These tips from Deborah Sweeney will help you find the remote workers you need amid the pandemic. (Credit: Vlada Karpovich, Pexels)
These tips from Deborah Sweeney will help you find the remote workers you need amid the pandemic. (Credit: Vlada Karpovich, Pexels)

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has completely altered the business of hiring new employees.

These days, many new staffers are expected to work remotely once they are hired for a role.  Eventually, when the world becomes safer, they might be allowed to move in-office — or they might be asked to continue to work remotely if the company decides not to return to a traditional office setting.

How can you identify a candidate that is able to work sufficiently on a remote basis, both in the short- and long-term? Many HR professionals search through hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes to find an individual who possesses the necessary skill sets to get the job done and may fit in the overall company culture. Add “understands how to work efficiently from a remote setting” on top of these basic requirements and suddenly it becomes a much taller order than anticipated.

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However, it is not impossible to find a skilled employee that can work from home. The trick is understanding the best practices for hiring remote workers. Here are a few strategies that can help streamline the process to find, and hire, the right fit.

1. Look for candidates with remote work experience.

If your company was forced to transition to a remote workplace during the pandemic, chances are it may have taken a while for staffers to get used to working from home.

Some days, perhaps you were able to check off every item off your to-do list, as your team engaged in fruitful Slack chats. Other days might have been slightly … less productive. Meetings lasted longer than anticipated. Tasks were half-finished. Disruptions and distractions abounded. Oh, and you personally never changed out of yoga pants.

This is fairly normal when a group of former office employees turn sudden remote workers. Some employees may be able to adapt quickly to a remote environment. Others may not.

Remote workers, however, are already well-versed in what a “typical” day looks like when you work from home. They understand how to utilize necessary tools to stay organized and communicate with the team as well as prioritizing remote work.

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Keep an eye out for resumes where applicants have listed previous remote work experience. Here are a few items to check off as you review these resumes.

  • Do they have proven experience working with certain software programs and scheduling platforms?
  • Are they timely? Do they understand the importance of showing up on time for Zoom meetings, working across different time zones, and reaching deadlines? This speaks to more than simply getting tasks done. It also addresses if applicants gave their complete attention to former remote roles, rather than treating them as side gigs.
  • Is the candidate a team player or does he or she like to work on their own? Depending on candidates’ remote work background, they may possess the ability to do a bit of both. You can discuss this topic, and ask for examples of the candidate acting as a solo and team player, when conducting a video conference interview together.
  • How do they like to communicate? Many remote workers have a preferred method of communication, which may range from messaging apps to email or video chat.
2. Seek out solid cover letters paired with resumes.

As the director of operations at Wikilawn, Jennifer Walden shared a job posting that was up from late April through mid-May. Walden saw an increase of 30% more applicants apply for that listing. She noted that a large percentage were qualified simply by reading their resumes.

How was Walden able to narrow down the applications and pick out the best candidates? She, and her team, took a timeless approach to selecting the best applicants. They looked for resumes that were accompanied with cover letters.

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“I am a big proponent of well-written, thoughtful cover letters,” Walden says. “Cover letters give the candidates an opportunity to expand on their skills, discuss their enthusiasm for the company, and address any potential concerns.”

As job listings continue to become saturated with resumes submitted by skilled applicants, articulate cover letters help candidates stand out from the pack. Walden has spent years advising job seekers to include a written cover letter with their resume. She still stands by this advice when applying for a job.

“A cover letter is like bundling an interview into the application process,” Walden explains. “Only with this interview, you’re the one both asking and answering the questions, so you control the flow of information.”

3. Don’t cut corners in the remote hiring process.

Natalie Morgan is the director of HR at recruiting software service CareerPlug. Morgan is one of many HR professionals that is watching the hiring process being rewritten as former staples — like on-site interviews, handshakes, and distributing paper resumes — have disappeared. Meanwhile, virtual interviews conducted from home are the new normal.

Now that the process has been streamlined, some employers may be tempted to cut corners.

Do you really need to review the candidate’s LinkedIn profile? Should you still call their references? Do you really need to ask interview questions on topics like organization and motivation that allow you to learn more about the candidate’s communication style ?

Yes, yes, and yes. The hiring process during a COVID-19 era is about adaptation, not cutting corners.

“Remote or not, be careful of gutting your process that has led to successful hires in the past,” Morgan warns.

She advises adapting rather than consolidating. For instance, let’s say you used to have in-house interviews that required a whiteboard for candidates to write on and conduct assignments on the spot. Find a way to move the exercise online. Consider having candidates use a virtual white-boarding tool or Google Documents so you can  review items together during the interview. This allows employers to keep key elements of the interview process that worked for them in the “before” times — and allows candidates to feel confident that the employer is ready to work with a remote employee.

“We’re collectively learning the scope of how technology can connect us,” Morgan says. “Adapt accordingly.”

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