A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Distributed Teams Presentation and offered two items for followup. I’ll address the first here.
First, what does someone hiring a member of a distributed team look for when interviewing? How would one know indicators of success, or potential for success in that role?
To address this, we discussed the need to identify people who have a some traits which will give them a higher chance of success in a distributed team:
- Prior experience with distributed teams
- History of accomplishment in delivering on project work
- Self-motivated attitude and approach to work
- Exceptionally strong written and oral communication skills
When performing the interview, determining if the candidate can at least perform in the distributed team will probably come down to their past experience – have they worked in teams where they were acting autonomously, delivering on individual tasks and requirements, or were they a dependent contributor to a larger team?
The candidate’s background will be telling – if they’ve been working independently, or at least with some self-direction in a larger team, they likely have the basic experiences necessary to either be the distributed resource (remote, etc.) or part of the supporting team for a distributed resource (they are working with someone who is remote). Both parts of the equation are important, as a distributed team won’t work unless all parties support each other.
If the candidate was only a dependent contributor to a larger team, they may not have the basic skill set to allow them to integrate into a distributed team well – not knowing how to operate independently nor knowing how to support others in the team.
Worse yet is if the candidate has little to no work experience – a recent college graduate, for instance. If hiring for a remote worker, keep in mind that there will be no ability to mentor the individual – essential for the young employee.
As important as the past work experience is the level of communication skill the candidate has. Being able to speak and write effectively is important for any team member; it is doubly important for all members of a distributed team. Look for a strong speaker who can both support a position and accept the position of others. Communication skills will be tested regularly because of the barriers the team faces. I’ve written about this before a bit here.
If I were interviewing a candidate for a distributed team role, I’d focus on the above two facets in my interview, as they represent the core necessities for every member of the team – experience and communication.