If I have to build a virtual team of employees, what’s the most important thing to look for in candidates?

As remote jobs become more popular, managers and small business owners everywhere are beginning to ask themselves just that.

According to a January 2015 analysis of job postings on its own site, FlexJobs found a 26 percent increase in the number of remote job listings from 2013 to 2014. Additionally, an October 2014 SHRM survey of 592 HR professionals found 39 percent of respondent organizations are already offering telecommuting opportunities, and 83 percent believe they’ll become more prevalent in the next five years.

So, what should you focus on if you’re asked to build a virtual team? Job-related skills? Ability to communicate? Passion?

All of these are important to consider when putting together a virtual team that works efficiently, but as someone who manages a productive virtual team, they’re not the most important.

Instead, look at a candidate’s personality. Think about your team’s objectives and hire candidates whose personalities will complement one another and contribute to reaching those goals.

Here are three personality-based questions you need to ask before you build a virtual team

1. How collaborative does my team need to be?

Will they be working together on a regular basis? Or will they be working in their own silos and only collaborating when absolutely necessary?

Depending on your answer, you should be searching for candidates with different energy styles.

Collaborative teams require members who are open, energetic, and thrive when bouncing ideas off one another. In personality typing, these characteristics are ascribed to Extraverts, who get their energy from the outside world. If these are the employees you need, look for candidates who answer “yes” to the following questions:

  • Do you prefer working in a group?
  • Are you skilled at handling social situations?
  • Do you get your best ideas when you talk through things with others?

Their counterparts, Introverts, thrive in quiet, low-stimulus environments. They are typically better working on virtual teams where they are responsible for their own work and not forced to constantly collaborate. Here are some questions Introverts are likely to say “yes” to:

  • Are you quiet around strangers?
  • Do you come up with your best ideas when you’re alone?
  • Do brainstorming sessions tire you out?

2. How independent do I want my team to be?

Do you want to build a virtual team that follows your instructions exactly, allowing you to delegate repetitive tasks? Or are you looking for a virtual team that can act independently to solve problems and assist with your company’s overall strategy?

The answer to this question points to a key dimension of your ideal employee’s personality type. Isabel Briggs Myers described two types of people: Sensors, who think about things concretely, and Intuitives, who think about things in terms of abstractions and ideas. This personality preference has a major impact on how people approach tasks, as well as the types of projects at which they excel.

So, if you want to build a team that’s focused on maintaining a regular, step-by-step workflow that follows your explicit instructions, Sensors will be a good fit for your team. Sensors tend to have a high tolerance for repetitive tasks like organizing data, maintaining systems, and keeping standard processes moving along—the kind of tasks that would drive Intuitives crazy.

Here are some questions that will help you find hard working Sensors to keep the machinery of your business running smoothly:

  • Do you prefer to follow trusted methods when solving problems?
  • Do you consider yourself more practical than creative?

If, on the other hand, you’re looking for strategic thinkers who will take the goals you give them and start problem-solving without a step-by-step plan, focus on hiring Intuitives. Since they like to see the big picture first and fill in the details second, they are strong assets when it comes to strategic planning and projects requiring creativity.

Here are some questions Intuitive candidates will say “yes” to in an interview:

  • Do you often think about the end result and then figure out how to get there?
  • Are you likely to think about and try multiple solutions to solve a problem?

3. What career path am I offering my virtual team?

Will they have opportunities for upward mobility, or are you hiring team members who are expected to be productive and satisfied doing work that positively impacts your clients?

The values dimension of personality type measures an individual’s style of decision making and whether they tend to prioritize objective or subjective information. Thinkers are more logical and rational and tend to gravitate toward positions where they can demonstrate competence, achieve individual success, and gain power and influence.

At the other end of the spectrum, Feelers are more compassionate, empathic decision-makers. They look for work that reflects their values and fulfills their need to help others.

What’s nice about having Thinkers on your virtual team is that they are concerned with the work. They often feel rewarded just by doing their jobs correctly, so they don’t need constant praise from superiors, colleagues, or clients -- a great asset in a virtual teammate.

Hiring Thinkers in roles with no chance for upward mobility, however, is a recipe for disaster. Thinkers tend to be motivated by the opportunity for increased earnings, more responsibility, and recognition of their professional development. If they see no path upward in your organization, they’ll quickly become apathetic.

Here are some questions that can help you spot a Thinker:

  • How would you measure success in this role?
  • What are your career goals?

Similarly, if you hire Feelers for virtual positions where they can’t make connections between the work they do and the impact they’re making on the outside world, they may lose interest and feel less engaged. In other words, Feelers want to see the impact of their work on people. Therefore, they tend to excel when they have opportunities to receive positive feedback from colleagues or clients.

Ask these questions to spot Feelers in your talent pool:

  • How do your values align with those of this organization?
  • What makes you excited to get out of bed everyday and go to work?

Before you start to build a virtual team, think about what you want it to achieve, how you want it to operate, and how collaborative you want it to be. Then, find candidates whose personalities will come together to make those goals a reality.

What other personality traits do you think might be important to consider when you build a virtual team?

Heather R. Huhman
Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies.