Not all remote workers are created equal.
The Offshore virtual workforce is teeming with talented and competent individuals. However, there are still a lot of remote workers out there that – for the lack of a better term – are bad hires. Some are stubborn. Those that don’t follow instructions. Those who don’t double-check their work. Those who refuse to follow standard operating procedures.
On the other side of the fence, there are remote workers who are meticulous, who are innovative, who follow the rules but are inventive and who can move your business from Point A to Point B. These are the employees that you want on your team because they can help you take your business’ level of productivity to the next level and will allow you to finally live that much-coveted 4-hour workweek.
Aside from a tight hiring process and upholding the highest standards (and never settling for less), you need to know how to identify whether a remote worker is a good hire, an average employee, or someone you just have to say no to.
So, what makes a remote worker virtual employee a cut above the rest? Here are 8 signs or qualities that you should look for and how you can test if a specific candidate has these or not.
You will find outsourcing most rewarding and fruitful if you don’t have to do all the thinking yourself and if you don’t have to be the trigger to get things moving.
One, when you outsource, the end goal is to expand your business. You need proactive people to troubleshoot and solve problems even if you’re not there.
Second, you want to free up your time so you can pursue the things that you want to do – whether you want to pursue a certain interest you’ve been putting on the backburner for quite some time, spend more time with your family or even just have more time to think of ways to grow your business.
For you to accomplish this, you need an employee who does not need to be told what to do. An employee who takes the initiative to do the things on their own as soon as they see the task at hand.
How to test for initiative?
Tell an applicant that you will get back to him or her about the results of his or her application on a certain date. When that day comes, don’t send anything. No email, no instant message. As if you just disappeared into thin air. If that applicant sends you an email to follow up, then he’s showing initiative and when you hire him, he is most likely to initiate the first step if something is not being done.
- Ability to Follow Instructions
There are a lot of talented remote worker virtual employees out there who can do amazing work. However, as talented as they are, a lot of them falter on one simple thing – the ability to follow instructions. This error stems from a lot of things – they don’t read your full email or chat message that contains all the instructions they need to follow, they jump into doing things without fully understanding what needs to be done or they assume what you want them to do without checking and re-checking the instructions you gave.
At the end of the day, a good graphic designer is useless if he can’t submit an image in the right size. A talented content writer can’t help push your business forward if he doesn’t produce articles that are marketing-centered. A good VA won’t be able to help you manage your day-to-day operations if he doesn’t follow your instructions on how to outline your schedule.
In short, remote workers who don’t follow instructions will be liabilities to your business operations rather than assets.
How to test for the ability to follow instructions?
This one is a tried-and-tested tip and has been used by a lot of employers outsourcing to the Offshores. On your job post, put an instruction at the end that an applicant has to do to be considered for the position. For example, you can tell applicants to use a specific subject line when responding to your job ad or ask to begin their email by answering a specific question. You will be surprised how many applicants won’t read through your entire job posting and will miss this instruction at the very end. If they missed your instructions now, it’s highly likely that they will miss your instructions again.
- Innovativeness and Resourcefulness
While you want your employees to follow the instructions you give them, you also want them to think on their own. This is especially true if you are expanding your business and chartering into unknown territories that even you as the business owner are still experimenting on how to do things right.
You don’t want an employee who will bug you with questions on how to accomplish a certain task when a simple Google search can open up a number of possibilities to solve a particular problem. You don’t want someone who can’t think out of the box when presented with a new task with no prescribed method of accomplishing it.
You want your remote worker remote worker to think outside the box. Someone who can go online and research the most effective and efficient way of doing a certain thing. A worker who can help you come up with new methodologies and systems and innovate processes.
This is important for all your employees, but it is especially important for those who might be playing a bigger role in your day-to-day operations such as a project manager.
How to test innovativeness and resourcefulness?
Ask applicants to take a quick and easy test. Present a problem or an issue or give them a hypothetical task. Ask them to come up with three different solutions or approaches to accomplish that task while achieving the same goal. Tell them to document their thought process, just in bullet points. This will help you gauge their innovativeness and resourcefulness when given there are no specific instructions given to accomplish a certain task.
- Ability to Meet Deadlines
Missed deadlines are probably one of the complaints you will frequently hear among those who outsource to the Offshores. Now, don’t jump into a generalization that remote workers have no respect for deadlines. Work ethic is not dictated by nationality. While there are remote worker remote workers who do miss deadlines, there are also those (and we would say the majority) who will deliver on time consistently.
How to test for the ability to meet deadlines?
This one is easy. Ask applicants to do a “test project” and this will depend on the job opening in your business. For example, you can ask a content writer to deliver a 1,000-word article within 24 hours. Just make sure that your deadline is reasonable. Those who will miss the deadline for this test project are very likely to miss deadlines again in the future.
- Propensity for Learning
As an employer, a boss and entrepreneur, part of your role is to be a mentor to your employees. If you want your productivity and your profits to go up, the people running your business should have the skills and competency to push your business forward. Hence, it is important that aside from accomplishing their day-to-day tasks, your remote workers are getting ample training to level up their skill and knowledge to help you grown your business.
However, what if your employees don’t have this passion for continuous improvement? To be perfectly candid, it’s a bit difficult to find remote workers who have the experience in working in an environment where continuous learning is not only encouraged but required. Typically, continuous education is a privilege confined within the ranks of managers and high-level executives, unlike in the US when constant training is given even to the rank and file employees.
However, this does not mean that you can’t cultivate this value among your employees. Given the right opportunities to improve their skills, you will find that a lot of remote workers are hungry for these types of skills-building initiatives. What you need is to find those who have that initial propensity and you can start from there.
How to test for propensity for learning?
The easiest way to do this is during the interview, ask candidates about the last book they read. Various researches would show that people who read are most likely to be open to new knowledge and information. You can also ask them about current events that are related to the job. For example, you can ask SEO skilled workers if they have heard about the newest Google algorithm update. You can ask content writers about the blogs they read and why they like these blogs. You can ask customer service representatives if they’ve heard about any news surrounding the customer service practice.
Striking this conversation with applicants will help you measure whether they are already doing things on their own to keep up with the current best practices. What you can also do is to provide them with a short reading material related to the job and during the interview, ask them what their key takeaways from the article are and how they think the information they acquired can help them perform their job.
- Staying Power
It’s easy to find a remote worker virtual employee who can do the job. It’s a bit trickier to find someone who can do the job and will stay with your company for the long haul.
In the remote workplace setting, it’s easier to hop from one job to the next compared to if you’re working in a physical office. There are a lot of talented remote workers out there who change jobs as if they’re changing socks. Of course, you can always hire a replacement, but it will entail additional resources and additional time on your end. And if you’re looking into outsourcing, time is probably not something you have to waste.
So, keep in mind that when you’re hiring, you don’t only want someone who can do the job right for one month or two months. You have to look for someone who can do the job right for many years to come. You want someone who sees himself growing with you and your company. Of course, there are a lot of remote worker workers out there who are really after the short-term projects because they easily get bored and they don’t want to work full-time. Don’t forget to ask this question during the interview because most of them will be upfront that they don’t really see themselves being chained to one company for years.
How to test the staying power?
There’s really no actual way for you to test an applicant’s staying power because this is something you confirm once you’ve hired that person and have worked with him for a long time. However, there are certain things that you can look for to help you evaluate an applicant when it comes to his staying power. Start with his resume and check how long he worked for his previous employers. If an applicant has a tenure of at least one year with his previous employers, then this applicant has a higher probability of staying with your company for a longer period than a prospective employee whose past work experiences were consistently less than a year.
Some employers also don’t hire any young workers since they often don’t take their jobs seriously. The workers that are married and/or have kids and have bills to pay are more apt to stay with you longer. However, as with all generalizations you should be open to finding a younger prospect that genuinely shows the signs of someone who can and will stick around with you and your company.
- Collaborative Nature
While running your business, there will come a point that you will run out of ideas. Even the best entrepreneurs out there need someone on their team who can bring fresh ideas to the table or at least the energy to participate in the discussion and based on what they are hearing, suggest things on how you can make your business more profitable.
Therefore you want someone who is a natural collaborator. This person would have the initiative to start a conversation either with you or your other employees in your remote team to come up with new ideas, new innovations, and new improvements. This person actively participates in brainstorming sessions, even if the topics being discussed are not really directly related to his or her day-to-day tasks. As a team player, this person always looks for ways to contribute to the overall growth of the business.
How to test for collaborative nature?
Set up a second job interview with a prospective employee. Give a brainstorming topic beforehand and ask him or her to research and find out everything that he or she can learn about the given topic and come up with ideas and how you can use these ideas to improve a certain aspect of your business.
- Passion for the Job
The lack of passion for the job is arguably one of the biggest problems in corporate America. Employees in their mid-20s complaining about how unhappy they are at their jobs. Mid-level executives and even senior managers complaining about how they feel stuck and how their work has become so clinical and mechanical.
The skills to do the job is not equivalent to the passion for the job. You cannot force someone to wake up one day and find himself in love with marketing. You cannot teach passion as it stems from an employee’s inherent interests in life. At the end of the day, passion for the job dictates whether your employee would be happy to come to work every day or do it out of obligation.
How to test for passion?
There’s no easy or quantifiable way to measure a prospective employee’s passion and you have to rely on your own gut feeling as someone who is passionate about your business. It takes one to know one, right? During the interview, ask the candidate about why they are applying for the job. If all you hear is generic answers – career growth, great opportunity, salary, etc. – then you’re probably not talking to someone who’s passionate about the job. However, if an applicant talks about how a particular field interests him and how he sees himself five years down the road still doing the things he’s doing now because he enjoys it and it makes him happy, then you have someone who is genuinely passionate about the job.
Here’s a short caveat though. Passion is something that you might want to consider as a “nice-to-have” but not essential to your end goal. To be perfectly candid, it can be difficult to find this ideal candidate whose inherent interests coincide with the job you are offering. If you find that this is slowing down your hiring process, then you have to make a decision to just get someone who has the core competencies and skills to do the job well, even if it’s not really something he is genuinely passionate about.
There’s No Such Thing as a Perfect Hire
Allow us to be straightforward here – you may find it difficult to find someone who has all the qualities enumerated above simply because no employee is perfect. During your hiring process, rank these qualities according to what matters most to you and what is required most for the job.
Further, while some of these qualities are intrinsic, some of them can be honed and cultivated. For instance, a candidate might not be as collaborative during the interview process, but if you see indications that he or she can be trained and possess the other qualities above, then you should not stop yourself from hiring this person.