By John Routhier, Chief Sales Officer, SkillSurvey

As more companies like Google, REI, and Twitter embrace remote work, sometimes permanently, staffing agency recruiters need to zero in on the best, new remote workers. 

These days, the soft skills in demand are self-motivation, engaging with team members, communicating well, and staying proactive to meet deadlines and solve problems. Especially when there is no supervisor or manager who can observe the employee in person, these crucial soft skills are more important than ever before.

Here are soft skills to look for when you are recruiting remote talent for your clients.

They are good communicators. 

Working remotely requires a new level of interaction between boss and employee, precisely because they’re not present in an office environment. So, your ideal remote candidates need to be excellent communicators to prevent confusion and misalignment with your clients. They should be comfortable checking in regularly with their supervisors and providing updates on projects and deadlines. No boss wants to have to guess how employees are progressing on projects because there’s too little communication. 

Find out, too, whether your candidates have the confidence to discuss work issues that arise. Any tendency to ignore difficulties will be exacerbated by remote work.  

They’re laser-focused. 

Distractions are a big productivity-stealer for remote workers. A great way to vet for this skill is to find out steps your candidates have taken in the past to manage distractions. Here are some questions to ask to drill in on their ability to remain focused:

  • Tell me about a time when you created a timeline and met important deadlines. 
  • What specific methods do you use to limit distractions when working from home?
  • How do you manage the distraction of social media when working from home? (According to 32% of remote workers polled in a May 2020 Valoir survey, the #1 distraction is the social media rabbit hole. )
  • How do you set boundaries with friends and family about when it’s okay to contact you and when it’s not? 

They’re self-motivated. 

Without face-to-face interaction and reminders, your candidates need to be good at prioritizing workloads and completing projects on time. Explore the strategies they’ve used to set goals and agendas, as well as their methods to vault over roadblocks that arise. 

They’re team players. 

It’s easy for remote workers to think they need to do it all alone. But, often, the sign of a great employee is that they know when to self-manage and when to reach out for help. When evaluating candidates, find out how about their relationships with past colleagues. Do they take the initiative to consult with available tech help, fellow team members, their manager or project owners to navigate around the issues and find additional resources? Or do they tend to go it alone? Their history around this area is a good way to gauge how they stay productive in the face of stopgaps. 

Unlike more defined skills, soft skills don’t leave much of a paper trail. They’re trickier to test for. You’ll definitely get a sense of some of a job candidate’s communication and problem-solving skills in a video interview or webchat. But you may often be in the dark about how they’ve performed on soft skills in the past. 

Here are some tips on vetting for soft skills:

  • Ask specific behavioral questions to delve into how candidates have handled situations in the past.
  • Rely on reference checks to supplement the info you get from your candidates directly.
  • Give candidates test work to see firsthand how they respond under pressure in a remote environment.

When the pandemic is over, organizations may yet return to recruiting and hiring more on-site workers. But for now, you can staff the best-performing remote workers by finding out how they stay connected, engaged, and motivated to meet their goals. 

IMG-John-Routhier-compressorJohn Routhier is the Chief Sales Officer at SkillSurvey. He oversees all SkillSurvey’s sales activities, including inside sales and field sales across all lines of business. John has over 15 years’ experience as a sales executive with a record of rapidly growing sales through the implementation of strategic processes, development of corporate strategy, and business alliances.