How the shift to remote work will change who we hire

Eighteen months after we were all forced abruptly to work from home, it seems as the world cautiously opens up and employers are looking to return workers to offices, having the flexibility to work from home is an increasing demand that people aren’t willing to give up.

Earlier this year, Amazon laid out plans for most of its 60,000 workers in the Seattle area to return to the office later in the year. But, it wasn’t good news to everyone with hundreds threatening to quit.  Microsoft, at Redmond in California, took a softer approach saying employees could work from home, the office or in a hybrid arrangement. Google, Hubspot and Intuit are some of the other companies that have opted for hybrid models going forward.

Others like Atlassian, Twitter, Shopify, Spotify and Slack have decided to become fully remote.  Recently, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield declared that digital life has moved too far forward during the COVID-19 pandemic for companies to return to former ways of office-based working, even if they wanted to.

While these are some of the world’s most influential companies, it’s a conversation that almost every employer is having right now.

The reality is the demand for remote or hybrid work is fast becoming part of hiring negotiations and compensation packages. For many, work flexibility has become more important than pay. 

This has created a new dilemma for hiring managers that’s much deeper than offering strong commitments on flexibility as part of a job offer. 

If work flexibility is the future, how do you determine who’ll thrive in this setup? 

While it’s easy to guess some of the ideal attributes of a remote worker – that is they need to be autonomous, self-motivated, productive and able to collaborate online – there is another key characteristic that has proven vital to strong performance. 

What we’ve seen from companies that have prioritised remote working for a long time such as Automattic, GitLab, InVision and Buffer is the importance of strong written communication. This is because you are no longer relying on face-to-face interactions that occur naturally or through formal meetings in an office. For remote work to be viable communication needs to be predominantly textual and mostly asynchronous. 

When building a remote organization, Automattic CEO Matt  Mullenweg has said that at some point you realise how crucial written communication is for your success, and you start looking for great writers in your hiring. For this reason, Auttomatic job interviews are conducted via text only.

Mullenweg says the true asynchronous nature of a written interview reflects the remote work reality compared to real time video interviews, which are not scalable in an organisation. I think most of us found that out the hard way during the pandemic. 

So how can companies hire for remote capabilities?

In order to be effective remote and hybrid companies we need to rethink our hiring processes. To be frank, current hiring practices are just not going to cut it. CVs do not reveal the soft skills we need them to, and video is so inherently biased and stressful for candidates that many companies which opted for this early on in the pandemic are abandoning it as a top-of-the-funnel filter. We have several customers who have explicitly ditched video interviews.

The risk of making bad hires when you throw remote work into the equation is higher than if you’re bringing people into an office environment. You need to trust them from day one without any of the  ‘visibility’ you get from seeing someone everyday.

We need a new way of selecting candidates that can accurately identify soft skills like accountability,  autonomy, drive and writing skills. Can a text based interview reveal these qualities, while providing a great candidate experience and being highly relevant to the remote work context?

Mullenweg’s idea of a text only interview is not as radical as some might believe. We do thousands of them every day across the world, for a number of varied companies. We are able to reveal people’s character traits with over 90% accuracy (we know because we ask them).

It’s scientific, based on data and is the only accurate way you can identify both the written communication proficiency and soft skills required to work remotely.

How we do it

Our text interview includes open-ended questions on situational judgement and values, similar to a structured interview. When responses are analysed for skills that pertain to remote work it takes into account a multitude of features related to language fluency, proficiency, personality traits, behavioural traits, and semantic alignment. 

This allows a recruiter to quantify and compare a candidate’s written communication skills immediately as well as their suitability to the work environment. 

The revealing nature of text interviews is not just limited to the skill of writing, but also to the motivation behind expressing something in writing, which requires more effort and thinking than speaking it out. If someone is not motivated to express themselves in writing when a job is on the line, you can assume what it might be like once they are working in a role. 


While many companies are already scrambling to update their remote work policies and rethink their office space needs, if they are not reconsidering their hiring processes as part of this inevitable shift, then they are exposing their company to risk. 

Just because people want to work remotely, doesn’t always mean they can thrive in it. While you may be doing the right thing in offering flexibility for candidates, you also need to make sure that you are doing right by your company by understanding how well these candidates will thrive remotely.


Wondering how our Ai recruitment assessment tool can identify soft skills in candidates? Find out here.

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