How to hire remote workers in a post-Covid world

Needless to say, the workforce has changed dramatically due to Covid-19. Old rules have been set aside, giving rise to the world of hybrid-working, remote-working, and digital nomadism. Never before has such a rapid occupational shift occurred so quickly, raising important questions for hiring and selection. Those soft skills that were essential to face to face working, the detailed competency frameworks that emphasised team working, and the strong sense of organisational culture that permeated the office, do any of these even matter anymore?

If not, how exactly should we be hiring and assessing staff?

The research evidence provides us with a clear answer – remote work and office-based work are completely different. Yes, the tasks may be the same, but they present employees with radically different environments, and thus require a distinct set of behavioural predispositions.

When it comes to hiring, there are two major implications:

  • Firstly, the traditional interview sees a dramatic drop in effectiveness when used to hire remote staff compared to office-based staff.
  • Secondly, personality questionnaires become considerably more useful and could soon supplant the interview as the main determiner of selection decisions.

But why is this the case, and how can HR practitioners use this information?

Why Interviews Are Less Effective For Hiring Remote Staff

When it comes to office-based roles and other face-to-face occupations, the employment interview is king. Sitting down and spending time with someone is a great way to gauge whether or not you want to continue sitting down and spending time with them in perpetuity. Moreover, interviews are powerful measures of interpersonal skills and in-person communication ability. However, when working remotely, these skills lose their lustre, dropping down the list of priorities. In fact, one could argue that excessively strong interviewing skills suggests an especially poor fit to fully remote work, as this implies a strong proclivity towards social interaction, and thus may struggle with the solitude associated with remote working.

Instead, we must take an objective look at the key behavioural requirements of remote roles, and identify the traits that underpin performance and role-fit.

Why Personality Questionnaires are a Better Alternative

Unlike interviews – which, as mentioned, largely just measure a person’s interpersonal and communication skills – personality questionnaires are far broader. You can see what a personality questionnaire measures with a free personality test. If you try to gauge a candidate’s level of resilience using an interview, and they convince you that they are resilient, that has almost nothing to do with their actual resilience, just their communication skills. Whereas personality questionnaires show higher levels of what we call in psychology “construct validity”, and thus directly measure the specific traits that they are designed to measure.

More importantly, personality questionnaires can measure traits which are largely inaccessible via interviews – such as resilience. We call these traits intra-personal traits, behavioural characteristics which are not expressed inter-personally, and so are not well suited to measurement via interview. It is these intrapersonal traits which determine whether or not someone is suited to remote work.

How to use Personality Questionnaires to Assess Remote Workers

Based on my experience and the available research, I recommend that you consider measuring the following personality traits when recruiting remote workers:

Introversion: Introverts are naturally solitary, finding alone time to be naturally rejuvenating and comforting. Because of this, introversion is one of, if not the most important trait which determines suitability to remote work.

Conscientiousness: Conscientious people are organised, diligent, and process orientated. Although conscientiousness is important in any role, remote work calls for an additional level of organisation and initiative, as self-management is key to consistent performance in remote work.

Resilience: Remote work has many stressors, and it requires a certain level of resilience to manage those stressors alone. Asking for support is more difficult in remote work, which means staff must be able to handle pressure and deal with stress more autonomously than office-based staff.

Integrity: Personal integrity is essential in both remote and office work, but it is especially important in remote work. Without a manager’s watchful gaze, the temptation to slack or loaf is ever present, and many counterproductive work behaviours can be mitigated by recruiting based on integrity.

Final Thoughts

Before making changes to your recruitment processes, certain realities must be accepted. Firstly, we need to stop thinking of office work as the norm, viewing remote work as something of an oddity, Covid has irrevocably changed that. Next, we also need to accept that the traditional methods of assessing candidates were geared towards office-based work specifically, having less applicability to remote work. Finally, we must be honest with ourselves about the differing demands of office-based and remote work, with each modality requiring a distinct set of skills and behavioural predispositions, requiring entirely different methods of selection and assessment.

Author: Editorial Team

Share This Post On