Companies are coming around to the remote way of thinking all the time. Although there are some who are still avoiding it, many more have realized the benefits to productivity, running costs, and the planet. Which is good news for us, as a remote recruitment agency, because it means we have more clients than ever before looking to add more remote techies to their team.

It also means there’s a lot of advice out there as to what you should look for in a remote employee. As we’ve been doing this for many years now, we thought it was time to review that advice and let you know whether we think it’s worth following or not.

1. Cultural Fit

Oh yes. This is a big one, though we didn’t find it in too many of the lists that we inspected. Knowing that your remote worker is aligned with your culture is vital. When you can pick the cream of the crop in remote talent from around the world, you’re adding diversity to your team – which is great. But you do need something to make a cohesive unit out of these very different individuals. Buy-in to your company culture is the glue that will stick your remote team together.

2. Results Over Process

This isn’t bad advice, it’s just not something you should be looking for in a remote worker. In fact, we’d argue that your remote worker should be process-driven – but THEIR process, rather than a prescriptive one handed down by the company. Remote team managers need to be results-driven, though. They need to be able to let go of the desire to control how and when things get done and to trust their staff to deliver what’s been asked to a deadline. Results matter, not how your remote dev got there.

3. Technical Tests

If you’re still using the whiteboard test when you hire developers, we’d suggest you stop. You don’t want to hire a candidate who has swallowed the manual, you want someone who is capable of working well within your team. If you ask most techies, they’ll tell you that using Google or a coding community to find a way of doing something is more than acceptable; in fact, it helps raise standards.

But of course, you do need to know that your candidate has the right technical skills. You can verify that when you take up references from their previous employees. If you do want to do a technical test of some sort, get one of your developers to come up with a self-contained project that they can approach and see how they deal with it.

4. Self-Starters

When you work from home, you need to be able to motivate yourself more than the average Joe. For the office drone, there are plenty of mental cues to prepare you for your working day. You get up, get dressed, do the commute, get to the office, make coffee in your personal mug unless Dave from testing has stolen it again…you get the idea. The routine of a workday is a sort of ritual that gets you into the right frame of mind to get straight to work.

Remote workers need to get themselves up and running each day with their own rituals. Having a home office can help with this, but it’s definitely worth asking any remote candidate what they do to get into ‘work mode’. If they don’t really have a way of separating work from home life, that could lead to boundary problems in the future.

5. Punctual

Depending on how you work, this may or may not be important for you. If you’re giving your digital nomads the ultimate remote experience, then you may not have set office hours at all. Your developers may work the hours that best suit them, as long as they’re delivering to deadlines. If you keep office hours then you’ll definitely want your distributed team members to be logging in on time. For most remote roles, punctuality only really becomes an issue when you’re talking about logging on to conference calls.

6. Good Communicators

Great communication skills are essential for remote workers. Essential. That’s written communication and spoken; they need to have a talent for getting their message across in email/chat/helpdesk tickets as well as during team meetings.

It isn’t just about the quality of communication, though; it’s quantity, too. Successful remote teams need to keep in touch, to prioritize connecting with their colleagues not just to stay in touch about the project, but to stay in touch as human beings. When you’re hiring, make sure to ask about examples of how your candidate has created social relationships over distance as well as clearing up misunderstandings over work stuff.

7. Problem Solvers

Developers tend to be natural problem solvers. You have to like breaking a problem down into steps and working through them, to do the job. But to really flourish as a remote dev, you need to be able to work around roadblocks – particularly if that dev is in a time zone that doesn’t overlap with colleagues. You don’t want them to waste a whole shift because they can’t work out how to do something.

Rather than looking for problem-solving skills generally, it would probably be better to ask your candidate what they would do if they found themselves stalled – what resources would they go to, to look for an answer.

8. Remote Ready

While more than 80% of American’s currently want to work remotely, at least part-time, the truth is that it isn’t for everybody. If you’re an extrovert that needs a lot of social contact, then spending most of the day in your own home is not going to suit you. Co-working spaces do offer a solution for that, though. It isn’t just a question of isolation, though. Working remotely does need different abilities and not everyone will have those. Often, the best way to make sure that your remote candidate can really cut when they’re working from a distance is to hire someone who has already worked remotely.

9. Trustworthiness

File this one under ‘things that make us go hmmm.’ The idea here is that you need to be able to trust your remote worker because you can’t see them. You have to ‘trust’ that they’re doing what they were asked. If you’re having concerns like this, then you may need to do a little more thinking before you hire remotely. You’re going to need to let go of the desire to micro-manage and focus on measuring results. It really doesn’t matter if your dev is working out how to approach a particular bit of code by sitting at their desk, or doing Yoga in their back garden – as long as they come up with a solution and deliver the results you expect.

10. A Social Life

Over-working is something that remote workers can be prone too. If they don’t have good boundaries between their work and home lives, and hours are flexible, then it’s easy for them to start work early, finish late and work weekends. Someone who has a good range of hobbies that gets them out of the house is less likely to be overwhelmed by this work-creep and burn out. Likewise, if you’re talking to an office-based worker who wants to go remote and most of their social life is work-related, that’s a red flag. What are they going to do when that source of entertainment isn’t available?

11. Team Oriented

It might seem counter-intuitive to talk about someone who works in a different location to everyone else as team-oriented, but actually it’s more important for remote workers to want to be part of something bigger. That sense of belonging is what is going to help bring your remote team together. As we said earlier, communication is vital and having your remote devs be willing and able to communicate with the rest of the team is a major bonus.

Does That Sound Like a Lot?

We get it. If you haven’t hired remotely before, then the thought of making sure someone meets all your criteria when you’re unlikely to ever meet them in the flesh can be overwhelming. But that’s where we come in. We’ll source you great candidates who are technically proficient, remote ready and a match for your company culture – and we can do it in less than two weeks! Sound good? Get in touch today.

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Sarah Dixon

Sarah Dixon

Sarah Dixon is a remote work advocate and thought leader and a specialist in persuasive writing. She has an MA in Creative Fiction, is a children's author, and a writer of award-winning short stories.