WFH & Talent Acquisition in a Pandemic

New to hiring remote workers? Here are tips to help

One of the big challenges the pandemic poses for small-to-medium-sized businesses is the transition from working in an office to a work from home (WFH) model.

An estimated 75 million Americans are working from home, and 86 percent of workers now seek workplace flexibility as a career benefit, new research indicates. Yet many conventional businesses struggle with questions around hiring remote workers.

ken600x500Most customer-facing and client-based businesses are accustomed to working out of offices and all that entails, including close contact between management, employees, and teams; face-to-face meetings; and 9-5 working hours. It can be a bit of a culture shock to move toward having employees working from home, communicating via phone or video conferencing, and working more flexible hours.

The good news is there are smart ways to make the right hiring choices when it comes to WFH positions. Employers need a new process for interviewing candidates, reviewing their skills, and evaluating their ability to fulfill tasks without being in an office. And they need to trust the results of the tools they are using.

When it comes to your company’s hiring plans, you can increase the odds of identifying candidates with great WFH capabilities. Many of these are the same qualities you would look for in an office hire, but with an added spark of self-motivation. Some key attributes to look for when interviewing applicants include the following:

1. Written communication skills. With fewer face-to-face meetings, employees need to be able to produce well-written emails and reports and make clear requests. They won’t be able to pop into a coworker's office for a quick word of advice, which means they must be able to structure their thoughts in coherent sentences and communicate via email, text, and other formats. Skills testing can help identify candidates who can quickly and accurately summarize ideas and communicate them in a manner that is easy to understand.

2. Critical thinking skills. New hires may be on their own, without the traditional on-boarding process. Being able to successfully reason through situations, both for internal and external customers, can be a "make or break" ability for them. They will need to be able to analyze issues and solve problems on their own. This extends to:

3. Technology skills. The IT department won't be around the corner, so WFH employees must be able to work through their own software, hardware, and other technology problems. This includes video-conferencing and other communication and workspace technologies required to keep employees focused and engaged.

4. Conscientiousness. Being conscientious is even more important for employees working from home than it is for those in an office. Remote employees must be willing to make the extra effort, be team players, and consider and respond to the needs of team members.

So how can you assure that the candidates you interview for remote positions have these qualities? It starts with having a consistent interview process in which you give each candidate the same questions and the same amount of time to answer them. Have them provide samples of their writing or reports. And ask them questions to determine how they would react in real world situations you encounter in your business.

For instance, you might ask an applicant how they would respond to a valued customer who is irate, or a coworker with a problem, when they are under time pressure to meet the demands of their own position.

Identify common traits that are necessary for someone to be successful. It is a natural human tendency for people to overestimate their own abilities, so it is important to have a system in place that allows you to quantify and verify results.

One of the most difficult areas for companies that have traditionally worked in offices is establishing trust that remote workers will fulfill their responsibilities. Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to working directly with customers and clients. For this reason, we’ve developed set of Customer Service Aptitude Tests designed to measure behavioral traits such as:

• Respecting Customers
• Conscientiousness
• Service Orientation
• Maintaining Composure
• Self-Management
• Flexibility
• Being a Team Player

As more companies employ more remote workers, another key measurement is the ability of workers to produce quality work and meet deadlines. While remote employees need to be responsive to customer and company needs, they won’t necessarily be sitting in front of their computer from 9 to 5 each day. This is particularly the case now when many younger people are working from home while juggling caring for their children and overseeing their schooling.

on phone giroc500x300Some companies install productivity-measuring software or monitor employee email to keep an eye on WFH employees, but that can run counter to establishing and maintaining trust. The best way to evaluate remote employees’ performance is with metrics based on their output and their responsiveness to customer and team requests. Pre-employment testing can help identify how well an applicant responds to these requests, as well as core traits such as friendliness, respect and consideration for others, ability to balance priorities, and work as part of a team.

Ask applicants to explain situations in which they had to work independently away from others. How did they stay in communication? How did it work out, and how did they feel about their own productivity and their ability to stay in touch with their managers and coworkers?

Finally, we should recognize that not everyone is cut out to work from home. For others, it may be a stretch, but one that they can master. In our own team, we have a sales rep that is extremely extroverted and people-oriented. This employee used to work in our office, but moved to another city and had to learn to work remotely. At first they were lonely, but over time they were able to adapt. For employees moving to remote work for the first time, it’s important to spell out that this is a working situation that is different from what they are accustomed to. They need to know themselves and be confident in their ability to get the job done.

About: Ken Crowell is Founder and CEO of EmployTest, a pre-employment testing platform that’s helped more than 7,000 corporate and government organizations across the US and globally to remotely pre-screen applicants for the best hiring choices. EmployTest administers more than 60,000 tests to job applicants each year. Learn more at


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