The Four Keys When Hiring Remote

Probably not a great candidate for remote work. Photo credit via Deviant Art.

Hiring is hard. Hiring technical people well is harder. Hiring technical people that work remotely is even harder. To be good at it, you need to already be good at hiring. You can build on that to become good at hiring remote workers.

Embracing remote work means hiring from a larger pool of talent. But it also requires being more selective— you only want to consider people who will be successful working remotely. Assuming that you have a high success rate with your existing hiring process, here's how you can ensure it stays that way when hiring remote workers.

Work Ethic

Remote workers need a strong work ethic. This is always important, but it's even more important when working remotely. You need people who work hard when no one is watching. And who will let you know if you've forgotten about them, which can happen easily when first adopting remote work. And who will critically assess whether working remotely is negatively affecting their productivity.

Communication Skills

You also want people with exceptional communication skills, both verbal and written. As with work ethic, this becomes even more important when working remotely. Remote work mutes the non-verbal cues we rely on in face-to-face communication. Further, written artifacts play a greater role when working remotely and also have a longer lifespan than conversations. This magnifies the risk associated with an ambiguous specification or poor documentation.

Experience With Remote Work

Ideally, you want people who have worked remotely in the past, even if that was just work they did in their spare time. For example, maybe they've been contributing to an open source project. Or perhaps they collaborated with a friend on a mobile app.

Working remotely for the first time can be deceptively hard. People who've done it before already have answers to dozens of little questions that tend to be answered for us when working in an office. Do they have a comfortable, ergonomic workspace? Do they use a co-working space or work from a home office? Do they take a break when the kids come home from school or do they wait until after business hours? And so on. Someone who has never worked remotely is answering these questions for themselves for the first time.


Most importantly, you want people with high integrity. Like work ethic and communication skills, integrity is always important. But it's even more so with people working remotely. If you don't fully trust them, the first time they miss a deadline or take longer than expected to complete a ticket, you're going to suspect that they're slacking. But those doubts won't burden you if their integrity is beyond question.

Too Much Of A Good Thing

This is a tall order, isn't it? Great work ethic, communication skills, and integrity, with experience working remotely. That's why one of the best ways to go remote is to start with people you already know.

However, at some point, you'll need to be able to assess these traits with someone who is otherwise a stranger to you and your team. Here's the good news. These are all characteristics you should be looking for anyway. And you now have a larger pool of people to choose from!

Where Will All The Slackers Go?

There's an amusing implication to all this, by the way. Assume for a moment that companies that embrace remote work will necessarily become better at hiring for work ethic, integrity, and communication skills. Shiftless laconic clock-punchers will be slowly but inevitably filtered out of the remote work force. And guess where they'll end up?