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5 Traits to Look for When You’re New to Hiring Remote Employees


With this recent shift to remote-first work, we still need candidates who meet all the qualifications we’ve always had for a position, but now we also need to make sure they have what it takes to work remotely. 

Let’s say you’re considering hiring someone who’s excelled at a similar job with another company. You assume they’ll hit the ground running because of their proven performance in years past, but do they have traits that set them up for success in remote work? 

Remote work requires a different skill set than in-person work. Some characteristics that present problems at home wouldn’t have been an issue if they were in the office. 

So, how do we find the candidates with the right traits for remote-first work and eliminate the candidates without them? We start by knowing what to look for in our screening process. 

Consider it a new dimension to hiring and onboarding. What traits set your candidate up for success (or failure) in remote work? We’ve found these five traits to be significant indicators of how well your new hire is suited to work remotely. 

1. Independence

Independence is often the opposite of collaboration. It’s a style that shows up in everything from hobbies to work-preference.  

  • Do they enjoy group activities or solo ventures (e.g. playing basketball vs golf)? 
  • Do they enjoy photography or group hiking? 
  • Do they form their own opinion and run with it, or do they brainstorm with others before moving forward? 
  • Do they prefer to work in groups or alone? 

Look to identify where people are most comfortable. People who are most comfortable collaborating on their work (and uncomfortable when they can’t collaborate) often find remote work difficult. Sure, we have workflow apps, but tracking down a live person to make every little decision necessary to the job isn’t a viable option. Will a collaborator be able to get their job done, or maybe more importantly, be happy doing it, when collaboration isn’t possible? 

Look to hire people who lean more towards independence verses collaboration. They’ll be more successful in a remote-first environment. However, if you know they prefer to collaborate and hire them anyway, intentionally plan to help them move forward. You’re putting them in a position that will be slightly uncomfortable for them. 

Find out: Can they successfully work on their own? 

When hiring in a remote-first situation, make sure the screening process looks to see if the candidate is going to find fulfillment in the tactical work itself — because that’s what most of it is right now.

2. Self-Motivation

Some people thrive on the freedom to make their own timeline and hold themselves accountable. Others struggle without high levels of accountability. 

Think of self-motivated people as the ones who have their own batteries. They’re internally wired to keep themselves on track and accountable for their deliverables. In remote-first work, we lack the external energy of an office work environment. Plus, there’s not the accountability of others watching. That makes internal motivation a non-negotiable in remote work. 

Depending on the role, many remote-employees also have freedom with their work schedules. They set their own hours, deciding how and when they want to work. While some people thrive with the increase in flexibility, not everyone does. Without the structure, guardrails, and accountability that in-person work provides, some people really struggle. 

Find out: Are they wired to achieve on their own? 

3. Introversion vs Extroversion

Look for candidates who don’t need to be surrounded by people at work to be happy if you’re hiring for remote-first work. Sure, someone can be extroverted and find contentment if they’re in a job that encompasses personal interaction over video calls. But many finance and accounting jobs don’t depend on much human interaction.

Before the pandemic, extroverts with self-contained jobs (accountants, engineers, etc.) could feed off the energy of the office. While the job itself was independent, they could get their interactive buzz over water cooler talk and lunch. Now, they’re in an independent role where they can go days (or weeks!) without talking to a coworker… and that’s hard on people who need dynamic interaction and friendships at work. 

Find out: How much interaction do they need from coworkers to enjoy their work? 

4. Fulfilled by the Tactical Work Itself 

Success in remote work also depends on if the candidate enjoys their tactical work. There are people who like their jobs well enough and they’re good at what they do, but the work itself isn’t what satisfies them. They thrive because of the people, the environment, and the culture. Once all the perks are stripped away, many people find they don’t actually enjoy their job. 

When hiring in a remote-first situation, make sure the screening process looks to see if the candidate is going to find fulfillment in the tactical work itself — because that’s what most of it is right now. 

Find out: Do they like the actual work in the job? 

“Look to hire people who lean more towards independence verses collaboration. They’ll be more successful in a remote-first environment.”

5. Assertiveness

When you’re moving from office to remote work, you have to exaggerate your communication. It’s like putting on stage make-up for a performance. In order to be seen, every feature must be amplified and every action exaggerated. In a virtual work environment, people must work even harder to be seen, heard, and understood.

Probably the most essential quality of a remote-first employee is their willingness to proactively and assertively communicate. Self-confident employees who are willing to voice their opinions and self-advocate are vital for remote work to work. There’s no other way for coworkers, partners, or stakeholders to accurately gauge what’s working well and who needs additional support.

Look for an open communicator who is confident enough to raise their hand when there’s a problem. In the absence of seeing each other daily and reading body language, you need to trust employees to shed light on what’s happening. If you find this type of person, you’ll have a much easier time onboarding them and working together in the long run.

Assertiveness is also necessary to get the job itself done. Most jobs aren’t completely independent, but require some skill in interpersonal relationships and communication. If someone isn’t comfortable self-advocating, it’ll be a struggle no matter the job. 

Find out: Are they confident and proactive enough to do their job and speak up when they see a need? 

How to Ensure the Success of a New-To-Remote-Work Hire

Realistically, you won’t be able to hire someone with all five of these traits for every role you need to fill. But there’s power in knowledge. Knowing what will work well (and what will need an extra measure of patience and training) can help your new employees move towards success. 

Seek first to understand. Use hiring or onboarding assessments to gauge which traits might not be natural for a potential employee. Then, you can put some thought into how you might intentionally mitigate the issue from the start so they can become happy and successful in remote-first work. 

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