By: Laurel Farrer
Whether you’re the interviewer or the interviewee, remote job interviews are a bit unique. There are several questions that need to be asked that you’ll never hear in a traditional interview, or maybe common interview questions that require completely different answers for a virtual role. Whichever side of the proverbial table you’re on, we want to help.
If you missed it, here are our 5 tips to help you prep for a remote job interview which helped job seekers get ready for the video call and helped interviewers know what to watch for. Today, we’re going to equip you with the knowledge that you’ll need after the webcam turns on and the interview starts. Here are some unique-to-remote-work questions (and answers) that might come up:
1. Why are you most interested in this role?
This is a go-to question for interviewers to filter serious candidates from applicants who just want to work remotely. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: the location of an applicant does not affect his or her qualifications. Candidates should always highlight their relevant experience and professional goals when responding to this question - not their desire to roam free outside of an office.
2. What is your typical course of action if/when you encounter a problem?
Virtual collaboration requires an intentional kind of communication - dependable proactivity, responsible information confirmation, and humble transparency. Asking about problem-solving can help hiring panels evaluate if a candidate is going to show a good balance between independent proactivity and collaborative teamwork.
3. How do you overcome a slump in creativity or productivity?
Self-management is a crucial trait of any remote worker. Employers want to know that an employee will be able to be self-disciplined enough to accomplish their work without the support of a team around them - during both the good times and the bad. The most common answer to this question is “go on a walk,” but creative answers can be great proof that the interviewee has personally mastered the art of working alone.
4. How do you maintain a work-life balance?
Isolation and burnout are two of the top three killers of remote work, and both are combatted with a healthy work-life balance. Interviewees beware, though, this can be a trick question! You might be tempted to answer this question too eagerly by listing all of the hobbies and opportunities that remote work will give you the freedom to do, but that could send the message to your future boss that you’ll be so excited about playing that you’ll forget to work. The keyword here is “balance.”
5. How do you avoid miscommunication?
Without in-person communication, it’s easy for messages to get lost in translation. All team members need to be responsible for their end of the message, whether they are giving or receiving. Great answers include: repeating/confirming project information or goals upon assignment and avoiding internal secret languages.
6. Why do you (or will you) thrive in a distributed company?
This needs to be a personal and meaningful response, so we can’t tell you what an answer could or should be. But we can tell you that responses that include virtual collaboration, diversity, or any other benefit of being a member of a remote team will hold a lot more weight than answers with traveling, commuting, or freedom.
7. What are some potential distractions in your workspace?
This is a great opportunity for candidates to show off both their transparency and their proactivity at the same time. Roommates, children, rabbit holes, and travel schedules can be tough to deal with while you’re supposed to be focused on work. It’s important that the response be honest, but also includes a plan of how to combat the concerns.
8. How does your personal mission align with our company mission?
Many remote job candidates apply to a job only because it’s remote, and they don’t care about the work or the company. Not feeling personally connected to the mission of the team will negatively affect intrinsic motivation and loyalty, so culture fit is equally as important in distributed teams as it is in co-located companies. Both parties need to make sure that they’re a good match for each other and are working toward the same goals.
9. When do you prefer to work during the day?
Every distributed company should have a canonical time zone, which includes an 8-hour window of “primary business hours” for that company. With employees around the globe, it is common that many team members work outside of these hours. Interviewers ask this question to confirm that the candidate will have at least a 2-4 hour overlap between their personal work schedule and the company business hours to accommodate meeting scheduling and team collaboration.
10. What skills do you think are necessary to be a successful remote worker?
Again, this is a sneaky question for the hiring committee to evaluate whether or not a candidate has remote work experience. Organization and writing skills are common novice answers but aren’t necessarily accurate. Instead, we think that these seven traits and habits will help any remote worker be successful. Interviewees, make sure that you share a personal experience with your answer to prove that you know what you’re talking about and aren’t just taking our word for it.
11. What concerns do you have about working remotely?
If a candidate cheerfully says, “Nothing!” it’s a dead giveaway that they are either lying or have never worked remotely before. From finding wifi signals, to managing distractions, to combatting isolation, remote work can be tough. An ideal answer here would include some transparency about an obstacle that the candidate has had to overcome, including the solution and results.
12. Something irrelevant and unexpected, like “What book(s) are you reading right now?”
Flexible work requires flexible employees. This is a simple way for interviewers to test a candidate’s ability to think on their feet and answer transparently about their work-life balance. Plus, it offers a little more insight into the interviewee’s personality to help assess for culture fit.
13. Something that no one knows the answer to
This is a trick question that can help an interviewer screen for all seven essential remote worker skills at the same time. Will the candidate lie about the answer, get unprofessionally defensive, or give up and say, “I don’t know?” Hopefully none of those things. Ideally, they will take responsibility, admit their ignorance, then offer a solution for finding the answer, ask creative questions, and seek advice. There are sure to be times during employment that the new hire won’t know the answer to something, therefore the manager needs to know that they’ll handle that scenario appropriately.
All great interviews end with the opportunity for the interviewee to take a stab at asking the questions instead of answering them. When a candidate passes up this opportunity, it can send the message to the hiring committee that they haven’t arrived prepared or don’t think through processes while they’re working.
It is crucial that every job seeker arrives at an interview with at least three questions to ask when prompted. Here are a few ideas to help inspire interviewees and prepare interviewers:
What collaboration tool does your team use - Slack, Asana, Trello, Huddle, Sococo…?
How would you describe the culture of your team and how do you all develop it together? (Hint: a great answer here would be an annual retreat!)
What rituals do you and your team enforce?
What is your onboarding process like?
How does your team combat the three remote work killers?
Does my team have a standup reporting meeting?
Whichever side of the screen you’re on, we wish you the best of luck during the interview!
Are you currently looking for a remote job or trying to fill a virtual position at your company? Which questions would you add to our list? Tweet us @yonder_io with the hashtag #newremotejob!