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The Most Important Skill Almost No-One is Hiring For

BY Barbara Hyman

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Remote work is not going away. The bonus of remote work becoming ‘a thing’ is it enables you to go further afield for talent. Broadening the candidate pool means you get even more diversity and can interview the world to find the best talent.

Remote work is not b2b zoom meetings. 

For fully remote businesses like Github, Automattic, with over 1000 remote workers spread across 75 countries, remote work is all about unleashing productivity  That comes from asynchronous work that needs asynchronous communication.  Forcing people to do video meetings risks drowning out those team members who don’t thrive in a live group setting. The introverts. The deep quiet thinkers. The ones who prefer to reflect on an issue and not be forced into making a contribution because everyone else is on Zoom right now.

The real aha from all of this is that doing remote work well means getting really good at written communication.

Make it the way you do things. The way you define a business problem, debate the key issues, and fast track from idea to execution.

Jeff Bezos cottoned on to this years ago. This new superpower, how you write, whether via text, Slack, Wiki or on Google docs also impacts your hiring processes – at what point do any of us test for written communication skills? If you want to hire people who can work autonomously, be productive and who can collaborate, you need to test their text communication, requiring a radically different approach to talent acquisition.

What may not be known to many people, is that testing for all of this – written fluency, clarity of thought, can all be done via text analysis in the hiring process. Testing should not be 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.

The power of Natural Language Processing (NLP) based machine learning models that can tell you all of this immediately is here today. From just 300 words, we can infer writing skills, personality traits, job-hopping motive etc which really means there is no excuse for not hiring for the key skills required for remote work right now.

Noam Chomsky, a pioneer of language studies said it best…

“Language is a mirror of mind in a deep and significant sense. It is a product of human intelligence … By studying the properties of natural languages, their structure, organization, and use, we may hope to learn something about human nature; something significant, …” (Noam Chomsky, Reflections on Language, 1975)


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Suggested reading:

Diversity hiring – the solution is in data patterns


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