This paper analyses the barriers to work faced by long- and short-term unemployed people in remote rural labour markets. Applying a broad concept of ‘employability’ as an analytical framework, it considers the attributes and experiences of 190 job seekers (22% of the registered unemployed) in two contiguous travel-to-work areas (Wick and Sutherland) in the northern Highlands of Scotland. The labour demand side of employability is also considered through interviews with 17 employers. The paper identifies the specific job search and other employment problems faced by unemployed people living in isolated rural communities (labour supply); considers the perspective of employers (labour demand); and discusses potential policies to address the needs of unemployed individuals. Many job seekers were found to have gaps in generic and job-specific skills, whilst some (particularly males) were reluctant to pursue opportunities in non-traditional sectors of the economy. The importance of informal job search and recruitment networks (which may exclude the young and the long-term unemployed) and the lack of access to formal employment services in remote areas also potentially contributed to labour market disadvantage. Holistic and client-centred solutions are required to address the barriers faced by these rural job seekers, including adult basic education provision, flexible training focussing on skills and work experience with particular relevance to the new rural economy, and support services for job seekers in isolated areas. These supply-side policies should be combined with demand-side measures to stimulate endogenous and exogenous growth in isolated local economies.