate and should be able to adapt to the tech system.
  • Time management/Disciplined: A remote employee should have a knack of utilizing the time to its best. Should have the ability to prioritize the task as per the importance they hold during the day in the calendar and deliver as per timelines. Should be able to bifurcate and have dedicated professional and personal hours even being in the same premises except for a few occasions if a mix is required. One should also take some mandatory breaks to rejuvenate through what one’s like (personal interests – physical well being, hobbies, or social activity) and come back with fresh ideas or solutions to break the monotony of continuous work.
  • Ability to work independently: Working alone physically is one of the characteristics of a remote job so the candidate should have the capability to work on his own with minimal guidance. One should remain focussed on tasks irrespective of distractions around or with no frequent personal social interactions with teams. Should be able to make simple work decisions on his own and raise the flag when help is needed.

A strategic approach of identifying truly committed and effective remote resources will be beneficial for the organization as well as employees. It may certainly turn out to be a bit of a challenge for recruiters to tap such talent as they need to ensure in addition to the functional expertise if the candidate can be productive even in the home environment too. The above-mentioned points would be instrumental in assessing the remote candidates and selecting the right fit to build a robust remote workforce that can work hand in hand to meet the organization’s goals. 


Written By :


Nidhi Negi Dixit

Talent Acquisition Specialist


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Topics: Strategic HR, #GuestArticle, #JobsNowAndBeyond

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