Working remotely—whether through telecommuting, flexible schedules, or freelance jobs—is an opportunity coveted by many. If you’re hoping to join the rapidly expanding ranks of remote employees, it’s important to know exactly what hiring managers look for when hiring remote workers.
A recent survey from Proven—a small business hiring tool—provides a good window into selection criteria for remote employees. Proven compiled answers from more than 40 remote companies about the number one characteristic that they typically look for when hiring remote workers. We’re going over a few of the most common responses below.
What Employers Usually Look for When Hiring Remote Workers
Working remotely means you won’t have your boss looking over your shoulder. Successful remote workers need to take initiative and be proactive in all of their work and communication. Ryan Chartrand, CEO of X-Team, said: “The #1 trait we look for in everyone we hire is how proactive they are. … What do they do when there’s nothing to do right now? What do they do when they’re waiting on someone else? Do they just sit and wait? What do they do when they run out of tasks, do they wait to be told what to do? You want people who will constantly be moving your company forward without needing their hand held.”
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When you’re working on your own at home, you’ll need to able to work without a lot of guidance. The ability to stay focused and on task will be necessary to ensure you’re completing your tasks with excellence. Wendy Hynes, senior director at DataStax, said: “We tend to look for folks that are both independent and driven. We feel it’s critical for remote employees to be self-motivated and also have the ability to manage their time well.”
Cultural fit is when an employee and company match up on beliefs, goals, attitudes, personality, and values. This can be become even more important when working in a remote environment. Researching a company can shed light on its culture—check out its social media pages and photos, read reviews, and even talk to a current or former employee if possible. You’ll want to ensure the company matches up to your own values, and if it does, that you present yourself as a cultural fit on the cover letter and during interviews.
Leon Barnard, designer and writer at Balsamiq, said: “Culture fit becomes even more important when working with remote employees. Skills can be learned on the job, but they can’t absorb the company culture as easily from far away, so it’s more critical that they feel like a good fit from the start.”
When you work in an office, there are many more opportunities for visual cues and informal check-ins to help teams know what’s going on with each other. Remote workers need to go above and beyond in their communication efforts on all fronts (email, phone, Skype, etc.) to stay engaged with the group and on the boss’ radar screen. “I can’t walk by [a remote] employee’s desk and use their body language to determine how their day is going,” said Jake Goldman, president and founder of 10up. “Remote employees need to over-communicate to compensate for the reduced face-to-face time.”
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On a remote team, managers can’t keep visual tabs on workers. It makes sense that they would place a high value on hiring trustworthy workers. Employees who are trustworthy can be tasked with important duties and trusted to complete them. Trustworthy employees are working when they say they’re working and don’t require micromanaging.
Matt Thomas, a copywriter at MeetEdgar said, “You need to trust your team, especially when you’re all hundreds or thousands of miles apart. Because of this, our interview process places a high value on culture fit to bring in the right people…”
While these qualities are important for all employees, they are particularly critical when you work remotely to help stay connected and build trust with employers. Keep them in mind and be ready to showcase them on the job to succeed in your remote role.
Hiring remote workers can be a truly rewarding experience for both the employer and employee. Remote workers can help shape company culture and also provide a competitive advantage for organisations.
However, the needs of remote employees are often different from that of an in-office employee. Here’s what these distributed companies have learnt from hiring remote workers.
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As a remote worker, what is something that’s often overlooked by employers?
“How lonely working remotely can be – fortunately, Museum Hack is very intentional about putting systems in place to make sure we feel connected to our co-workers. We have department video chats, and even video chats between co-workers solely dedicated to getting to know one another. Without systems like that, working from home could become very lonely, very quickly.”
– Cody Nailor, Museum Hack
“Employers often overlook how essential it is to export their culture to remote workers.”
– Augie Kennedy, ShipMonk
“What remote workers want most is flexibility and autonomy. The flexibility to decide when, how and where we work – because we lead real, human lives and have personal responsibilities – and the autonomy of making those decisions without feeling like Big Brother is watching.”
– Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré, Zest.is
How do you think employers can better support remote workers?
“A coffee shop or coworking allowance – coffee shops and coworking spaces are great places for remote employees to make connections within their city, and be inspired by other workers in their field.
By implementing systems to better get to know their employees. Museum Hack has employees complete a short weekly evaluation. Additionally, employees have a biweekly call with their manager to check in on work projects, etc. The evaluation has a question which asks the employee to rate how they’re feeling that week. If the score is low, the manager will chat with the employee about it on the next call to see what can be done to improve the score next time.”
– Cody, Museum Hack
“Employers can better support employees by letting them know that they are valued; which will ultimately encourage them to continue delivering quality work. Additionally, since the team is remote communication is essential. Group video chats or conference calls to share ideas and ensure everyone is being heard is another great way to maximize your remote employees’ potential. Slack and Teamweek are great tools. Just because you’re not in a traditional office or conference room doesn’t stop great collaboration and productivity from happening.”
– Alexis Davis, H.K. Productions Inc
“Have a reference point for everything. We use processes documents for everything we do. This allows me to ensure I’m executing the task correctly, especially in terms of logistics (naming files, draft numbers, sharing what with whom), and gives me a piece of content I can refer to with questions. Additionally, make sure your remote team member has access to all the passwords, accounts, platforms, subscriptions, and tools they may need.”
– Catherine Tansey, Shelf
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“New remote employee tend to be timid and don’t ask questions because they fear they might be doing a bad job. This can lead to them wasting a lot of man-hours trying to solve a problem that you may have an easy answer for. Be thorough in your instructions and over emphasize that they should ask for clarification if they run into any problems. Nurturing that relationship, especially in the early stages will provide a more productive partnership and can ultimately save you a lot of time, money, and headaches.”
– Steve Razinski, ivetriedthat
How has hiring remote workers impacted your company?
“It has helped us to find the best people irrespective of where in the world they are and put them in the right seats in our company.”
– Syed Irfan Ajmal, Ridester
“Remote workers make our company tick. We pride our strength in diversity and acceptance of varying cultural customs and viewpoints.”
– Kody Rajan, No Desk Project
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“Remote workers have brought an energy and creativity to the team that’s impossible to otherwise replicate. Having people from and in different places work together lends itself to a special kind of collaboration.”
– Catherine Tansey, Shelf