Contributed by Kaelee Nelson, writer and content specialist.
There are now over 1 million novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases worldwide. In an effort to stop the spread and “flatten the curve” through social distancing, much of the world has been on a stay-at-home order.
Many nonessential businesses have been forced to close their doors to the public during this pandemic. For many organizations, this, unfortunately, means placing a temporary pause on operations and potentially laying off employees until business can safely resume. Other entities, though, have found a way to keep operations running with a remote workforce—and the applicant pool of potential candidates is massive.
According to The New York Times, nearly 4 billion people—half of the world’s population—found themselves under a mandate to stay inside. Displaced workers across the world are seeking ways to earn money online from the safety of their homes while health safety measures are in effect.
If you’re a business owner who has survived the conversion to remote work, you could have a lucrative opportunity in front of you: job demand. However, employment opportunities are scarce. With a high volume of job applicants in fierce competition over your available position, you can capitalize on cheap labor—while also saving a ton of overhead cost you would have spent on a commercial lease, office supplies and utilities.
During this unprecedented time in history—with record high unemployment numbers in the last few weeks alone—you have the chance to minimize business expenses and drive profit margins, turning lemons into lemonade.
The key to success, however, lies in a tactful execution of strategy. Although labor may be cheap, you can’t hire too many people and expand too quickly, or you bear the risk of biting off more than you can chew. Perhaps more importantly, you can’t hire on the wrong people when you’re entrusting employees to remotely hold up their end of responsibilities.
The fate of your company depends on the wheels that turn it, which makes it imperative that you know how to identify the qualities of a strong remote employee.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur eager to get your business off the ground, or you’re a business owner exploring ways to rechart your company’s course in light of this crisis, prioritize these qualites in your next remote hire:
The education level required for the job will depend on the role you’re hiring for. For example, if you need a web developer to build the backend of your eCommerce platform, your candidate will need more advanced education and training than a social media intern.
On the job application, be sure to include a field where your candidate can provide information on the degree they’ve obtained as well as any special certifications they’ve passed.
Education can only go so far, so it’s important that your candidate also has real-world experience in which they’ve applied their knowledge. Pressure can be intense in high-volume, digital environments, so be sure that your employees will be able to keep up. Additionally, someone who has a proven track record of setting and meeting goals can be deemed experienced.
When inquiring about their experience, you should request references from previous employers. Ask how long the employee worked there and whether they’d be eligible for rehire. This can give you an insight into their work ethic and help you determine if they’re suitable for the position.
Depending on the business you run, your employees may have access to sensitive information. Everything from private customer data to delicate company financials could cripple you if placed into the wrong hands.
It’s likely that employers hiring during the coronavirus lockdown will not have the opportunity to meet their candidate face-to-face—making it even harder to determine whether the candidate who shines on paper is also safe to bring aboard. By adding a criminal background check to your employee screening process, you can catch red flags that may call a candidate’s trustworthiness into question. You can save yourself time by including this requirement within the job description, as those with a relevant criminal history likely won’t bother applying.
Additionally, talking to the candidates’ references will give you an idea if the person is an independent and reliable worker—both critical traits for somebody working from home.
Your remote workforce will be entirely reliant on technology to perform their essential duties—and the data collected since the coronavirus shutdown supports this. Microsoft Teams, a platform that allows users to share documents, send messages and chat over video saw a 500 percent uptick in conference calls. Zoom, a software that hosts virtual meetings, saw its share price nearly double due to the increased usage.
From project management trackers to CRM systems, the technology your company employs will vary wide and far, but it’s wise to ask your candidate if they’re familiar with your program(s) of choice. That way, you can cut down on training time and minimize the risk of clerical errors. At the very minimum, your remote employee will need a reliable computer and internet provider to do their job.
Last but not least, any great employee should bring talent to the table, which includes these important five qualities. They can have all the experience and technical know-how, but their execution of the tasks at hand is what will set them apart as a standout asset.
You can assess this quality in a couple of ways: one, during your phone interview, ask them to describe a challenging work situation and how they resolved it; two, you can also ask them to perform a quick test that assesses their skill level, so you know their fit for the job.
With these qualities on your radar, you’ll be poised to hire the best remote staff who can help drive your business to new success—even during this economic crisis.
Kaelee Nelson is a writer based in California and currently works for 365businesstips.com. She enjoys informing readers about topics spanning industries such as technology, business, finance, culture, wellness, hospitality and tourism.