As telecommuting becomes an increasingly accepted and expected practice in the modern workforce, many companies are implementing regular remote work policies for their employees. Some businesses have even taken this one step further by eliminating the physical office altogether, and building a fully virtual team.
If you allow remote work in any capacity at your company, it’s important to screen candidates during the hiring process and look for characteristics that indicate their ability to successfully work without in-person supervision. We asked members of Young Entrepreneurs Council to share a few key traits you should look for when building a remote team.
1. They Value Results Over Process
Since the beginning, nearly all of our employees have been remote. We’ve learned to value two traits. First, we need people who can put together a detailed plan of action for a project that they are working on. This way it’s clear to everyone what needs to be done when, and it’s easy to stay accountable for results on a daily basis. Second, we need people who value results over process. Since you can’t be looking over everyone’s shoulders, you as a manager have to be comfortable setting goals and then holding people accountable for those goals. They could be putting in long nights or they could be doing their laundry all day – but if you are managing correctly and getting the people who understand that results come first, you should be happy either way. – John Rood, Next Step Test Preparation
2. They’re Self-Starters
When hiring for a remote team, the most important trait I’ve found is the ability for that person to be a self-starter. This is such an important trait because when working remotely, they won’t have a boss hovering over them to make sure they stay on task and stay motivated. They must be able to get up each morning, be productive, and accomplish their tasks day in and day out. If possible, look for potential hires who have previous experience working remotely. This way, they know what to expect. Sometimes a new hire might say they are comfortable working remotely, and may not realize until after they start, that remote working is not the right environment for them to thrive in. – Diana Goodwin, AquaMobile
3. They Can Successfully Complete A Test Project
Half our team is remote. To hire remotely, you need to have a good test system in place. Ideally, work on either a live project or on a test of a previous live project. People on paper and phone interviews may sound good, but until you start working with them, you won’t know for sure. As for the best traits, we found that those individuals who can work independently and not ask for help all the time do the best. Yes, there is always a time where you don’t know the answer and need to ask for help. But routine questions that can be answered by Google, handbooks or research on their own, should not be asked to other team members. Independence and ability to figure things out is key for remote workers. – Peter Boyd, PaperStreet Web Design
4. They’re Punctual And Responsive
Working remotely requires extreme punctuality with meetings and deadlines because of the stop and start nature of virtual work. Lack of timeliness and quick responses from a remote colleague can be frustrating and unproductive, since you don’t have regular contact with them and can’t just go over and ask for something in person. The worst thing is to be stuck waiting for something with no sense of how long you’ll be waiting. The best remote employees over-communicate and are aware of how their work fits in with others’ workflows. – Roger Lee, Captain401
5. They’re Motivated By Something Larger Than Themselves
Team members who are intrinsically motivated – by your company, your team, your product, your values, and/or by the work itself – will succeed. Of course, this is true regardless of whether they are in a remote or in-office environment. An employee sitting at a desk in a centralized office for eight hours a day may seem to be productive – but they could easily be spending half the time on Facebook. You need team members who are committed to your mission and want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. We spend a lot of time assessing this in interviews. I also do a new hire orientation with every new team member. I share the story of our company and talk about each of our core values, explaining why they’re important to me and to the company. – Jonathan Steiman, Peak Support
6. They’re Natural Problem Solvers
In my experience with remote team members, I’ve come across two types of workers. One is the kind that will follow your instructions to the letter and will come to you with a million questions if they are confused by a single aspect. These kinds of people see the forest for the trees and can lead to a great deal of wasted time. The other kind of worker understands the big picture. They know the most important thing is to get the project finished on time, so they will get the job done with the information they have and whatever legwork needed on their end. Sometimes that will involve making educated guesses that end up being wrong. However, the self-determination and big-picture focus are the important aspects of this kind of worker, making them the ideal remote team member. – Bryce Welker, CPA Exam Guy
7. They’re Detail Oriented And Can Track Their KPIs
Time and time again, we have found that people who are detail-oriented have an intrinsic personality type that lends itself well to remote positions. Perfectionists are ideal for these positions because they have a personal standard to meet outside of the standards you set within your company. Beyond that, for anyone you hire to work remotely, make sure you have clearly defined KPI’s for their work output so that you can track if they are performing and doing what they need to be doing. This is a must for pretty much every employee, but doubly so when they are remote. As long as they are continually moving the needle forward as measured by the KPIs unique to their role, they are an asset to your team and a good long-term hire. – Justin Faerman, Conscious Lifestyle Magazine
8. They Possess A Strong Technical Aptitude
We have had several developers work full-time remotely for the last eight years. We have hired several right and wrong people in the past. People who have had good technical aptitude have always done well working remotely. They are the ones who stay longer and are satisfied because they always can use their aptitude to overcome challenges and learn from others. With a remote team, you don’t want someone who is always looking for mentors and seniors. It should be someone who is willing to be part of the small remote team and self-motivated to learn. Someone who does not have good aptitude will always struggle with a remote job. Experience level can be at any level, but aptitude is critical. – Piyush Jain, SIMpalm
9. They’ve Worked On A Remote Team Before
Although it’s not always possible, hiring someone with previous experience working remotely is preferable to someone who hasn’t been in a remote work environment before. At our company, my co-founder and I are located in New York but we also manage an office in DC and another in San Francisco. People who have had previous remote work experience and who have great examples of their work and positive references nearly always understand how to effectively use virtual means of communication, how to be self-starters at work, and how to be proactive about asking for clarification when they hit a roadblock. Previous success in a remote team speaks to someone having the right personality traits to succeed when working remotely. – Todd Richheimer, Lawfty, LLC.
10. They Have A Growth Mindset
To me, it’s all about mindset. To get the right type of team player to fit into a virtual ecosystem, I always look for mindset first, no question about it. I’d rather train an open-minded A-player (which I did more often than not) than hire a clock-puncher with a pimped-out resume or a fancy degree. My worst guy ever came from Yale and was far more talented, but was entitled and lazy. He lasted less than a month. My best recruit didn’t have experience but his mindset was on point. He crushed it, got promoted, ended up going to Harvard. Inexperienced A-players will make mistakes but they won’t make them twice. Someone with existing beliefs, ego and biases can become a management nightmare – and that’s the last thing you want from a telecommuting hire that you have to trust. – Philip Michael, New York Equity Group (NYEG)
Young Entrepreneur Council
YEC is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs 40 and younger.