According to a FlexJobs survey, 4.7 million U.S. workers now work from home at least half the time. Other research has shown that remote workers are healthier, more productive, more satisfied with their jobs and may even make more money.
It is no surprise that most telecommuters want to continue working from home—98% say they wanted to continue working remotely.
Want to join this happy remote workforce? The good news is that you probably already possess many soft skills that can help you get hired for a remote job and excel in your new role. Here are some of the skills employers love their remote workforce to have.
Hiring managers are always looking for candidates with good communication skills, both written and verbal. However, when you’re applying for a remote job, it’s more important than ever to be able to demonstrate that you can communicate well with coworkers, managers, clients, and vendors—even when you’re not in the same physical location.
It’s harder to get your message across when you’re not conversing face-to-face. Successful remote workers have (or quickly develop) the ability to express themselves via email, Slack, and video conference calls.
Listening skills are the foundation of successful communication. If you can’t pay attention to what others are saying or indicate your respect for them while clarifying their intent, you can’t find common ground. Practice active listening techniques to improve your listening skills.
Interviews are a prime opportunity to showcase your verbal communication skills. Again, listening is essential, but so is preparing for the interview. Research the company, practice interviewing techniques and be ready to answer common interview questions—there may be some about communicating when working remotely.
To succeed as a remote worker, you need to be self-motivated. While some employers monitor their distributed workforce more than others, every employer wants to see that their workers can hit their goals without micromanagement.
If you’re not feeling driven to show initiative in your work, the first question to ask is, “Do I need a new job?”
If your job isn’t the problem, you may need some new habits. Try setting small goals, working in short bursts, or tackling tasks in batches.
Many interviewers will ask the question, “Are you self-motivated?” The answer should be a resounding “Yes”—but don’t stop there. Be prepared to offer specific examples of how you keep yourself motivated.
A Willingness to Ask for Help
Asking for help can be challenging in any work environment. When you work remotely, it can be even more difficult to swallow your pride and admit that you need clarification, assistance or a second set of eyes on a problem. On the other hand, if you’re good at recognizing that you need a hand, you’ll have a massive advantage over those who difficulty reaching out for help.
If you find it awkward to reach out for assistance, start by lending others a hand. Not only will this build morale and improve your relationships with your coworkers, but it will buy you some goodwill.
If you become known as someone always willing to help others, you’ll find you have plenty of people ready to assist you when you need it.
Hiring managers often ask candidates to share their biggest work-related challenges and how they overcame them. This is a tricky question because you don’t want to dwell on your failures, even if they’re long in the past. But if you share a story about how you reached out to a colleague to learn a new skill you can demonstrate that you’re self-motivated and eager to learn, and a good team player.
Teamwork and Collaboration
Being able to get along with others and cooperate to achieve a goal is essential in any job. But when you’re working remotely, it’s even more important to prioritize collaboration and communication among teammates.
In practice, this means being proactive about reaching out to your colleagues. If you’re a manager, setting and keeping regular one-on-one meetings should be part of your approach.
If you’re an individual contributor, it’s important to understand how your manager and colleagues communicate best.
The easiest way to do this is to reach out and ask your team-mates, “What works best for you—Slack, email, or Zoom?”
It’s also essential to respect other points of view during your communications with teammates. You’re not going to agree on every issue, and that’s for the best: hearing multiple opinions and perspectives will allow your team to find the most effective solutions. The best teams are the ones that expect and manage conflict.
Respect for others is essential for remote work. Also, it’s helpful to practice giving others the benefit of the doubt. Especially when you’re communicating via messaging or email, it’s easy to mistake people’s tone. Clarify before you assume.
Interviewers ask questions about teamwork to determine whether you can work well with groups and what kind of role you generally adopt in team settings (leader, follower, mediator, etc.). Practice answering these questions in a way that demonstrates you’re emotionally intelligent, collaborative, and flexible.
Problem-solving skills apply to more jobs than any other soft skill. Managers want candidates who can identify, analyze, and address problems in positions ranging from customer service to executive management.
But even if your position doesn’t seem to involve a great deal of problem-solving, you’ll need these skills when you work from home.
Remote jobs are complex simply because you’re off-site and away from the rest of your team.
You may have to deal with issues that would not arise if you were in the office. For example, if you have a computer problem at the office, you can probably walk your laptop over to tech support. When you work from home, you'll have to be able to address the issue remotely, speaking to your IT folks via phone or video chat.
If you gather the correct information, analyze it effectively, and make a plan to put it into action you’ll maximize your chances of coming up with a good solution. If that sounds obvious, consider how many times you’ve seen a colleague "go with their gut" during a crisis, with less-than-successful results. You’ve also probably seen plenty of coworkers think up a good solution and then fail to put it into action.
Go to interviews prepared with examples of times that you’ve solved problems at work. Numbers are incredibly persuasive in these situations; if you can explain to the hiring manager that you raised sales X% or decreased costs Y%, you’ll make a stronger impression than if you say that you raised sales numbers or cut costs.
- Evaluate your skillset and identify the hard and soft skills that are valuable for this remote job.
- Decode the job advertisement and match your qualifications to their requirements.
- Prepare for your job interview by practicing answers to common interview questions.
- Identify gaps in your skillset and learn new job skills.