Remote Job Candidates: 18 Red Flags to Look For

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To help you identify potential issues when hiring remote workers, we gathered insights from 18 professionals, including CEOs, HR managers, and marketing experts. From recognizing limited availability or flexibility to spotting a lack of interest in the company, these experts share their top red flags to look for in remote job candidates.

1. Limited Availability or Flexibility

As someone who has worked remotely for several years, I believe that limited availability or flexibility is a significant red flag to look for in remote job candidates. Remote work requires a high degree of self-discipline and the ability to manage time effectively. Therefore, candidates who are not available during regular business hours or have limited availability may struggle to meet project deadlines and communicate effectively with the team. Additionally, remote work often requires adapting to different time zones and accommodating team members across different locations. Hence, being inflexible with work schedules or availability could pose a significant challenge to the workflow of a remote team.

Natalia Brzezinska, Marketing & Outreach Manager, ePassportPhoto

2. Unprofessional Virtual Presentation

When interviewing virtually, the way candidates present themselves on camera matters. They need to be decently dressed, in a quiet space, and with a clean and neat background. If you’re meeting with a job candidate on Zoom and they’re dressed inappropriately, there’s a lot of background noise, or you can see a load of laundry behind them, this candidate may not have the best sense of professionalism, which is essential for both in‑person and remote workplaces.

Drew Sherman, Vice President of Marketing, RPM

3. Digital Illiteracy

It’s difficult to gauge an applicant’s digital acumen without speaking face-to-face. However, if the potential candidate has technical skills that are required for the job or are related to the field, it can be a warning sign that they might not understand how technology works and how to best use it in their position. An example of this would be a data entry role where someone misinterprets text fields as numbers, or vice versa. This shows either a lack of understanding about basic inputting mechanics or that they aren’t paying attention during the interview process — both of which may indicate a lack of commitment that isn’t suitable for remote work.

Carly Hill, Operations Manager, Virtual Holiday Party

4. Shifting Career Paths

When evaluating remote job candidates, one red flag to look for is evidence of a "shifting career path," which means multiple unrelated roles over a short period of time. For example, if the candidate had three jobs over the last two years with no clear trajectory or correlation between them, this could be indicative that they may have trouble committing to long-term projects or find it difficult to stay in touch with new technologies and trends in the field. Although not always necessarily a negative indicator, employers should investigate this type of pattern further when considering a remote job candidate.

Michael Alexis, CEO, Virtual Team Building

5. Unclear Work History

Ask some questions to determine if this is a red flag situation. Has the candidate been in similar roles before? If not, can you ascertain from their resume that they have the necessary skills to handle this kind of work? Are there any gaps in their work history that should raise questions about why they’ve never held down an enduring job or if they have issues with sticking with projects through completion?

Roksana Bielecka, Community Manager, ResumeHelp

6. Inconsistent Communication Patterns

Strong and consistent communication is fundamental to the success of remote work. If a candidate fails to respond promptly, lacks clarity in their responses, or has a disorganized communication style during the hiring process, it may hint at potential challenges in a remote work setting. This could mean they might struggle to keep up with regular virtual team communications, project updates, or meeting deadlines, which are essential components of effective remote work. By observing communication patterns early on, you can better evaluate a candidate’s suitability for remote roles.

Will Gill, Event Entertainer, DJ Will Gill

7. Self-Discipline Issues

When working remotely, it’s important to be self-motivated and disciplined. Remote job candidates who lack self-discipline may struggle to stay focused and productive while working from home. To be precise, a giant red flag is a candidate who has a history of missing deadlines or not delivering work on time. This may indicate that they struggle with time management or may not take their work seriously.

Evander Nelson, NASM-Certified Personal Trainer, Evander Nelson SEO & Content Marketing

8. Shaky Commitment to Remote Work

Most people like the idea of working remotely and do quite well, but others just aren’t sure about the change to their lifestyle. Some people just don’t see themselves doing it long-term, and they could be filling a void as they look for an on‑location job that really tickles their fancy. Maybe they want to be in an office and live that work life, and remote working just doesn’t scratch the itch they have. I don’t want to hire someone to work remotely, only to have them leave for an in‑office job shortly after, so this is something I always look out for.

Shaun Connell, Founder & CEO, U.S. Dictionary

9. Selfishness and Solo Attitude

While it’s important that a remote job candidate explains their experience and skills in an interview, it’s equally important for them to articulate how they can contribute to the company. Candidates who talk more about themselves than anything else may show you a red flag. When asked about projects, if their primary focus is on their own contributions and achievements and not the overall team success, know that this is a warning sign — especially considering that remote work for many companies can be heavily based on collaboration in order to operate smoothly.

Brian Lee, Co‑Founder & CEO, Arena Club

10. Resistance to Tech Adoption

When working remotely, it’s important for candidates to be adaptable and willing to learn new technologies and processes. Those who resist change may struggle to adapt to a remote work environment and may not be the best fit for the role. Additionally, the ability to learn and adapt quickly is crucial in today’s fast-paced business world.

Ben Lau, Founder, Featured SEO Company

11. Overcommitment to Multiple Projects

While many remote workers successfully juggle multiple responsibilities, it’s important to assess whether a candidate can dedicate the necessary time and effort to your project. Ensure they can prioritize tasks effectively and maintain the level of commitment required for the role.

Aysu Erkan, Social Media Manager, Character Calculator

12. No Initiative or Proactivity

With remote workers, people can overly focus on the interpersonal aspects. Although it’s natural to want employees who feel comfortable working on their own, it’s more important that they can motivate themselves without direct managerial supervision. Consequently, hiring for initiative and proactivity should be a major priority when recruiting remote workers. Highly proactive remote workers will autonomously take responsibility for tasks and can be relied upon to organize their workload without micromanagement. Those who lack initiative, however, will quickly find themselves feeling lost. Once they finish their assigned tasks, they simply wait for further instruction, wasting time in the interim. This makes proactivity especially important for remote workers, and should always be accounted for in the recruitment process.

Chloe Yarwood, HR Manager, Test Partnership

13. Vague Employment History and References

Inquire about a possible applicant’s employment history and references. Make sure to thoroughly examine them to determine whether they accurately reflect the abilities you require. If a candidate claims to be a qualified and experienced specialist but cannot supply you with any documentation, be wary. They might be hiding some unfavorable references, or it could be a sign of dishonesty. A lack of references can indicate a person won’t perform effectively or won’t be able to choose tasks well. Observe who an applicant mentions as references as well. Former superiors or bosses are a good indication. A prospective employee might use references from former coworkers or acquaintances to downplay negative events. Vague responses are also a warning sign. It indicates that a person is either unengaged or hesitant to interact and be open with you.

Joe Li, Managing Director, CheckYa

14. Extreme Introversion or Shyness

Avoid those who use the word introverted or shy to describe themselves. Remote work should never act as a crutch for the socially anxious among us. These workers tend to retreat deeper into isolation the longer they work from home, leading to increased mental health issues as social connections dwindle. It’s a bit counterintuitive, but extroverts tend to thrive in remote positions. Their mental health rarely suffers as the drive to socialize keeps them connected. This same tendency extends to their co‑workers, meaning collaboration rates stay high. They’re less likely to hesitate before reaching out, making physical distance a non‑issue.

Linn Atiyeh, CEO, Bemana

15. No Online Portfolio or Resume

It can be difficult to get an accurate assessment of a candidate’s capabilities without access to their past projects and achievements. Be sure to ask the candidate for links to their portfolio, resume, and/or any other relevant materials that might give you a better understanding of their skills and experience.

Nick Varga, Chief Riding Officer, ERide Journal

16. Inadequate Internet Connection

A lagging internet connection can be a sign that the candidate has inadequate equipment or a poor home network, both of which can negatively affect their performance. Make sure to ask questions about their setup during the interview and ensure they have a reliable connection. If the position requires video conferencing or other online communication, you may want to ask the candidate to provide proof of their internet connection speed. This can help you ensure that they have a strong and consistent connection and won’t be dealing with lagging or other connection issues while they work.

Leo Vaisburg, Managing Partner, Amazon Suspension Lawyer

17. Poor Communication Skills

In a remote work environment, clear and effective communication is essential for successful collaboration and project completion. Candidates who struggle with communication may have difficulty expressing themselves, which could lead to misunderstandings, missed deadlines, and a breakdown in teamwork. They may also have difficulty responding promptly to emails, messages, or phone calls, which could cause delays and disruptions in the work process. During the hiring process, ask candidates about their communication preferences and habits, as well as their experience of working in a remote environment. You can conduct a live video interview to assess a candidate’s ability to communicate effectively in real time. This can also help you evaluate their nonverbal communication skills, such as facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.

Kimberley Tyler-Smith, VP of Strategy & Growth, Resume Worded

18. Lack of Interest in Company

When hiring for remote positions, it is crucial to ensure that the candidate is genuinely interested in the company and its mission. Remote work requires a high level of self-motivation and dedication, and without a strong interest in the organization, the candidate may not be fully committed to their work.

David Bui, Director & Automotive Lead Specialist, Schmicko

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