How to select the best applicants for your remote job opening

This post is an excerpt from my book DISTRIBUTED.

You are hiring remotely on your own and it is challenging. But let's say, you have mastered the art of writing an amazing job post and you have applicants. Once you have applicants, filter them out.


Start with the ones which I call “dust”, those who just didn’t get what the job is all about or they look like professional fakes. Reject these promptly but politely. A nice quick email will do. Then move on to those who look at least a bit promising. Filter out those, who complies with the basic needs: their skills match your criteria. Remember, you are looking for someone for the long-term so having skills to do the job is a must but even more importantly, you need to work with them for a very long time hopefully, so the cultural fit is even more important than skills. Consider skills and capabilities as the basic line of requirements – it doesn’t get the candidate anywhere yet, just to the front of the door.


Look for the five essential elements and test them out:

Previous remote working experience. This is very important, you don’t want someone who’s just starting out to work remotely. Working remotely is totally different than working traditionally. If they have worked remotely for more than a year, even better, this means remote working is great for them and they did their first lags and mistakes and now they are productive, proactive and cooperative in a remote working environment.

Expert communicators. In a traditional office you have a kitchen where all the conversations are going, also it is easy to tap someone and grab a bite outside and talk. In remote working, there are no such things – however, there are some supplements to these habits. You have to look for those who are experts in written communication. Anyone who’s oversharing everything in writing but still manages to stay sharp and on-point is great. Look for someone who thinks “what’s not written down, doesn’t exist.” Having a slight graphomania is better than having zero communication. You don’t want to work with someone remotely who communicates in 3-words sentences only. 

Natural born project manager. Even if the job is not about project management. Your best candidate has to be able to prioritize tasks and has to do it independently. There’s no office where you can just walk onto someone and ask: what’s up. Due to timezones and work-from-home issues, there might be hourly lags between feedbacks on inquiries – there’s no time for always debriefing and re-briefing. Your candidate has to have basic project management skills or they can’t survive in a remote working environment.

Proactivity. This is essential for every employee but even more important for remote workers. As you don’t have the ability to overlook their time, as they are not in the office where you can see them – however, I would argue if you have the same control over your normal employee – they sometimes finish off tasks before deadline. And they sit on it. This is where proactivity comes in, they have to be able to stand up and claim responsibility and ownership. 

Trust your first impression.I know it sounds harsh, but this matters. If someone walks into your office to a job interview, you always have a first impression. Sometimes they can talk themselves out from it and assure you, they are worth your time. In remote hiring, you have the same issues but this time, your candidate is super transparent. You can look up online, you can do a background check, you can check the credentials, you can surf and peek into their lives. Most of them are public and there is nothing wrong with doing a background check. If something looks fishy, don’t even bother to move on with them. Trust your gut and only hire someone who you trust.

Let’s say you narrowed them further to a small selection. No matter what job you are onto or what stage your business is, your next step is to get a first screening interview with the top candidates. These interviews are one-on-one interviews. The goal of these interviews are the same: check how the candidate communicates and how the chemistry works for you. Here, little things matter. Pay very special attention to how the candidates communicate during the process, before, during and after the interview. 



At Anywhere Consulting, we help entrepreneurs to launch, build and grow their remote business. We provide support and consulting services as well as educational products to overcome the challenges of remote businesses. If you are a freelancer who wants to launch a distributed business or you already have an established business but want to grow remotely, we can help you.