What to Look for in a Virtual Employee

Virtual employees can be a great commodity for your startup. When you’re not limited by geography, you have a much wider pool of talent from which to choose the best candidate. Not to mention, having an employee work remotely saves you time, money, and office space.

virtual staff at work
Image by Alan Clark

The criteria for choosing a virtual employee differ from that of a traditional job candidate who performs work within your office. Because you have less oversight of their activities, you need to know that your remote employee has a history of completing tasks on time and a comprehensive knowledge of digital communications and social platforms. So, instead of sticking to the usual hiring procedures laid out by your HR software, focus more closely on these necessary skills to find the best suited candidate.


Because they won’t be in an office environment that promotes productivity, your employee needs to be able to self-manage and motivate. They have the flexibility to work the hours they prefer, but should still be able to meet your deadlines. Virtual employment is still a new concept, so it’s entirely possible your job candidate has never worked remotely before.

  • During the interview, ask your candidate simple questions to determine their previous work environments and working style.
  • In this case, professional references can give useful insight into your candidate’s ability to self-motivate and successfully work remotely. Ask their references how well they worked on solo tasks and if they consistently met project deadlines.

Digital Abilities

Your primary means of connecting with your virtual employee is through digital communications, including VOIP, email, chat, and social platforms.

  • Your employee needs to have a significant knowledge base of these forms of digital communications.
  • No matter how motivated your employee is, if they can’t communicate effectively through modern means, they will have trouble maintaining a successful working relationship.

Emotional Intelligence

Concurrent with their increased ability to self-motivate, your virtual employee must also possess a greater amount of emotional intelligence in order to work effectively. These traits are especially important in the virtual work environment where there is less oversight or immediate feedback.

  • Emotional intelligence encompasses a number of traits: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and relationship management, among others.
  • A good way to determine a job candidate’s emotional intelligence is to ask them questions designed to determine how they react to certain conditions or situations: “Can you tell me about a time when you had to juggle multiple deadlines? Can you tell me about a time when you had to deal with an unhappy customer?”

Your virtual employees use different skills and abilities than those who come to work each day in your office. For example, you can’t have immediate oversight of their activities, so be sure to hire employees who will independently motivate themselves and meet deadlines with little prompting.

The virtual workplace is growing, and its benefits are shared between employers and employees. When you’ve hired the right people, this trend can cut costs, increase productivity, and help make your business a success.

About the Author: Jessica Sanders is an avid small business writer. As the marketing copyeditor of ResourceNation.com she touches on a range of topics such as HR software.