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Assessing an Accountant’s Suitability for Remote Working

Among staff who have become remote workers, some thrive in this ‘new normal,’ whilst others genuinely miss the in-person interactions, even if they don’t miss the commute.

By Steve Evans.

Since the pandemic changed our attitudes towards working from home and accelerated an already growing trend towards remote working, there’s a common theme among accounting commentators that the world of work has moved on and accounting firms need to catch up.

We’ve all heard stories of hiring accounting staff in remote teams.  Like the previously high performing accountant whose productivity during remote working was so poor the firm viewed the tracking software they’d installed on the employees computer.  They discovered they were being fed lies about the work that was being done (or in this case not being done), and the employee spent most of the day on various on-line shopping sites.  This is an extreme case, but the benefit of strong hiring processes is to identify and explore issues in advance, and not find out later!

Among staff who have become remote workers, some thrive in this ‘new normal,’ whilst others genuinely miss the in-person interactions, even if they don’t miss the commute.

What can accounting firm owners do to assess whether a job candidate is likely to thrive or struggle in a role where they may work remotely most of the time, or in the case of offshore or out-of-state hiring, may never once meet their employer face-to-face?

Personality assessments are one objective way to assess issues which might arise.  Some of the better personality assessments can quickly provide valuable insights into suitability for remote working. Some, but not all. If the personality assessment you’re using right now crams your candidate into a 4-letter box, tells you whether they are red or green, or a duck or a pigeon, then it’s going to be as useless at measuring suitability for remote working as it is for making hiring or development decisions.

However, if you’re using Big-5/OCEAN based assessments, or want to upgrade to them, here’s some tips on how you can use candidate profiles to see how remote candidates, or even existing team members will cope with hybrid or working from home environments.

You’ll find these personality traits under “Interacting and Coping” headings in most Big-5/OCEAN based questionnaires. Some will use variations of these traits names, but you’ll quickly identify those variations by looking at the report.

When you’re looking at these factors in the personality report you have in front of you, take note of ones where the candidate is reporting on the “Least Likely” side – these are warning signs about how they will react during remote working.  Bearing in mind the comments which follow about working preferences, consider what interview questions you want to use to delve in to this further.

Keep in mind that you need to stick to the ethical use of personality questionnaires in a hiring setting.  Any personality questionnaire asks people about their preferences in given situations, so what you have in front of you is how someone will likely behave if they were to follow their preferences. Some people are well aware of their preferences and when they need to work against their natural style and some are not. Your job as an employer is to test those concerns with well crafted interview questions to determine whether, for example, someone with a high need for affiliation derives all their interactive fulfilment through their family, friends and hobbies and are more than happy to not have extensive affiliation at work.

Many of the better Big-5/OCEAN based personality profile reports include behavioural-based interview questions to address concerns with candidates and their referees. These can be readily adapted to suit remote/home-working scenarios.


Steve Evans has a whole career dedicated to enabling employers to attract, recruit, develop and retain talented individuals and teams, with particular expertise in candidate testing and assessment before setting up Accountests.

Accountests deliver the world’s only online suite of annually updated and country-specific technical knowledge tests, covering the full range of tax and public accounting roles, along with the worlds only accountant personality profile – designed by accountants for accountants and bookkeepers.