Six traits to look for in remote candidates

Hiring remote team members?

We've listed our top six traits to look out for, along with tips for remote interviews
Motivated and reliable

Remote workers need to be ‘self starters’ with a reasonably high level of motivation. Without the peer pressure of an office full of colleagues, it can be harder to slog through the bits of the job you find less rewarding. And while many people love working remotely, some can be left feeling unsure about where to start or if they are making enough progress.

You also need to feel really confident that new team members are reliable and happy to get on with the job. After all, they might be the only one awake and working in their particular time zone for some parts of the day.

Tip for employers: You might find it useful to talk honestly about trust and motivation at the hiring stage. Discuss your expectations for team members and explain how you measure performance. Ask how the candidate keeps motivated during their least favourite parts of their current job. Encourage candidates to ask questions and discuss how they feel about working in a remote team.

Team player

Some people still see remote workers as loners who prefer hiding out at home with their laptop, avoiding communication with colleagues. In fact, a good remote worker will really value team work and be prepared to make an extra effort to ensure that they are fully involved in the team – wherever they’re working from that day.

Tip for employers: If you’re hiring a remote team member, leaving someone to ‘get on with it’ rarely works out well. You’ll need to consider how to bring them in to your team. For example, what induction process will you use for a remote worker who is too far away to come in to your office to meet people? How would you like them to report to you on their progress? How will you support them if they are moving to a new way of working? It’s worth talking through these issues with prospective candidates (and probably a good sign if they raise these kinds of questions at the interview stage.)

Clear communicator

People Meeting Social Communication Connection Teamwork ConceptRemote team members need to be confident communicators, who are willing to learn the communication tools and processes that your team relies on.

If your team communicates in a mainly text-based format, it’s also worth checking that new hires write reasonably clearly. That doesn’t mean perfect grammar and spelling, but they do need be comfortable explaining complex points in writing. Initiative is important here, too. If something is unclear, they need to be able to recognise this and raise it – rather than struggling away in a silo.

You might want to explain your team’s approach to communications at the interview stage. Great social communications tools and regular check-ins with other team members and line managers can help everyone stay on the same page, even in teams spread all over the globe.

Tip for employers:  Testing out communications skills can make a good interview exercise. You could provide a recent situation that has cropped up on a real project, and ask the candidate to suggest how they would respond. What would they write or say, and to whom? What tools would work best? Would they rely on text, or pick up the phone or use video conferencing?


Working remotely can bring a number of new challenges, so both managers and remote staff need an open and flexible approach. If you are hiring someone to join a very dispersed team, with colleagues spread all over the globe, they will be dealing with different time zones and other cultures. Your team may already have found that ‘doing what you’ve always done’ no longer works, in terms of planning, organising and communicating with team members about your work. It might be worth exploring this with candidates at the interview stage – discuss the fact that it can take time to adapt to this new work style, and that some new ways of working may feel challenging to begin with.

Tip for employers: Part of moving to remote working involves recognising that it’s new. It’s OK to try things – and it’s OK if something doesn’t work; see what you can improve, tweak it, and move on. Be patient with yourself, and with colleagues. Most fully remote teams report that it takes lots of experimentation to find the right tools and a good system that works for them – and this needs further adapting as teams grow and change.

Commitment to learning
If you’re hiring, it’s great if the candidate is already using the same remote-working tools as your team. But if this is a new way of working for them, look for a willingness to adapt and learn new tools. (If the candidate is already comfortable with other social communication tools such as Facebook, Skype or blogging, that might help too.) Talk (lots) at the interview stage about how remote working functions in your organisation. Remote employers such as Buffer and Zapier put a lot of effort into talking about team culture during the hiring and onboarding process. (Have a look at this article on Buffer’s initial ‘bootcamp’ for potential new hires.)
It can be helpful to treat remote working like any other area of your team’s professional development, and plan out what you’ll do to build the remote-working skills of team members. Consider how you can invest some time and energy into helping new hires really getting confident with the remote tools and processes your team uses.
Emotional awareness

Cultural awareness, tact and empathy are useful traits for anyone working in a remote team. Sometimes even the best intentioned communications can go awry, particularly in text-based messages when you don’t have body language or tone of voice to go on. Some people are far more blunt when writing comments than they would be when speaking face-to-face. In a very distributed team, you may also be interacting with colleagues from different countries, time zones and cultures.

A great remote team member will be willing to think about how they’re communicating and behaving, and be able to accept and learn from it when they don’t quite get it right. As an employer, you can help by being clear about expected norms and standards of behaviour.

So, where to find your ideal candidate, who’s excited about your company and is a good fit for remote working? Both Zapier and Buffer report that they’ve had good success looking for new hires among their contacts and contractors – people who know the company culture. Both companies also report that freelancers and those with startup experience are often used to lots of autonomy and transition well to working remotely.

High volume job boards can be a less-than-ideal place to find the balance of traits and skills that make for a great remote team member. But here at myworkhive, we’re a little different. We specialise in remote roles (our job board is launching soon), and we will be reaching out specifically to candidates who want to work remotely. And as we’re excited about promoting remote work, we want to showcase companies who are committed remote employers – helping to boost your employer brand. We’re happy to list remote freelance projects and contract work, which can be a great way to find people who might make good team members at a later stage. So follow us on social media or sign up to our newsletter, and let’s keep in touch.

Are there other traits you look for in remote staff? We’d love to hear from you – get in touch, or join the conversion on social media. 

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