The Top 7 Qualities Remote Employers Should Look for in Employees

Updated: Mar 18, 2020

Many people dream of working remotely. They imagine all the benefits of remote work — the work-life balance, a quiet workspace, no commute, etc. — and think to themselves "that is the life for me!" In fact, according to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace Report, 37% of people would change to a job that let them work remotely even for just some of the time.

And with an increasingly millennial workforce, remote work opportunities are becoming more important to offer. According to Deloitte's 2018 Millennial Survey Report, 50% of millennials take flexibility in terms of working hours and location into consideration when looking for a job, and they are more likely to stay at a job that offers those perks.

But this life isn't necessarily the right one for every person who thinks it might be. Some people need the boundaries inherent in office-based work. They need to be told when to arrive, when to eat lunch, when to take a break, when to go home, etc. They need colleagues around them to motivate them, to compete with them, to keep up their morale, and to keep them on track, in general. Otherwise, they can't stay focused enough to get their work done.

As a hiring manager for a remote company, you need to see past the excitement that many candidates will express about working remotely during the hiring process. Keep an eye out for applicants with these 7 desirable characteristics, as they are the ones who you should consider hiring.

1. Communication skills

Effective communication — both written and verbal — with colleagues, clients, partners, etc. is crucial for remote employees. They need to be able to explain problems, results, requests, and instructions clearly and concisely.

How to identify it: Ask yourself the following questions about each candidate:

  • How well (or poorly) did the person communicate during application process and interview?

  • Were they able to convey details about their relevant work experience in a CV of no more than 2 (but ideally 1) pages?

  • How was their communication during the interview scheduling process? Smooth or challenging?

  • Did their cover letter provide interesting information beyond what was included in their CV?

  • Was the cover letter too long or too short? Was it well-written and straightforward or convoluted?

2. Tech Savvy

A candidate for a remote position who never heard of Slack is like a candidate for a developer position who doesn't know what GitHub is. An ideal remote applicant should be familiar with a number of team collaboration, communication, and productivity technologies, such as video conferencing tools, project management platforms, and file sharing apps.

How to identify it: Check in the candidate's CV or ask during the interview if they have experience with the technologies you use at your company. If they don't have experience with the exact same tools, do they at least have experience with other similar tools?

3. Focus

Staying focused can be one of the biggest challenges for remote employees. Without the motivation from colleagues — and with more distractions all around — it takes a particular kind of mentality for a person to thrive in remote working conditions.

How to identify it: Ask candidates if they have a dedicated home office. With a space set up that is conducive to working, it is easier for them to set their own boundaries for when it is time for work and when it is time for personal activities. If they don't have a home office and can't set one up for whatever reason, ask if they have a membership to a co-working space or are willing to get one. You should also ask if they have prior experience working remotely and for examples showing how they were able to stay focused.

4. Proactive

Since remote employees are on their own for most of the time, you need to find candidates who can work independently and don't always need to be told what to do. You should look for people who are goal-oriented and will take the necessary steps to achieve those goals without being micromanaged.

How to identify it: Ask candidates if they have managed projects in the past and to provide details. Did they work on the projects alone? Did they meet their deadlines? Ask them, if they worked for your company, what type of project would they initiate and how would they go about getting it done.

5. Cultural fit

You don't want to hire someone who just wants to "work from home". That shouldn't be the main or only motivator for the person you hire to join your dispersed team. Look for someone who is passionate about the position and your company—your vision, your product, your impact on your industry. It's also better if they have worked remotely before, and they know how to collaborate with a team, even though they are physically on their own.

How to identify it:

  • Ask relevant questions in the interview: Which of your company values resonates with them the most and why? (This will also show that they cared enough to do their research!)

  • Look at their cover letter to see if they wrote anything that connects to your company culture or reveals something about them that shows they would be a good fit.

  • Have their future teammates run the interview. The team will be able to see what it would be like to work with this person on a regular basis and if they would collaborate in a way that fits with your company's standards.

6. Organized and able to prioritize

Time-management skills are crucial here. When working remotely, people won't always work in the usual 9-5 time frame. Many companies have teams that are spread across many different time zones. Employees will have the freedom to build their own schedules, but they need to know how to manage their time so they get all their work done and can communicate with their team. They need to be highly organized to not miss deadlines or meetings and to prioritize their work and colleagues over personal activities that can be scheduled for another time.

How to identify it: Ask candidates how they manage their time. Do they use a timer app? Do they use a calendar? Give them a hypothetical scenario in which they would have to explain how they would manage their time and see what they say.

7. Problem solver

With time zone differences and scheduling conflicts, your remote employees can't always speak to each other to solve problems like colleagues can in a physical office. Remote workers need to be quick, creative, and logical thinkers who can see the bigger picture and solve problems on their own without depending on others for the answers to every question.

How to identify it: Give your candidates a test scenario in which they would have to solve a relevant problem on their own. You don't want someone who will say "I don't know". You want someone who can admit to not knowing but shows commitment to figuring it out on their own. If one of the first things they say isn't "I would Google it" then you have a problem. They need to be ready to do the research if they don't know something. Ask them to explain step-by-step how they would solve it and see if it matches your expectations of how a potential employee at your company would think.

Weeding out candidates can be challenging and time consuming. From evaluating CVs and cover letters to conducting initial interviews, there are many things to take into consideration.

If you want assistance streamlining your remote hiring process, contact us at RemoteScouts today. We will be happy to help!