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12 Qualities to Look for When Hiring Remote Employees

Building and managing remote teams is no longer just a trend. It is the reality many companies and even more employees face and love every single day. It’s a lifestyle and business decision they have adopted based on many reasons like saving money, traveling more often, spending more time with loved ones and enjoying their lives in a way that was thought as utopic just a while ago.

Based on a Leadership IQ survey, people who work from home are 87% more likely to love their job. And people who enjoy what they’re doing are more productive, so the chances of delivering ideal results increase. We can also see they are happier based on a Connect Solutions survey that reveals the following insights:

  • 77% of remote workers are more productive when working outside the company’s office
  • 45% reported they are getting more sleep
  • 52% of remote workers said they’re less likely to take time off from work, even when they are sick
  • Remote workers are also financially motivated, saving up to $5,240 per year

Moreover, if your business allows having a remote team, your costs can also decrease significantly and your company can expand better and faster with great people on board.

In a GigaOm Pro report entitled “The future of workplaces”, we find that the old work culture is being replaced by a new set of ideals that make innovation and efficiency a priority. In this new type of workstyle, the fear of employees is being replaced with trust in the workforce and 68% of managers say they trust flexible workers to be as productive as those working in the office.

Intuitive managers are exchanging meetings and e-mail overload with a focus on efficiency, as 49% of them believe the workplace is suffering from information overload. This means that desktop and land-line cube farms are being replaced with app-enabled remote workspaces. It is a step towards an integrated freelance future, 62% of companies are already allowing employees to work remotely and 70% of managers say that allowing people to work flexible hours makes them more productive and have adopted flexible work hours for varied work habits in the detriment of a 9-to-5 schedule.

But what do you do when you want to build a remote team? Who are the perfect candidates and what are the qualities they should possess?

Beyond the specific skills that the job requires, you need to look for more qualities than you would in a co-located job. Your future employees won’t be physically next to you, so you won’t be able to see how they handle tasks or interact with the rest of the team, therefore you need to add a few more requirements to your list.

Remote employee qualities

1. Communicative

As a remote team member you have to be able to communicate — quickly, directly and on topic. Nobody affords to waste time, so the issues should be amended correctly. A person who is not a great communicator could interfere with the team’s productivity and efficiency. You don’t need a person who wastes valuable time by taking too long to deliver a simple message. Moreover, that person has to be the interface of your business in relation to your clients. Since meeting them in person is not always an option, take into consideration that excellent written and verbal communication skills are a must. It’s not a surprise that 56% of employers say that they are looking for an effective communicator.

Also, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) study shows that by fully implementing social technologies and facilitating communication, companies can raise the productivity of interaction workers by 20–25%.

In order to enable the modern worker, companies are constantly improving their support of remote users with unified communication (UC) technologies. Dell and Forrester Research say the number of remote workers increased in the past year and that it is expected to rise again (83%) in 2016. Given these statistics, 71% of businesses have increased their UC investments to accommodate this growing user base of remote workers.

2. Positive attitude

A negative attitude can often be a deal-breaker. You need positive people who know how to handle stressful situations, who can motivate other people and who make the team feel like a team indeed. A positive attitude enables interpersonal relationships and creates a path to reinforcing achievements, while learning to face disappointments. A positive attitude will also transform failure into lessons that will later become success. That is why 72% of employers say that they look for a candidate that has a positive attitude, according to Career Builder.

3. A doer

Doers don’t just start working without having goals and deadlines set up. A FPI report shows that people who clearly define business goals (68%) and personal goals (59%) are more likely to have more control over their time.

Doers create plans, acknowledge important details and start working effectively. They are goal-oriented and this is what you want — a person who can take action and deliver what’s expected on time. They are the ones who learn and teach by doing, not by thinking and only start taking action when the deadline becomes a problem. They are also people who celebrate success and make the ones around them feel proud. That is exactly why 66% of the employers questioned by Career Builder said that being self-motivated is a quality they look for in a candidate.

4. Adaptable

The remote team mentality mustn’t be a novelty, but it should not be a traditional one either. And the people who cannot adapt to the new conditions, because this is how “they’ve always done it”, will not be a good addition to your team. They need to use new tools of communication, respect certain rules and understand how to solve problems without running to the nearest office to ask for support. Every organization has its own workplace culture, so this is even more important when you don’t have a physical office. It needs to be understood and respected through each email, task or message. Working under pressure and being flexible are key skills that a remote worker must have.

Now imagine that your new team member is left without an Internet connection due to his/her new office and home choices. You can’t afford to waste days of work because of this. You, therefore, need a person who knows how to react in such situations.

Reid Hoffman (Co-founder and Chairman of LinkedIn) and Ben Casnocha, authors of “The Start-Up of You” underline the adaptability situation as it follows:

We are all works in progress. It doesn’t matter whether you are a recent graduate, a seasoned professional, or a reinventing yourself mid-career. Great people, like great companies, are always evolving. They’re never finished and never fully developed. Each day presents an opportunity to learn more, do more, grow more. Permanent beta is a lifelong commitment to continuous personal growth. It is the mindset of every entrepreneur of life.

5. Reliable

If you’ve worked in a team or managed one, you already know the importance of relying on a team member. If he or she doesn’t deliver on time or doesn’t provide what is expected, the whole team suffers. That is why 73% of companies are looking for dependable remote workers. If a person says a task will be ready at 11:00 and it’s not, you are likely to face the snowball effect and in the end you may lose a project or thousands of dollars. A team member who is not reliable can do more damage than an external factor.

6. Organized and able to prioritize

Many people are chaotic when it comes to prioritizing tasks. They start with whatever looks easier, so they can have something finished to show to their boss. When you have a remote team, it’s not about “proving that you did something”, it’s about results and delivering on time. Whether you use a project management tool like Trello or Basecamp or just assign tasks via mail or Google Docs, people need to know what to do and what the importance level of each project is. Therefore, managers feel that being organized and able to manage multiple priorities is a must have skill for a candidate 57% of the time.

You need to make sure the employee will be on the task, not all over the place. Being disciplined doesn’t mean adopting a serious attitude all the time, but being in charge of your own tasks, deadlines, planning and managing tools.

7. Self-motivated

Sure, co-workers and leaders can motivate the team, but sometimes this doesn’t happen. And for those times, you need a great person who doesn’t need to hear “great job” every single day, but is able to stay positive and motivated through own mentality. After all, if 66% of companies are looking for this, it must be important. And one of the reasons it is important is that among the top five reasons why new hires fail lays motivation with 17%, according to a Leadership IQ study. The new team members simply cannot find the drive to self-motivate and reach their goals. Hence, your team might get smaller.

8. Excellent time-management skills

This is a tricky aspect. When people come from an environment where 9-to-5 is the working schedule no matter the workload, it can be difficult to find employees who can deliver on time. But it’s not impossible. Many remote workers assert themselves through never missing a deadline and 57% of employers find this skill as a must. You can start by asking their ex-employers about the time-management skills and continue with a test they need to deliver at a specific time.

A FPI report, which compared the quality of business plans made by people who have time-management skills and people who don’t, shows that 84% of analyzed teams who are in control of their time rate their business plan as effective compared to 44% who are not in control. Hence, time-management doesn’t only affect productivity but also the quality of work. The same report shows that employees who have the skills are more likely to use time tracker tools (42% of teams who are in control compared to 28% who are not). This could be a nice knotty interview question, right?

9. Ability to work independently

Sure, it’s a team and people need to work together, but working remotely involves solitary time as well. And to be able to work alone, employees need self-confidence and trust they can deliver by themselves what’s required. Hence, confidence is a very popular trait that companies look for when hiring (46%). Even if the possibility of working from anywhere drives people to co-working spaces, the work will still be done without too much team interaction.

10. Team oriented

Sounds a bit ironic, right? Well, it’s not. Among the qualities your remote workers should possess stands the capacity to work with a team that has common goals and values; or at least so do 60% of companies think. A rotten apple can spoil the whole barrel, so you only want good, fresh apples in yours.

11. Work ethic

Each of the people in your team should be able to represent you and your company. Hence, the work ethic should be aligned with your beliefs and your organization’s ethics. By proving their integrity, your team members will know they can rely on each other. If you are even a bit in doubt, you should know that 73% of companies say they look for strong work ethic when hiring.

12. Results-oriented

Even though it is the last point on our list, it’s among the most important qualities one should have in the telecommuting mentality. People who are just making the switch from a cubicle to a remote team might have this problem most often.

In a co-located mentality, unfortunately, there are situations when employees finish their tasks in three hours and spend the rest of the day doing nothing. After seeing that they need to look like they are busy all the time, they spread the three-hour workload throughout the day. Now you need to shift your new team member’s mentality from unproductive to a workflow based on results.

We didn’t say it was easy recruiting a remote team, but the benefits of working in such an amazing environment while growing your business are incommensurable.


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