5 Competencies to Look for When Hiring Work-From-Home Employees

July 1st, 2020
Nathan Mondragon
Artificial Intelligence,
Candidate Experience,
Diversity & Inclusion,
Recruiting Teams,
Video Interviewing
working from home

5 Competencies to Look for When Hiring Work-From-Home Employees

For years, employees have increasingly desired to have the flexibility to work from home. Work from home has skyrocketed by 173% since 2005. Even before COVID-19, nearly 80% of people expressed wanting to work remotely. Yet, as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to alter our lives, it seems unlikely many of us will find ourselves returning to the office soon.

But what about organizations hiring new employees--does the hiring process change for them? If your organization is hiring right now, chances are you’re hiring for remote positions. However, what should you look for in the screening process; what are the best predictors of success?

Recently, my team and I have identified five key competencies to look for when hiring for remote positions.

1. Self-Directed Learning/Self-Motivation

This is a crucial competency for any successful work from home employee to possess. Many positions that have traditionally been in-office, now require employees who can manage themselves. As we all adapt to this new normal, many employees and job candidates find themselves juggling work-life balance in a very different environment.

For instance, organizations may hire employees in different time zones, single-parent employees, and folks from all walks of life. Being “flexible” in work from home environment might mean getting out of the comfort zone of working a traditional 9-5. The key result is hiring people who can meet deadlines, produce quality work, and get the job done as their schedule allows.

The other side of this is finding candidates who possess teamwork and collaboration skills; those who demonstrate a willingness to also work around other coworkers’ availability.

If you’re hiring make sure to ask candidates about their personal obligations and what they’ve done in the past (or could do for your organization) to ensure that they’ll meet expectations. Beyond hard skills (coding, computer software prowess, etc.), you need to find talent who are self-motivated to perform and can learn on their own.

2. Conscientiousness

Our current status quo is something of a global experiment with working from home. More employees are working directly from homeEveryone’s in a remote lockdown situation which is going to yield personality traits and characteristics of current and future employees. Regardless of where and when work gets done, the fact remains that it has to get completed. Look to hire teams that can work in-tandem over Zoom, Chat, Slack, etc., and who can fulfill roles as if nothing were different. Your most valuable employees are the ones with the most self awareness.

That’s partly because conscientious employees and candidates are the ones who can make the remote work situation work for themselves. These individuals can blend their personal and professional lives under one roof. In interviews, you can ask whether people have worked remotely or not before and how well they’ve done in those respective roles. Additionally, HireVue’s video interviewing and game-based assessments software can identify competencies such as conscientiousness, cognitive ability, drive for results & initiative, dependability and adaptability.

Using secure, validated software and people science is a great way to find ideal candidates faster. Which, of course, you can accomplish without relying on a traditional interview structure.

3. Work Ethic

We’re all dealing with highly-stressful situations in regard to everything that’s happened in our world this year. Of course, adding stress to our already-stressful personal and professional lives doesn’t make anything easier for anybody. However, hiring committees can glean a lot about an individual’s work ethic from video interviews and assessments.

During interviews, make sure to drill down deeper into a candidate’s self-management skills. For instance, you can ask if a candidate is capable of knowing what it takes to get their required work, regardless of when they do it and how they balance it with their personal lives. For some, that might mean taking early morning calls--or finishing tasks into the evening.

Of course, remember to be transparent and explain what each particular role will consist of. Explain that nobody will “be monitoring” whether or not an employee is online (unless your organization utilizes that type of software). Rather, work ethic in the new normal is all about dependability and having the ability to bring results-driven work to an organization.

4. Self-Management/Independence

Given the current state of the world, employees and employers need to keep one thing in mind: there is a certain amount we can do and a certain amount we cannot do. However, organizations looking to hire remote employees should ask prospects about their performance and abilities in a “regular” work environment.

Additionally, invite them to offer you a self-assessment. Besides the greatest strengths and weaknesses, what’s their preferred working style? Do they prefer operating solo--or do they wish to be part of a team? Does your candidate take feedback well? Can he/she/they manage multiple projects on timeliness that matter most for your team?

The biggest change in the COVID-era workplace isn’t whether or not a candidate can perform their job. It’s whether or not they can take on the personal challenge of merging their lives and careers--and do it independently while supporting the overall goals of your organization. Additionally, they’ll need to be adaptable in terms of merging their personal & professional lives with the lives and roles of your team and organization.

5. Adaptability/Openness to New Experiences

You need to look for employees and job candidates who have a natural ability to manage their time well; those who produce quality, consistent work. In fact, this last competency ties into a metric we discussed earlier: conscientiousness. The companies that succeed while working from home will hire (or have already employed) professionals who can manage their work, schedules, and productivity without the need for a “hands-on” manager.

These types of professionals can get the job done from wherever and whenever. The key is finding those who possess a personal level of adaptability and the ability to work from home. The ideal work from home candidates are the ones who can balance personal and professional lives under one roof, while learning the processes and procedures of a new company. Essentially, you need to have coworkers, team members, and leadership who can manage the new blend of work and home life.


The old adage is slightly true: “there is no ‘I’ in ‘team.’” However, the caveat is that, when hiring remote employees, hiring managers should absolutely look for evidence of independence. The best, most successful candidates, will demonstrate the ability to both work independently and as part of a team. Make sure to ask the right questions in the interview. Understand what you’re needing from a remote employee--and certify which candidates can deliver.

Also, make sure to constantly communicate with your team. Check in with your employees, make sure everyone is handling their respective situations. Ask if someone needs help. Now is a time where emotional intelligence, authenticity, and empathy will pave the road for success.

If you want to learn more about our process for developing competency-based assessments, watch this presentation. You’ll learn what HireVue’s team of IO Psychologists have researched and developed to help find the best talent, faster.

About the Author:

Dr. Nathan Mondragon is Chief IO Psychologist at HireVue and responsible for building, researching, and maintaining the AI-driven assessment product. Nathan has over 20 years of experience in the HCM space and is a recognized expert in the blending of IO Psychology tools with technology to deliver seamless integrated recruitment, hiring, and development solutions. In 1996, Nathan helped lead the creation and delivery of the first ever online selection assessment, in 2004 built from ground up the first integrated assessment solution within an enterprise-wide ATS (Taleo), and in 2015 as part of HireVue delivered the first ever AI-driven pre-hire assessment solution. Nathan received his Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Colorado State University. Find him on LinkedIn.