Qualities for ideal remote candidates

Building a remote team isn’t for everyone, but it has its advantages. For John-Paul Narowski, founder of fully distributed karmaCRM, “It’s empowering, flattening, and allows us to remain nimble as we grow. Our team is spread all over the world, leveraging the best talent for the best price.”

Let’s say you’re building a remote team and you’ve narrowed the decision down to several talented candidates. Not only do they have the skills and experience, but they’ve also proven they have the discipline to work remotely.

So how do you decide which of those great candidates are right for your team? Look for these four traits:

They’re smarter than you

Leo Polovets was an engineer during the early days of LinkedIn when they only had 15 employees. He said his LinkedIn team was the most successful team he worked on because, “The company had a high hiring bar. We hired great people, and on the rare occasions that mistakes were made, they were usually fixed quickly. Teamwork is a lot easier and more effective when you can trust everyone around you to be very good at what they do.”


Entrepreneur Tyagarajan Sundaresan, who built businesses at Flipkart and Amazon, agrees. He says, “Hire people who make you look stupid (not intentionally but just based on how much better they are). This is very difficult. But if you could do that and convey this culture through the ranks, that’s the foundation to building a great self-propelling team.”

They want to collaborate

By default, it’s easy for a remote team to feel fragmented. Most of the communication happens through task-focused emails or chats instead of over lunch or while hanging out by the coffee maker. Chess.comis a fully distributed company that emphasizes connection. Co-founder and CEO Erik Allebest explains the importance this way: “At the end of the day, I have to work with this person so I need to connect with them. It’s important even when working remote because we’re human. We have to communicate, we have to collaborate.”

Strong collaboration between team members can also help them remain resilient and supportive of each other during challenging times. When James Liu was a web developer at Cogent Systems, they successfully executed a herculean project to build and deploy Venezuela’s National Voter Identification System in six short weeks. He says, “Watching this project unfold from the inside, in six weeks’ time, made me realize that culture played a greater factor than size.”

They take the company’s success personally

From the beginning, WooThemes was a fully distributed company. Co-founder Mark Forrester says passion is so critical when making hiring decisions that, “A strong attitude and desire to share in our success is more important to us than experience and aptitude.”

Most professionals work with startups because they want to use their talents for more than generating income. They yearn to be part of something bigger than themselves, they believe in the company’s vision, values, and mission. And they’re dedicated to making it a reality. They don’t just love what they do, they love why they’re doing it.

Entrepreneur and investor Paul Graham describes that person like this, “[It’s] a salesperson who just won’t take no for an answer; a hacker who will stay up till 4:00 AM rather than go to bed leaving code with a bug in it; a PR person who will cold-call New York Times reporters on their cell phones; a graphic designer who feels physical pain when something is two millimeters out of place.”

They’re good communicators

Remote workers are naturally self-starters who enjoy working independently. But when everyone’s focused on their individual tasks, communication can deteriorate quickly. This could lead to trouble because communication helps companies resolve potential issues quickly, and work more efficiently. Communication also fosters a strong company culture.

When people don’t communicate well, your company misses out on the benefits of collaborating. Such as developing new ideas, innovative processes, and improving efficiencies. These benefits are especially important when the team’s moving quickly because communication can help you sustain your rapid pace with greater output.

Communication helps strengthen accountability too. In turn, this encourages trust between workers and a more consistent work quality. Workers tend to increase their dedication when they can trust the company and their team members.

Talent isn’t a commodity

Hiring the right team for your startup can be time-consuming and a little stressful. But it’s critical you make the right choices because they can affect the growth and success of your company. What’s more, the cost of a hiring mistake can reach tens of thousands of dollars.

But it’s important to remember that paying higher rates won’t guarantee you secure the best talent either. Author and teacher Jim Collins says the right people for your organization must be driven by the company’s mission—not by money. He adds, “The right people can often attract money, but money by itself can never attract the right people. Money is a commodity; talent is not.”

For a team that’s dedicated to—and can help you achieve—incredible success, consider whether they meet the four traits above as part of your vetting process.