A client recently asked if we could update our performance-based interview to assess remote and hybrid workers for different professional staff roles.

Aside from meeting the required threshold of technical competency we then identified the traits and behaviors essential for working remotely. Here’s a short list of the most important:

  • Totally Reliable, Accountable and Committed: Able to complete their assigned work, consistently, at a high quality level, on-time without making excuses.
  • Super Independent. The person needs to be confident and experienced enough to get their assigned work done without much direction.
  • Really Collaborative. When working on team projects, which is most of the time,  must ensure everyone is on the same page and take responsibility if they’re not.

The hiring manager plays a critical role in the success of any person hired for this type of hybrid position. That’s why it’s important to clarify expectations in enough detail to ensure the person can complete the work without a lot of back-and-forth coaching and support. A performance-based job description can help with this since it describes the key performance objectives (KPOs) for the role better than a generic list of skills, behaviors and experience requirements. For example, when hiring someone it’s better to say that a person in a product marketing role needs to lead the development of a product spec with sales, operations and engineering rather than saying the person must have a certain skill set, some degree and good communication skills.

Assessing the person for the role involves asking the candidate to describe their most comparable accomplishment for each KPO. It takes about 15 minutes of fact-finding and follow-up to fully understand each accomplishment, but it turns out that the team fact-finding is extremely useful when hiring someone for a remote role.

For example, if you were interviewing a candidate for the product marketing role, you’d first ask the person to describe an accomplishment where she/he was responsible for collaborating with the product team in preparing the product requirements documents. Some of the typical fact-finding includes understanding the scope and scale of the effort and getting clarity around the person’s role, who was on the team, how the person balanced competing needs and what the final product spec actually looked like. If there’s a fit on this level, then it’s important the figure out if the person can handle a similar role in a remote or hybrid situation.

Since working independently and collaboratively is essential for any type of remote work here are some of the additional fact-finding probes you could ask:

  • How did you manage your day-to-day activities, how often did you check in with your team and manager, how was this done and for how long? 
  • How flexible were you on collaborating with others on your team and how did you ensure they were fully aware of their roles and responsibilities? Give me at least 3-4 examples on this specific project.
  • Can you give me some examples where it was difficult to get agreement from some of the team members to move forward? How did you handle this and was this approach successful?

You’ll need to push for these kinds of specific details for the other traits as well, especially on the “Totally Reliable, Accountable and Committed” requirement since this is essential for those working remotely. These fact-finding probes will help assess this critical trait:

  • How did you ensure you got your work done on time? How often did you miss these deadlines? How did y0u recover?
  • What type of recognition did you get from others for being timely in meeting your time commitments? One form would be some of your former team members asking you to be on other teams. Did this ever happen and how often?
  • How would your hiring manager or project leader rank you on this factor? Why?

It’s very important to tie these fact-finding questions to a specific accomplishment most comparable to one of the KPOs for the job. Without this link the trait or behavior has little context with real job needs and the person’s subsequent on-the-job performance will be questionable.

The same type of questioning and fact-finding needs to be done for each of the KPOs on the performance-based job description. Then by observing the trend of performance over time you’ll be able to assess both potential and consistency of effort. While this type of performance-based interviewing is important for all types of position, it’s essential when interviewing someone for a hybrid role.

It’s unlikely someone hired for a remote role will underperform due to a lack of technical competency. Instead it will be a lack of a commitment to meet their own responsibilities and not being proactive enough to ensure others meet theirs. That’s why clarifying performance objectives before hiring someone is the most important part of this assessment approach.