How to effectively assess talent when hiring remotely

There is no getting away from the fact that may organisations made stark decisions about their staffing plans when the lockdown came in, whether that was to furlough existing employees or put some or all hiring on hold in the short-term. However, with July bringing a major lifting of lockdown restrictions, attentions are turning to hiring once again – particularly for organisations for which securing the best talent available is vital to the future of their business. 

In this regard, many companies simply cannot wait for their return to their offices in the autumn to start hiring the talent they need; processes must begin now if they have not already and this means running a recruitment process entirely remotely.

It is important to note that top talent will be in high demand, and with the financial implications evident for many, no business large or small, can afford to lose out on acquiring standout candidates during a recruitment process.

With this in mind, here’s our guide to assessing talent during a recruitment process – even if that process is being held remotely: 

“Top candidates like to feel as though their potential employer is equally prepared and taking the interview process seriously. In the current competitive market, it is imperative that you sell your opportunity and ensure that the candidate is bought into the process. Even though we have we have shifted from a candidate-led market to a client-led one, failure to do this could result in the loss of a strong candidate to a competitor.”

Victoria Starr, Senior Manager, Page Personnel Finance

Star method

The STAR method is a recognised way to structure interview questions. It is used as a technique to answer interview questions which we recommend to our candidates preparing for interviews, but it can also be used to shape the meeting from an employer’s perspective. 

An example question used to assess a candidate’s skills.

“Can you give me an example of a project that was behind schedule (situation) - how you decided to bring it back to fruition (task) - what you did (action) - what lessons were learnt from this and how this impacted future projects (result)?”

The STAR model focuses on behavioural and situational type questions broken into four key elements. The acronym stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result.

This method allows you to identify the way people adapt, take charge, influence an outcome, and learn from the challenges that they are faced with.


As this suggests, the first element requires a candidate to outline a real-life example or situation that demonstrates a particular skill or capability.


The task that the candidate highlights should refer to the outcome that was required in response to the situation.


This tackles what the candidate did to follow through with the required tasks, highlighting the key skills used, demonstrating their behaviours and personal characteristics in the workplace.


This section could actually be split into two parts. The first being what happened once the action was taken to rectify the problem and secondly, what the candidate learnt from this situation.

Assessing key soft skills for now

Assessing a candidate’s soft skills or transferable skills are key to any recruitment process. These determine how well they will work with others, the level of influence they will hold when dealing with internal and external stakeholders, and their ability to overcome challenges. There are countless soft skills that an individual may possess, many of which are very difficult to assess.

Identify the skills key for success

Before you can begin, it is important to define the key soft skills that are essential for the role. What are you looking for? Is it someone who is great at communicating with and persuading others? Or someone who is fast thinking and innovative, to develop new approaches to the way your team works?

Consider the structure of the interview

When taking part in an interview, candidates like to feel that the interviewer is equally prepared and conducts the interview in a professional manner. In the current competitive market, it is imperative that you sell the opportunity to the candidates to ensure that they are bought into the process.

Read past their response

Assessing soft skills is less about the responses you receive and more about the way in which candidates handle the questions. For example, on a video call, the demeanour of the candidate, and the way they shape and present their answers, all paint a picture of an individual’s character. Their overall approach to the interview can tell you a lot about their personality and can also indicate their attitude towards potential tasks in a working environment.

Follow up

If after an interview, you want to clarify a candidate’s competency in a particular skill, a character reference may be required. However, you can also seek informal feedback on the candidate from others. 

Assessing a candidate’s technical skills

If a candidate can demonstrate clear, specific examples of when they have fulfilled similar tasks, then that is a good starting point.

Technical skills are often much more straightforward to assess when compared to soft skills. The key, again, is to ensure that you have clearly defined the skills you need within your team. What technical capabilities should a candidate have and at what level should they be able to demonstrate these skills?

Competency-based questions are essential here. Shape your questions around the core technical abilities using the STAR method and focus on the key competency areas. Be sure to ask for specific details on results and for any figures supporting their examples.  

Individual, managerial, analytical, interpersonal, and motivational competencies are five key competencies that can be assessed to form a complete picture of a candidate’s abilities. These are important to consider when looking at hard skills as when combined with the specific technical abilities of a candidate, the above areas will demonstrate to what level a candidate will perform. Are they proactive in their approach to core responsibilities, or are they able to lead a team and therefore likely to progress within your business? 

Simon Nolan, Page Executive Senior Partner, said: “Ultimately this is about experience. If a candidate can demonstrate clear and specific examples of when they have fulfilled similar tasks, then that is a good starting point. The approach you take to test a candidate’s technical ability is completely role specific. However, any sort of case study where they would have to assess a similar task would be useful.”

A well-structured question and answer approach to assessing technical skills, testing plays a big role. While the tasks that you set will depend on the role that you are advertising, there are a few simple tests that can be set to do this.

With over 40 years of recruitment experience, our team of recruiters are well-placed to advise on how to run a streamlined, effective interview process. To help equip your business with the right talent, our flexible team is uniquely positioned to help find the right people to drive your business objectives. If you are looking for a new opportunity or to discuss your options, get in touch with one of our specialist recruitment consultants today.

For a full guide to hiring remotely, download our free eBook.

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