5 factors to look for when recruiting for a distributed team

As distributed & remote teams continue to be the standard to large enterprises, organisations need to change their approach to recruitment to ensure that new employees can thrive in this environment. I’ve put together 5 recommendations to remember when selecting, interviewing and recruiting staff for remote teams.

I should note that while this article relates primarily to distributed internal staff, the same principles apply to distributed outsourced staff.

  1. Technical Skill: This should go without saying; of course you want highly skilled professionals. Unfortunately, because of the cost-drivers that lead to distributed teams in the first place, often cheaper, less skilled, staff are recruited. This is a false economy; the overhead of both management and senior technical leaders is significantly increased. Usually this hidden cost is well above the “savings” from the recruitment of junior, or cheaper, staff.
  2. Communication: I talk about the value of communication all the time, and with good reason. I’ve seen, otherwise highly-skilled, professionals spend days and weeks trying to deliver the wrong feature. This is all due to a miscommunication with another team or team member. You need to ensure that a common language is spoken (whether it is English, French, Mandarin or Klingon) and that all team members are fluent in that language. Translators only introduce transcription errors.
  3. Quality Control / Testing Experience: Even if your distributed team has dedicated testers, all developers (and I’m assuming a software team here) must have significant experience in software testing. At a minimum unit testing and continuous integration (TDD is also a must), but also functional, system, integration and regression testing. By applying these skills, developers can reduce the impact of the communication latency between sites. If a message takes 24 hours for a round trip, e.g. India -> US -> India, then any simple errors can introduce weeks of delay as they pass between developers and testers.
  4. Passion: I will recruit someone with passion over experience any day. As long as there is a challenge, someone with passion will stay with your organisation and continue to learn & develop well beyond the initial context in which you hired them.
  5. Strong Sense of Team: This may seem counter-intuitive. If you’re working remotely, you may have very few (or no) team members co-located. However, rather than looking for someone who enjoys working along, you want to emphasise the “team” to counter the effect of the distance. You need staff that can build relationships, work together and communicate with their team regardless of distance or time difference.


Image is CC BY NC ND - Kicki (via Flickr)