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How to Hire Remote Workers | Our Recruitment Process with Remote Company Insights

Whether you’re a fully distributed team or just taking your first steps into the world of remote work, there are a few things to consider when hiring a remote worker.

To help you set up your own strategy, we’re sharing our recruitment process, including the characteristics we specifically look for in potential remote work candidates.  We also cover some tips from the big players in remote work: GitHub, Hubstaff and Doist.

The Shield GEO recruitment process

Our recruitment process is continuously evolving as we grow and change as a company. We first began with a very simple system of a manual CV review, looking out for reputable Universities, grades and notable business’ experience in their previous work section. 

We’ve come a long way.

Currently, we use a multi-step process designed to quickly and efficiently sort potential candidates based on key parameters we think make good remote workers.

The first step is a type-form questionnaire which not only aims to gauge whether the candidate will be a good fit culturally, but tests their communication skills in the method they’ll use most often as a remote worker – written text.

“Communication is really important to us, [and] a lot of the communication we do is online,” says our HR Consultant, Stella Huang. “If they’re really eloquent, very descriptive, and they provide a lot of context, it’s usually a big tick from us.”

This is not to say everyone we hire has to be an incredible writer, or have a perfect grasp of the English language.

“We definitely have put through people when clearly English isn’t their first language but you can see that they’re trying really hard and they’re very descriptive in their work,” Stella says.

“They perhaps can’t explain the situation as clearly as perhaps a native English speaker would, but they go the extra mile in terms of providing context.”

It’s not necessarily what you say but the way you communicate it that matters.

After we assess the answers to the type-form, we’ll ask a selection of candidates to proceed to our values interview with our co-founder, Tim Burgess and HR Manager, Stella. This is either in-person or via video call depending on where the candidate lives.

Here, we determine whether a person will thrive in a remote environment by asking pre-determined questions about their current lifestyle.

In our experience, an organised individual who naturally keeps track of their tasks will have an easier time transitioning to a remote work lifestyle.

“We find if in general they’re structured and organised then that’ll reflect in their work,” Stella says. “[Which is ideal because] we don’t want to micromanage.”

After this first round of interviews, we then move on to role specific interviews with the candidate’s potential manager. Then a paid task to review their technical skills and suitability to the position. At each stage, the list of potential candidates is reviewed and refined.

Finally, a feedback call on the completed task gives us the opportunity to assess how the candidate might receive constructive criticism – something that’s great to know ahead of time.

Identifying Strong Remote Worker Candidates

Remote.co share company tips from some of the leading remote companies worldwide. On a thread discussing the traits companies look for in potential remote working employees, organisations shared the characteristics of their ideal remote worker. Common traits that companies looked for echoed our own findings. Big considerations were communication skills, self-motivation and discipline, and curiously, previous remote work experience.


GitHub Inc said, “When you’re remote, a majority of the way you interface with the world will be through written word, so it’s critical that you can articulate complex concepts and subtleties.”

Beutler Ink agreed, saying “It’s so crucial for anyone working as part of a distributed team to have great communication skills and that can be obvious from the first couple of interactions.”

Incsub favours practical application over previous experience, “We rely heavily on written communication. So candidates that may have a great background or experience, but that are not precise in their communication, seem to not understand our written instructions for the short test projects, or are slow to reply, won’t make the cut.”

Self-motivation and Discipline

“If during the trial process a candidate needs a lot of “hand holding” and waits for specific instructions before moving forward on work, they probably won’t be a good fit,” Automattic says.

Trello agreed saying, “The ability to get things done, be self-motivating and driven are all important factors.”

Dell sees a crossover in how people organise their lives with how they will their work “We look also for people who are proactive in their approach to their lives and their work.”

Doist thinks curious people are the ones who will inherently act and work independently, “it’s vital to hire proactive, curious people who won’t wait to be told how to do things. That’s why one of the most important things we look for in interviews are “Jacks & Jills of all trades” – people who take ownership over learning new skills.”

Previous Experience

Others won’t employ remote workers without them having some experience.

Hubstaff says, “After skills and qualifications, we look for previous remote work experience in our candidates. It’s good to see that someone has been able to succeed at remote work before.

“You don’t really know until you’ve done it, if you will be happy,” says Timely.

Balsamiq makes a good point that a person’s experience with remote work can change over time.

“Previous work-at-home experience is a plus, especially if they’ve done it for a long time. Working at home is amazing for the first 6 months, great for the first 2 years, and can be tough after that unless you come up with your “system” for separating work from personal life.”

For Groove, the previous experience proves they will do well. “They have to have already built the accountability and productivity skills required for remote work.”

Testing for a Remote Worker Skill Set

While some companies are adamant that anyone could work remotely if necessary, it’s clear that there are certain types of people who do it well. Commonly those who have clear and descriptive written communication, those who take ownership of their role and subsequent task list and those who are disciplined and self-motivated, seem to thrive in a remote work lifestyle. This makes sense as remote work by nature means no shared office experience where colleagues can speak to face-to-face or check up on tasks regularly.

Whether you use interviews, test tasks, questionnaires or something else entirely the key is to test for the skill you’re interested in attracting.

“We usually start screening with things like written questions or exercises to get a feel for a candidate’s communication skills and the depth of their abilities in the area we’re looking to hire for,” Github shared via a remote.co thread.

If you want someone who can communicate clearly through email, consider undertaking an email exchange during the recruitment process. If you want someone who will follow instructions, place a task in your job advertisement to see who will follow through and who does their own thing.  To test for organisation skills, consider asking about their daily or weekly routines.

“We conduct [recruitment interviews] largely via text chat. It’s a good introduction for the person interviewing about how we communicate (very heavily text-based), and this also allows us to be able to interview people in different timezones,” Automattic says of their recruitment process via a remote.co thread

You can be as creative with this as you like, the important point is to have a metric for testing that works for you and your organisation.

“Some of the questions in the culture interview are pretty goofy, so one big red flag we have seen before is just a general bad attitude,” says Formstack on the same remote.co thread.  “When candidates act too cool to answer the questions or like the culture portion isn’t worth their time, it’s generally a sign they won’t really mesh with our team.”

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