Remote Attorneys: Fundamental Traits and How to Identify Them

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Remote Attorneys: Fundamental Traits and How to Identify Them

Written By: Eric Fox, Director of People Analytics, Hire an Esquire

There is a vast array of literature that shows how measures of personality can predict performance in professional positions. Typical personality measures test for a wide range of traits. Some of these traits are more relevant than others, and some are not relevant at all depending on the context of the job. For example, the trait extraversion, which consists of being outgoing, sociable, enthusiastic, and assertive, may not be valuable for predicting job performance in a regulatory position with little social interaction.

A majority of commercially available personality inventories today are testing, measuring, and scoring traits that aren’t essential to a position, and thus reduce their utility in seeing if an employee is a fit for a role. Because of this, Hire an Esquire is rethinking the way to measure personality. Based on the specific job context, certain traits and attributes are focused on to maximize the predictive value of the assessment.

Personality is measured through both qualitative and quantitative means. Personality inventories, which are quantitative, are surveys where job applicants are given statements about themselves and are prompted to agree or disagree. Example items are “I am good at making new workers feel welcome” and “I enjoy influencing other people,” which align with extroversion.

Qualitative measures of personality, which are best gauged in interviews, ask candidates questions about their past experiences in situations where a personality trait is expressed. For the case of extroversion, an interviewer could ask a candidate to “Describe a time you won over a client who was reluctant at first” and to detail the context of the situation, what they did, and the result.

Hire an Esquire combines both qualitative and quantitative assessments of personality (along with other predictors of performance such as task/skills/background fit) to give an overall picture of a candidate and to predict further their likelihood of succeeding in a specific role.

In the case of remote contract attorneys, where the employees have a great deal of independence in completing their work, four traits have been extensively proven to predict performance. These are proactivity, conscientiousness, openness to experience, and agreeableness.

Openness

Openness to experience is a trait that has been shown to be predictive of performance in ambiguous and self-directed situations. People high in openness are creative, adaptive, flexible, and enjoy independence.

Questions to consider asking during an interview:

  • Describe a time where you had to deal with an urgent or unpredictable situation
  • Please give an example of a difficult change you experienced at work

What to look for in answers: The candidate showed that they were able to take effective action without needing to know the total picture or having all of the facts at hand. They also demonstrated the ability to impose structure (for self and others) that provides a focus to the situation.

Proactivity

Proactivity is a trait that involves scanning the environment for opportunities and acting upon them. People who are high in proactivity are self-starters and continuous learners.

Questions to consider asking during an interview:

  • Describe a time when you had to take the initiative to get something done
  • Tell me about a time you had to update your skillset to perform effectively

What to look for in answers: The candidate anticipated changes in work demands and acted upon them before it was necessary. They showed a clear understanding of spotting an opportunity and the implications of it prompted them to act.

Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness is one of the universal predictors of job performance. People who are conscientious are planful, organized, disciplined, and consistent. For remote contract roles, they excel in efficiently prioritizing work and ensuring deadlines are met.

Questions to consider asking during an interview:

  • Please give an example of exceeding an agreed upon standard
  • Tell me about a time when you have had to organize a significant work project 

What to look for in answers: The candidate should have shown a great deal of effort and persistence in completing their work.

Agreeableness

Agreeableness is a trait that emphasizes interpersonal sensitivity, compassion, and politeness. People who are high in agreeableness are modest, sympathetic, and compliant. Because the trait emphasizes working with others, it may seem counter-intuitive to predict performance while working alone. However, studies have shown that because people high in agreeableness are more compliant, they show greater intensity in following rules and urgency in making deadlines.

Questions to consider asking during an interview:

  • Give an example of when you had to manage a difficult relationship at work
  • Describe a time where you gave time to help others who had work-related problems

What to look for in answers: The candidate showed a high sensitivity towards the interest of others and was able to find out what makes them tick. Utilizing that information, they found common ground to resolve issues.

 

Citations:

Judge, T. A., & Zapata, C. P. (2015). The person-situation debate revisited: Effect of situation strength and trait activation on the validity of the Big Five personality traits in predicting job performance. Academy of Management Journal58(4), 1149-1179.

Major, D. A., Turner, J. E., & Fletcher, T. D. (2006). Linking proactive personality and the Big Five to motivation to learn and development activity. Journal of applied psychology91(4), 927.

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