Picture this scenario: You're pregnant with your second child with toddler in tow and you need income. You start applying for professional work to put that business degree and tech skills to use, but can't find a job because no company offers flexible work options.

If that sounds familiar, Sara Sutton can empathize with you. She founded FlexJobs during her first pregnancy for the same reasons. As a working mom who is passionate about improving lives through flexible work options, her company serves the needs of remote workers, digital nomads and people who want more freedom, work/life balance or just want to escape the office! Naturally, she also built a company that operates with a remote workforce.

As part of FlexJobs, Sara started Remote.co, a fabulous resource for companies looking for expert insight, best practices, advocacy and support about anything related to remote work and virtual teams. Got a question? They have the answer.

Speaking of questions, remote job candidates wishing to get the inside track should tune in. Remote.co has asked leading startup firms this question: What traits do you look for in candidates for a remote job?

The cat is out of the bag. Responses were numerous and besides a pattern of previous remote work experience and obvious discipline required, I have picked out the top 15 answers that caught my eye. Happy virtual job-hunting!

GitHub, Inc. (Online project hosting using Git)

  • Written communication. When you're remote, a majority of the way you interface with the world will be through written word.
  • Discipline. Working well autonomously, being self-motivated enough to stay productive without someone looking over their shoulder.
  • Decisiveness. Timezones are tricky, and it's often necessary for remote employees to make decisions with imperfect information, even if the right person isn't around in the moment to make the decision themselves.
  • Interests outside work. If someone is going to be working from home, then it's really important that they have hobbies, friendships, and things to do outside of work.

Beutler Ink (digital content development agency)

Anyone who writes a clear, well-presented note and includes all the requested enclosures with their application is going to get our attention. Even more so if they reply in a timely manner to our initial response. A confused (or confusing!) application email, with missing enclosures (no CV or cover letter) is a sign that an applicant is not going to follow written instruction well and is not going to give clear updates on project status.

Automattic (web development)

We look for people that are self-starters/have a high degree of independence, value continuous learning, and are receptive to feedback. 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.

Workfrom (online community)

Emotional maturity, strong written communication skills, time management, self-direction, appreciation of animated gifs and virtual high-fives.

Greenback Expat Tax Services (expat tax services for US expats)

The discipline trait is obviously critical since there is no day-to-day monitoring of their activities. We have to trust that they are doing their job and that distractions are minimized during working hours--and that takes discipline.

LoveToKnow (online media)

One trait I look for is great communications skills - We stay productive by staying in touch, offering status reports, working through challenges and these things are all easier when everyone is communicative.

The Cheat Sheet (modern man's premium lifestyle site)

Someone who is accustomed to having a huge part of their social life come from work can raise a red flag. We lean towards candidates who love to travel, value having a flexible lifestyle, or have worked remotely in the past.

CloudPeeps (talent matching service for professional freelancers)

I look to see if a candidate has freelanced or worked independently in the past. I also look for someone who's been through a redundancy or period of change and uncertainty. These qualities build up a deep resilience and mature career mindset.

Groove (help desk software development)

Candidates must have experience working remotely or running their own business. They have to have already built the accountability and productivity skills required for remote work.

Simple [A] (distributed technology consulting and training company)

People who do not need step-by-step guidance or a single well-defined job or limited set of responsibilities works well. You are proactive, even heroic, fundamentally honest and can communicate well with the team through the day.

TeamGantt (project scheduling software)

They should be good self-starters that don't [need] to be micromanaged. It's extremely hard to micromanage remotely and not something that we want to have to do.

Teleport (global team building software for digital nomads)

We have a strong bias for people who have proven remote collaboration experience (if not full-time work then even as freelancers, participating in international communities, etc.). And also we have bias for people who have lived in multiple countries and cities. This way you can at least know they can appreciate basic things like timezones and long-distance communication tricks.

World Wide Web Hosting (web hosting and cloud services)

We've found that it is imperative to find candidates that have a social foundation outside of work. People that rely on work for this tend to be unsuccessful in remote positions, so we focus on finding people that gain their social side of life from other avenues. We always ask candidates about what they enjoy doing outside of work as this glimpse into their activities and hobbies provides a solid indication for assessing this trait.

Balsamiq (wireframing and mock up tool with a high focus on usability)

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.

Go Fish Digital (digital marketing agency)

One thing we've found is that the more entrepreneurial-spirited candidates tended to have a harder time focusing on the tasks at hand when working remotely. I think the nature of remote work gives a sense of freedom, as it should. However, that freedom to someone who wants to run their own business can translate into them spending more time doing their own thing rather than their actual job. So we shy away from people who are ultimately looking to eventually start their own business.

Published on: Apr 28, 2017
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