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Scouting for Remote Candidates: Look for These 4 Skills

By Mona Bergeron the Blog

Across various professional sectors, remote work opportunities have proliferated over the past few years.

This trend has been reinforced by the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forcibly prompted a high number of businesses to devise functioning remote work strategies in a short amount of time.

As such, and due to reasons mostly pertaining to convenience and safety, the ability to work from home is a perk many candidates are currently seeking.

However, not every qualified candidate is necessarily efficient at performing tasks while being physically away from the office.

How can recruiters know which applicants are best suited for the remote work model? Which key skills should recruiters be on the lookout for when scouting for remote talent?

In order to help you put together a winning remote team, we’ve compiled a list of the most fundamental abilities and attributes every remote employee should display to ensure the sustainable success of a work-from-home arrangement.

Time management

Knowing which tasks to prioritize is always important, but in a remote work environment, it takes on a whole new meaning.

In a home setting where many workers find themselves having to balance work, family and distractions, time management can greatly impact productivity levels.

As a recruiter, you should seek out candidates who manifest their ability to organize their schedules and who know how to successfully divide their time between specific activities.

During an interview, you can assess a candidate’s time management skills by describing a few tasks and asking them to rank the tasks in order of urgency.

You can also get a better idea of your respondent schedule their day and manage daily work assignments by asking questions such as:
• How do you balance work and personal life?
• How do you limit distractions during work hours?
• How do you manage deadlines?
• Describe how you deal with work-related stress.

Remember to keep the questions open-ended as to remain unbiased and to allow multiple possible answers.

Communication skills

Research shows that a large percentage of communication is actually nonverbal.

Indeed, aspects such as facial expressions, gestures, posture and eye contact, which are all nonverbal, carry weight in our daily conversations.

However, even with the help of advanced videoconference tools, it can be difficult to pick up on nonverbal cues when interacting with colleagues from afar.

With limited nonverbal communication, it becomes crucial for teams to put efficient internal communication strategies into practice.

Your company’s virtual spaces should promote and encourage open discussions between employees.

It is to some degree the responsibility of managers to establish such a culture, but it falls within the competence of every employee to keep it alive and thriving.

Therefore, recruiters should look for curious and proactive candidates who can articulate their thoughts and propose new ideas via different communication channels.

And, since the business world is not without challenges, the perfect candidates should also be comfortable asking for feedback, challenging the status quo or expressing a concern if necessary.

As our Talent’s US Sales President Michael O’Dell notes, communication is the key ingredient for a successful work-from-home recipe:

As in all things, communication is of paramount importance, both in form and function. I encourage all my remote workers to make sure to engage in “water cooler” talk when on calls or Zooms with co-workers. Without the common areas where folks mingle in the office, you are at risk of losing the relationships that really foster teamwork in an organization.

You can assess/test a candidate’s communication skills during an interview by asking them to simplify a concept:
• How would you break down a complex issue in order to make it more intelligible to a client?
• How would you explain a complicated technical issue to a colleague who is less tech-savvy?

Another suggestion is to ask the candidate how they would react to an unpredictable situation:
• Let’s say the work servers are down, how do you go about communicating with your team?
• What would you do if you misunderstood an important communication on the job?


Motivation is a factor that can make the difference between a task completed and a task well completed.

You want your team to be composed of individuals with high levels of commitment to the company’s goals, values and projects.

And you want that commitment to be reflected in the drive and energy they bring to the workplace, whether it be physical or virtual.

In the case of remote work, self-motivation is especially important.

Since external factors of motivation present in the traditional workspace might be minimized or absent from the home office, employees need to rely on themselves to push through and stay motivated throughout the course of various assignments and variable workloads.

Michael O’Dell, who’s been working at for almost 3 years and has interviewed numerous remote candidates, emphasizes the value of this skill:

Where I think organizations may miss the mark sometimes is not accurately motivating their remote folks. “Out of sight, out of mind” is unfortunately a common yet detrimental mindset. You can’t use a cookie cutter approach to manage each person on your remote team. Being remote adds layers of complexity rather than smoothing them out.

When assessing a remote candidate’s compatibility with your company, you want to understand what motivates them and determine if their innate motivation is consistent with your work environment and the specific role.

You want to ask questions regarding their interest for the industry, the company and the position they are applying for, such as:
• Why did you choose this type of work?
• When did you love what you were doing?
• What does commitment mean to you?
• Tell me about a time where you went above and beyond the expectations of your role. Why did you do this?

Again, we highlight the importance of nonverbal communication, as body language and tone of voice will tell you a lot about a candidate’s genuine enthusiasm regarding the role and how good of a fit they are for your remote team.

Adaptability and flexibility

Challenges often arise in remote work environments.

Unexpected events can change the course of a project at any time, and your team needs to be ready to face sudden changes, whether they be specific to your company or unfold within the more general setting of the industry.

As the business landscape keeps on evolving, adaptability and flexibility are increasingly valuable skills you want your employees to possess and display.

You want your colleagues to be eager to try new tools and techniques to improve their work, and you want them to stay calm and concentrated under pressure.

During the selection process, you can evaluate how adaptable and flexible a prospect is by asking them how they deal with unpredictable conditions or how they adjust their work techniques to changing circumstances.

Here are some questions to challenge your candidates:
• Tell me about a time you had to try something for the first time at work. How did it go and what did you learn from this experience?
• What were some of the biggest challenges you faced at your previous place of employment and how did you overcome them?
• Tell me about a time you had to learn how to use a new system, program or software at work.
• What would you do if you were asked to perform a task that was not part of your job description?


Depending on the nature of your business, it’s often more logical to hire for a specific skillset than for geographic location.

And, as we’ve been able to witness in 2020, the shift from office to home is not only doable but can also be properly implemented on a large scale.

However, remote isn’t always easy. It often comes with its fair share of challenges.

That’s why you need a skilled squad of self-motivated and flexible communicators who know how to manage their time to take your business to the next level.

As stated above, these 4 skills are the ones you should be noticing when interviewing prospective employees.

Lastly, as a complementary tool, you can give candidates pre-employment personality tests to determine if their psychological makeup is truly suited for the position you are trying to fill.

And remember: selecting the right candidates early on is the key to a strong and successful virtual team.

Stay tuned on the blog for more articles regarding the ensuing process of managing a remote team.