How to Identify Employees Who Will Shine in a Virtual Work Setting

How to Identify Employees Who Will Shine in a Virtual Work Setting

by Sara Bennett | May 5, 2020

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No question the “shelter in place” mandate has revealed a lot about what it takes to not only perform effectively in a virtual work setting, but to figure out if that is the way they want to work.   While employees have been clamoring for some time to work from home, employees and supervisors both are learning a lot about what it takes to actually work from home successfully in a virtual world.  Just under 50% of our local workforce is currently working remotely.  

According to an April study by Engine Insights for Smartsheet (and recently reported by the Puget Sound Business Journal) many employees, and younger employees in particular, are experiencing  some level of discomfort with their virtual work arrangement –  feeling “less connected” and “less informed” about what’s happening in their company than they did when working in office.   

While employers are busy learning the techniques to manage remote teams, while imagining how their r businesses might look if their physical footprint could be reduced,  employees are starting to wonder if a a long term “work from home arrangement” is for them.  For employees, avoiding the Puget Sounds long commutes is clearly a plus, but many are also uncovering that an every day diet of working from home requires a special kind of employee – a special set of soft and hard skills.

If you’re one of those employers starting to lean into a more virtual, work from home staffing model, here’s some things we’ve learned about employees who have the talent needed to continue to shine in work from home working arrangements. We’ve been finding and vetting employees to work in “virtual work settings” for a while now, and here’s our short list of personal attributes our recruiters have uncovered are most important to work from home success.  We’ve also added a few ways for you to adjust your employee selection processes to id real deal virtual workers different from virtual worker wannabes.

#1 on our list of things to look for in an employee who will shine in a work from home working arrangement is their ability to be internally rather than externally motivated. 

Employees who really love the work they do and will do it to the best of their ability regardless of where they work or who is noticing, are great candidates for work from home scenarios. Believe it or not there are employees for whom the very act of doing work they love is all they need from their job.  They don’t need social interaction, they don’t need their work to be noticed, they just like doing it for very internal reasons.   

How do you identify candidates who are internally motivated?    

  •         First check out their work history, paying particular attention to what drew them to take certain jobs, leave others.  Have they pursued work they fully enjoyed?  If they changed jobs, did their reasons include the pursuit of work they knew they would enjoy doing,  or were they continuously looking for that “perfect” job that would feed all their “passion drivers”  – you know those jobs that really don’t exist other than in someone’s mind.
  •         What do they do outside of work?  Do they pursue hobbies or interests that helps them grow personally?  Being self motivated isn’t something that just applies to work…it reveals itself in all aspects of an employee’s life.
  •         How do they describe their “favorite” bosses – were they supervisors who trusted them to get the job done, or were they supervisors who were more “hands on” – there when needed, good at noticing their good work. 

#2 is the employee’s ability to organize and structure their work to accommodate the unique needs of a work from home setting. 

Are they able to stay focused on getting the results needed, and avoid the distractions of many work from home settings.  Do they see the difference between being busy, and producing results?  While some of the new work from home jobs have brought with them the same type of structure they had when working on site, jobs without that built in structure require employees who are self managed – who know how to create that structure on their own .

The new  work from home customer service jobs, , for example, have been able to utilize technologies that track and report the same productivity measurements of agent productivity that were used for those same jobs in an in-office setting.  Supervisors are reporting high levels of success shifting these jobs to work from home arrangements.   For other jobs, the ability for the employee to be self managed, to stay focused on results without that type of visibility or precise tracking, is much more important. 

How do you know if a job candidate has that ability to create their own structure and work routines – to achieve results when nobody’s looking?    

  •         Ask them to describe the job they’ve had or something they’ve done that, for them, made them most proud.  If their answer is about work performed, tasks they’ve done, without linking their work or tasks to an end result, you may be talking to someone who will need your help structuring their work day to achieve the result you’re trying to achieve.   If, on the other hand, they describe a high level result they achieved, or an outcome they’ve produced,  you may have uncovered someone who you can count on to achieve a result, no matter what.      
  •         Ask about how they have organized their work in the past – what daily or weekly routines did they create for themselves?  What goals did they set for themselves and how did they track their personal progress?  Their answers will tell you if they have the habits of success you need in a work from home employee.

#3.  Great remote workers are employees who know how to solve problems  on their own.  They are employees who don’t get stuck when things don’t go as planned and will either find a solution on their own and will take the initiative to reach out to a teammate for help or advice.    

How do you identify problem solvers in the hiring process?

Ask then to describe a recent challenge and find out how they solved that problem?  How long did they stay stuck?  Who did they reach out to for help?  At what point in the problem solving process?  How creative was their solution? 

One of the things we know about effective remote workers is that they are really good at managing their technology tools. 

Ask candidates how they address routine challenges with their technology tools – their laptop? Their network access?  Internet or app performance?  Do they tend to resolve issues on their own or will they need more technology support than your organization can provide?  


#4.  Can you trust the employee to honor your work from home arrangements and agreements?  

Lay out your work from home policies and your personal requirements for a work from home relationship in detail.  If they are required to be in the office 1 -2 days per week (or month) spell those conditions out clearly?  Do you require them to check in each morning and/or at the end of each day?  Attend virtual meetings online?  Spell out your regular work routines clearly. 

To start the process of building trust with a potential new hire…….

…use the hiring process itself to check them out.  Early in the process give each candidate an  assignment and see how they perform.  For example, if you are hiring someone for a marketing role, ask them to check out your website along with 1 or 2 of your competitors.  Ask them to provide you with a quick analysis of how you think your products or services compare and send you a summary of your findings in an end of day email. 

Did they deliver as agreed?  How would you assess the quality of their research?  Throughout the hiring process did they check in as agreed?    Bottomline, are they showing up as someone you can count on to get a job done as expected?  

#5.  How much (or little) does the employee need social interactions with others to fuel their job satisfaction?  How able are they to work in isolation with either limited or no face to face time with others?    

To find out…

….find how much, or little, experience they have had in past jobs actually working from home?  What did they learn about themselves when working from home?  What did they miss about an in office experience? What would they improve or change about their previous work from home arrangements?  

Listening carefully to their responses, keeping in mind the best predictor of how the employee will react in a work from home work environment in the future, is how they reacted in the past.


Want to learn more? Check out this video with our Communications Director Sara Bennett and SocialHire’s Tony Restell – Watch Here!


PACE Staffing Network is one of the Puget Sound’s premier staffing /recruiting agencies and has been helping Northwest employers find and hire employees based on the “right fit” for over 40 years.

A  4 time winner of the coveted “Best in Staffing” designation , PACE is ranked in the top 2% of staffing agencies nationwide based on annual surveys of customer satisfaction.

PACE services include temporary and contract staffing, temp to hire auditionsdirect hire professional recruiting servicesEmployer of Record (payroll) services, and a large menu of candidate assessment services our clients can purchase a la carte.

To learn more about how partnering with PACE will make a difference to how you find and hire employees,  contact us at 425-637-3312 or e mail our Partner Solutions  team  at

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