5 Traits to Look for When Hiring Remote Workers

Want help with your hiring? It's easy. Enter your information below, and we'll quickly reach out to discuss your hiring needs.

WalkingOver the course of a recruiter’s career, they’ll hire countless office workers. When it comes time to hire a remote worker, many recruiters might assume it’s okay to use the same guiding principles and practices — but that’s not the case. When considering candidates for remote positions, recruiters have to look out for certain soft skills that traditional office workers may not necessarily need.

Based on interviews with some of the leading remote companies in the world, we’ve compiled this list of five traits all recruiters should look for when hiring remote workers.

1. Self-Motivation

Let’s face it: in-office employees are easier to keep an eye on — literally. When you’re hiring remote workers, you need to find people who are self-motivated.

“We look for people that are self-starters/have a high degree of independence, value continuous learning, and are receptive to feedback,” say Sara Rosso, marketing manager, and Lori McLeese, head of HR, both of Automattic. “If during the trial process a candidate needs a lot of ‘handholding’ and waits for specific instructions before moving forward, they probably won’t be a good fit.”

When you can’t constantly breath down an employee’s neck, so to speak, you need a diligent self-manager.

2. Previous Remote Experience

You might assume that anyone can work from home, but it truly takes a certain type of personality to make it work. That’s why Giacomo ‘Peldi’’Guilizzoni, founder and CEO at Balsamiq, always looks for previous work-from-home experience when hiring a new employee.

“Previous work-at-home experience is a plus, especially if they’ve done it for a long time,” says Guilizzoni. “Working at home is amazing for the first six months, great for the first two years, and can be tough after that unless you come up with your ‘system’ for separating work from your personal life.”

If you’re looking to hire a remote employee, request previous remote experience in the job description. That way, you’ll be sure to find someone who not only enjoys working from home, but also does it well.

3. Strong Communication Skills

KeyboardWhen an office employee needs to ask a coworker a question, they just need to stroll down the hall, pop into someone’s cubicle, or simply shout out their request. That’s not the case when your employees are all work around the globe. Superior communication skills are an absolute must-have.

“One trait I look for is great communications skills,” states Ann MacDonald, director of content strategy at LoveToKnow. “We stay productive by staying in touch, offering status reports, and working through challenges. These things are all easier when everyone is communicative.”

Make sure your potential remote hire communicates easily and often. A remote employee with poor communication skills can really drag a team down.

4. Attention to Detail

It’s easy to let little mistakes become big problems, particularly when you work remotely. Rhiannon Ruff, vice president at Beutler Ink, says that attention to detail and direction is one of the most important traits to look for when hiring remote workers. 

“Anyone who writes a clear, well-presented note and includes all the requested enclosures with their application is going to get our attention. Even more so if they reply in a timely manner to our initial response,” says Ruff. “A confused (or confusing!) application email, with missing enclosures (no CV or cover letter) is a sign that an applicant is not going to follow written instruction well and is not going to give clear updates on project statuses.”

5. Enthusiasm

Any recruiter worth their salt knows that it’s important to hire not just any ol’ employee, but one who knows about the company, believes in its mission, and wants to make a positive contribution to the organization. All of that comes through in a job seeker’s enthusiasm for a position.

Breanden Beneschott, co-founder/COO of Toptal, looks for workers who are exciting to work with. 

“I look for energy. High-energy, proactive people are much more likely to succeed here,” says Beneschott.

If a prospective employee seems ho-hum about the possibility of working with your company, chances are they won’t bring much enthusiasm or excitement to the job — which could lead to poor productivity and/or missed deadlines. Look for workers who want to work with your company, and you’ll be on your way to building a strong remote team.

Next time you’re hiring for a remote position, look for candidates who have these traits. Individuals who possess these characteristics will make your remote team a strong, successful, and happy one.

By Brie Reynolds