In-house hiring practices don’t often translate to hiring employees that will work remotely. What modifications do you need to make to your hiring process?

By Sharon Emek, Ph.D., CIC

By all accounts, the pandemic-related work-from-home business model is here to stay, at least for the time being. For the most part, many companies were able to transition quickly, albeit not without some significant challenges.

Yet now another significant challenge is looming: how to hire employees you may not meet in person, either during the course of the pandemic or for the duration of their employment with your company.

For the insurance industry, that challenge is multiplied by a shortage of viable candidates. Veteran insurance professionals are retiring at an alarming rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that between 2016 and 2020, 400,000 insurance professionals will head off to retirement.

The situation is made more dire by the fact that millennials are showing little interest in insurance industry careers. According The Millennial Survey conducted by The Hartford, a mere 4% of millennials would consider an insurance industry career.

Yet the very pandemic that has challenged insurers to adopt remote work strategies may be somewhat of a saving grace in the quest to find remote workers. According to World Economic Forum data, 85% of millennials are seeking full-time remote work opportunities. What’s more, 82% expressed higher company loyalty to those companies with remote work programs.

In fact, remote work is appealing across a wider age demographic than just millennials; a recent Zapier-commissioned Harris Poll reveals that 95% of all knowledge workers (those working in a professional setting and using a computer as part of the job) want to work remotely. That means companies that were forced to shift to a remote work arrangement are now facing the very real challenge of trying to build a remote hiring process.

No matter how big or small your agency is, remote hiring takes planning. But if executed properly, your hiring process could do more than just help you hire good talent – it can elevate the number of candidates to choose from, and deliver candidates that have the exact skills needed.

But First, Soft Skills

Yet your new hires need a few more traits than a standard in-house hire. Because remote work can be isolating, employees need the right set of traits to be able to perform effectively and productively.

Before you hire, make sure to understand common soft skills that make for a successful remote worker. Your next remote employee should to be able to work with minimal supervision. Ideally, your remote worker should be able to manage time effectively so that daily tasks as well as projects are completed on time.

To do that, your employee should demonstrate the ability to solve common issues as well as some of the more complex challenges that they may face. And your employee should be comfortable with remote communication tools and methods.

Interviewing from a Distance

Any organization that has worked remotely recently knows the need for video conferencing. That same technology is what’s needed to conduct remote interviews. While phone interviews can work for initial screening, they fail to pick up on physical cues, such as body language and facial expressions. Plus, video conferencing is a way to vet those candidates on their comfort level with technology your company uses.

That comfort with technology should extend to all technology your company employs. How familiar is the candidate with those tools? Have they shown proficiency in related technologies? In some cases, technology can be similar, so that the learning curve for your particular application would not be prohibitive.

What could be problematic is your candidate’s ability to maintain connectivity with your team. Spotty internet may not be a deal-breaker unless your team needs to be able to connect quickly during office hours. By conducting a distance interview, you can assess the quality of the connection.

You can assess also how conducive the candidate’s available workspace is to the tasks at hand. For instance, if you’re hiring a salesperson, having a noisy location or too many people in the residence could hinder the salesperson’s ability to connect with prospects. Your ideal candidate should have a distraction-free location, or a plan for keeping it quiet and distraction-free during work hours.

That last point can be difficult to navigate. As many families are home with young children and daycares are closed, your ideal candidate may have temporary distractions. If that’s the case, shift the questioning a bit: Would your candidate be able to put in hours after children are in bed or napping? Would a more flexible work schedule help them complete the work necessary? 

Identifying the Self-Starters

Another question to consider: How much training will your new hire need? Every organization has a unique set of processes, and new employees need to learn them. However, in a remote position, that means your new hire needs to be able to train on their own with minimal supervision.

To ensure they can, find out how they best learn: in-class instruction or independent, self-paced learning? Have they completed any self-guided learning before? What were the results? How easily can they get used to new systems or technology? What challenges them most about technology?

 That matters because in remote work, technology is key to getting the job done. And by asking these questions at the outset, you can set expectations for your candidates so that they know what is expected of them.

Hired: Now What?

That’s important too after the candidate is hired. We recommend using the hiring process to outline both your expectations and how you will measure their performance.

One suggestions we ask you to consider is dropping an hourly expectation and replacing it with a per-outcome expectation. As mentioned previously, not all candidates can do their best work during traditional nine-to-five hours. By measuring your new hires, as well as all your employees, by benchmarks met and project outcomes, you will get a true measure of their productivity.

Moreover, such a move boosts employee morale and motivation. In an environment in which employers and employees alike are trying to carve out the best way to conduct business, adopting a more flexible employee management style makes the most sense, and helps workers succeed in a remote setting.

Hired, Retained

That success results in higher employee satisfaction, which translates into better employee retention. In a global workforce environment that is adapting to what could be permanent changes to business, your business has a great opportunity to grow and to thrive. A strong remote hiring process, complete with vetting for soft skills, setting expectations, and outlining new management strategies can help your organization gain an advantage of those organizations that are still trying to do everything through the traditional business lens.

By setting your remote business on the right path at hiring time, your organization can adapt quickly to whatever changes may come in the future. That flexibility can keep your entire organization moving into a stronger, more resilient future.

 About the author

Sharon Emek, Ph.D., CIC, is founder and CEO of Work At Home Vintage Experts (WAHVE).  WAHVE ( is an innovative contract talent solution that matches retiring, experienced insurance, accounting and human resource career professionals with a company’s talent needs. WAHVE bridges the gap between an employer’s need for highly skilled professional talent and seasoned professionals desiring to extending their career working from home. From screening to placement, WAHVE is a comprehensive solution to qualifying, hiring, and managing experienced remote talent.

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