While some local businesses had record revenues in 2021 despite (or due to) the pandemic, others had to shed staff owing to the drop in demand or patronage for goods or services. The client whose human resource manager, Kathy, contacted us just after the New Year reported that they were able to break even and retain most staff, in part due to a resurgent fourth quarter and a (since forgiven) PPP Loan. With their expectation that demand will continue to grow in 2022 through the omicron scare, there were several positions they needed to fill to meet that demand as well as to backfill some jobs vacated by those who chose to leave the workforce in 2021.
The list of new openings varied from call center staff to system analysts to front-line supervisors. We first confirmed with Kathy that her company had been operating on a hybrid office system since the first days of the pandemic, with no immediate plans now to return everyone to the office full time, after several target dates were set and then canceled. There was also no decision yet whether to maintain the hybrid model once the pandemic was over (or became endemic), although the IT Department had revised all systems to allow secure voice and data systems access for all from anywhere.
We then reviewed the position requirements in detail, including which had to be full-time at the office, which would be hybrid, and which would be all remote. Kathy indicated which jobs might offer the flexibility to be onsite or remote based on the employee’s circumstances, and which were most likely to offer the remote work possibility beyond the pandemic. For some positions that Kathy thought could be remote, we discussed whether it was realistic for someone new to that job type could learn and perform in the position without nearby mentorship and supervision. We marked those positions “in office or remote DOE (depending on experience).”
For those positions that were full-time in an office, we could use the set of screening questions we pose to applicants from those we had developed with Kathy’s company over the years. For the other positions, we had developed a standard set of questions in March 2020 about worksite locations requirements and preferences, during and after the pandemic. Then came the hardest part: determining how effectively each applicant could likely work at a remote worksite (usually from home), apart from what worksite location the applicant preferred. Not everyone is cut out for working from home. From guidance provided by NISA, a staffing organization, we developed three lists of questions with Kathy. The first list focused on the applicant’s remote working approach:
- What is your history of working remotely?
- How do you stay focused and on-task when working from home?
- How do you stay engaged and motivated over long periods without in-person interaction with coworkers?
- What do you do to minimize miscommunication in emails and instant messages?
- What are the three attributes that make you an effective remote worker?
- What are your greatest challenges of working off-site?
- What is your approach to work-life balance when your job is remote?
The second set of questions dealt with tech-savviness. While these skills could be taught as part of the (remote) onboarding process, knowing what adeptness a candidate has and their comfort level in learning new capabilities will be key in deciding if they are a good fit:
- What is your familiarity with dual verification?
- How comfortable are you with using common cloud-based software and collaboration tools?
- Tell me about the platforms you use (or have used) to collaborate with off-site colleagues.
- What is your experience with using audio and video conferencing platforms and with initiating meetings using these tools?
- How comfortable are you with using virtual private networks (VPNs), two-step/multifactor authentication, and other best practices to help protect data and systems?
The third set of questions addresses the remote working environment. For these, I initially confirmed what equipment (computers, screens, camera, printer, docking station, cell phone, or VOI) and furnishings (ergonomic chair, file cabinet, task lighting) would be provided by Kathy’s company.
- Is the space you will be working in used by other functions and/or by other people?
- Is the space ventilated?
- What is the lighting like?
- What surface will you be working on for a desk?
- Is the room quiet and/or do you plan to use headphones while working?
- Is the space secure (especially if confidential or secret documents are involved as part of the work) from access by others in or visiting your household?
Reviewing the lists one last time before ending our phone call, Kathy remarked how much she appreciated Abel Personnel’s commitment to finding the person who best fit the operational requirements of her company, as well as having the needed experience, qualifications, and expectations. She also was relieved that we would be handling these questions with the candidate talent ahead of the interviews by her company, so the hiring manager could focus more on how each applicant would handle the unique position requirements.
NISA Nuzzles, “How to Hire Remote Workers, Remotely,” December 8, 2021