5 Attributes To Look For When Interviewing Remote Workers

(Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of posts on the topic of remote workers. Check out the first two blogs here and here.)

We’ve talked about the tools that help remote workers and how to engage them, but who should they be? After all, not everybody is cut out to work remotely. And hiring the wrong person is always costly. Below are five attributes you should look for when you interview would-be remote workers.

They need to be experienced. Being an effective remote employee is often easier said than done. And when you hire somebody who has no experience working on their own, you are taking a risk. A candidate doesn’t have to have experience doing the exact kind of remote work they’ll be doing for you, but they should have some experience to show they’re capable of getting the job done away from coworkers and managers. During interviews, ask candidates about projects they handled without supervision and see both how well the project went and how well they enjoyed the process.

They need to be a team player. A candidate doesn’t have to be an extrovert to be considered to work remotely. But they do need to show that they are adept at working with others. They need to show a willingness to proactively get to know—and work with—others whenever needed. This is integral for them to feel a part of a larger team. And the more a remote worker feels a part of a team the better off everyone will be. Gauge candidates on their ability to work with others when calling for references.

They need to be a great communicator. Speaking of proactively working with others, a remote worker needs to be a very clear communicator. When in doubt, they need to err on the side of over-communicating. And they can’t be afraid to call others for information. Or email. Or instant message. Otherwise, they may sit on projects and tasks for too long. During the interview process, pay attention to how they communicated with you. Did they ask a lot of questions about the position? Were their cover letters, emails, and other correspondences clear and thorough? The answers may be revealing.

They need to be honest. This is obviously true of every employee, but especially true for remote workers. It can be challenging to get an honest (full) day’s work from home when there are dozens of things there to distract and nobody to hold you accountable. Trust is integral to work relationships, and if you don’t trust a remote worker, you’ll have an uphill climb. When interviewing candidates, and calling references, pay particular attention to how honest they are. Ask former employers questions that tie back to specific things said by the employee. If they were liberal in recounting their previous successes in the interview process, they might just do the same in their new employment.

They need to be self-motivated. And driven. Ambitious. Independent. You get the idea. Remote workers need to be people who can focus on the task at hand and resolve to reach every goal or project that dares cross their path. Pay attention to their resume. If they’ve been promoted frequently, that’s a good sign. If they’re ambitious in other aspects of their—say they compete in triathlons—that’s a good sign. Just like anybody can say they can work remotely, anybody can say they’re self-motivated. But unless a candidate has proven it before, you don’t have to give them the benefit of the doubt.