Remote Job Interview: Interview Questions to Ask a Remote Worker
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Remote work became the new buzzword in the spring of 2020 amongst the coronavirus pandemic.
More employees than ever before grabbed their laptops, said goodbye to that comfortable office chair, and headed straight home.
However, it's 2022 already and the number of remote workers only seems to be increasing. Remote work is not exclusive to the startup world anymore. Even those who were always against this type of work distribution, are now leaning towards the comfort of the home office. This means that remote job ads now have more applicants than ever.
Human Resources departments are facing the rarely-seen challenge of having to weed through hundreds of interested applicants. Not everyone is fit to be a remote worker, no matter how much they want it. And the role of a recruiter is to find the right one, using remote recruitment strategy and well-thought-out interview questions.
What should you look for when hiring a remote worker?
Hiring remote employees differs a lot from hiring office-based ones. Methods of working are incomparable, and although the job still needs to get done how it will get done couldn't be any different. These two situations require two completely different skill sets, which is why the already-existing recruiting strategy needs to be adjusted in order to fit the ideal remote employee. What should you require from employees that are working from home full-time?
1. Advanced organizational skills
Every remote team member, even the one that is just starting their career, has more autonomy and independence than an employee working in an office. Simply put, no one is looking over their shoulder to criticize, encourage, remind or simply comment.
They spend most of their time being responsible for their own productivity and results. This is why you need someone who won't get overwhelmed with the amount of work in combination with all the distractions their home office can offer. Unfortunately, not many people can do that.
2. Ability to self-motivate
Has it ever happened to you that you really didn't feel like working, but your favorite coworker took you out on a break and helped you get your groove back? Well, that can't happen when you work from home.
The support from colleagues is virtual, and that just isn't the same. For some people, the physical connection and the joint experiences are the highlights of their workday, and those people would be terrible remote employees. Learn how to weed them out with interview questions you can find down below.
3. Communicational proficiency
Saying everything face-to-face is so much easier... But, what if you can't? A lot can get lost in translation when you are using Slack, or other messaging tools, instead of coffee breaks.
Traditional offices used to have a regular hanging spot for moral support and office gossip, and creating a watercooler Zoom meeting simply won't do the trick. This is why your remote job seeker needs to be a great communicator. A lot will hand in the balance if he is lacking in that area.
4. Innovation amid restrictions
Just imagine a fancy conference room, snacks on the table, flipchart behind a coworker vividly explaining their next big idea, there is a stress ball somewhere in sight, and everyone starts bouncing ideas off each other, leading to the company's next big breakthrough.
Well, it doesn't look like that when you are a part of a distributed team. A lot of spectacular new ideas happen while the team is apart, on a video call, or writing frantically in the group channel. You are going to want to hire someone whose creativity isn't dependent on external factors, so they can continue to thrive under different circumstances.
5. Solid understanding of technology
We all have that one colleague that can't even print a file without calling someone from the IT department to assist them. Or the ones whose headphones always seem to be malfunctioning.
Although IT support is available to remote teams as well, it is still preferable to hire someone that is able to fix most of the minor stuff by themself. Having issues with technology really isn't a good look for someone aspiring to be hired for a remote position - using tools such as Google Docs, Google Drive, Outlook, Hangouts, Trello, and any other app that boosts organization and productivity should be considered a must.
What kind of interview questions to ask
Now that you have a better understanding of the ideal remote worker, you can start preparing for the remote job interview. We have listed several job interview questions that will help you get to know your candidates and understand them better. Their answers should help you decide if they can be a good fit for the role that you are offering. But no worries, we have given you info on how to judge that as well. So, let's get started.
Although it's the role of the candidate to impress you as a recruiter, you should pay attention to the fact that they are choosing the company as well. Here are some important tasks that you should do before you start the interview. That way, if you encounter the perfect candidate for your remote position, they will be delighted with the company and you will have no problem getting them onboard.
1. Read the job description carefully
If you work in a big company chances are you didn't write the job ad for the remote position you are offering. But, the candidate doesn't know that! Get familiar with all of the aspects of the role you are offering, so your questions will be straight to the point. If you aren't sure what some aspects of the job entail, consult the hiring manager. They should be able to fill you in on everything you aren't familiar with.
2. Study the candidate's CV and adjust the questions accordingly
Every person you will encounter has a different story, and although you should treat them the same, you most certainly shouldn't ask them the same fixed set of questions. Apart from the standard list, deviate in order to accommodate their unique life and work experience. The more you get to know them, the easier it will be to determine who the best addition to your company is.
3. Prepare your own workspace and tools beforehand
There is no easier way to diminish your own credibility and your company's reputation than by starting your video interview in a messy environment and with malfunctioning tools. In order to leave a good impression and woo the candidate during the interview process - start on time, with no objects or people cluttering your space, and do a test run of all the tools you will be using. Always test your internet connection, so you won't be surprised if the call drops.
In addition to this, make sure you have given all the necessary info to the candidate, such as tools, time zones, estimated time, and who else will be joining the call.
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Introductory interview questions:
Open up with a few ice breaker questions
Having a job interview on a video chat isn't the most comfortable setting for most people. If your remote candidates are nervous, you won't really get to see how good they are, which is the whole point. In order to make them feel more relaxed, start the interview with a few ice breaker questions. They shouldn't be something banal, like questions about the weather or lunch, since nobody likes answering them and they bring no value to the conversation. They should be something relating to the job they are seeking, but not too serious or difficult to answer.
How did you hear about this job opening?
This is a very simple question for the beginning of the interview and it can help you learn two things. One is the source of the recruitment, which you can use later to gather and analyze data, and the other is how the candidate goes about finding their next career opportunity. You can also ask a couple of follow-up questions and learn more about their job-seeking methods.
Have you ever had contact with our company, as a customer or as a candidate, and what was your experience?
It is always interesting to see how people outside of your company experience it, and what kind of attributes they associate with it. If they've never had any contact, go deeper and ask if they know other employees, if they've seen ads, social media posts, blogs, etc.
Interview questions to get to know their motivation and values
Even before you assess if a candidate would be a good fit for the company based on their experience and knowledge, you should try to determine how would they fit into the company culture. If you assess that they would be a good match, finding a place for them shouldn't be any trouble. On the other hand, if their personality and values aren't aligned with the work environment you are fostering, all that sparking resume will essentially go to waste. Let's see what are the best questions to get the answers you were looking for.
What did you like the most in the job ad?
A twist on the well-known What do you like about this job question, this one should let you know what they remembered most about the posting, which reveals what is it they really care about. If they get off track and start admiring the job ad, gently direct them about what they found most appealing. Once you get their answer, dive deeper into the topic with a follow-up question or two.
Why did you choose to apply for a remote position?
This seems like such a basic, ordinary question, but it can actually reveal quite a lot about the candidate. In which way? Well, in order to choose the best candidate for the job look for the one whose motivation is deeply rooted in their values. For example, if they want to work remotely so they will have more free time for their family, which can indicate that they value their time and that they will be more productive and eager to work more efficiently. For those types of workers switching them to be result-oriented, rather than to work 9 to 5 can make a very big difference.
However, if they say something along the lines of - my office is far from my home, I dislike long commute, it is very noisy in my current job - and similar motivations, that doesn't mean that they want to work from home. They just want to work in an office that is closer to them with quieter people. After a while, they will probably be bored working alone and not having to leave the house, and they will start looking for another job.
What do you like the most about the job you are currently doing?
If someone is actively seeking out another job opportunity, they will surely be ready to talk about the reason behind it. They will try to explain their situation without bad-mouthing their current employee, and you can easily learn what they lack in their current role. But almost no candidate talks about what they like and appreciate about the job they are doing. Why does this matter so much? Well, because that was their motivation for staying, and it is something that matters to them, even if they aren't aware of that.
So, if a candidate really appreciates the aspects of their current job that you can't fulfill with the remote position you are offering, it would be best to continue the search.
Interview questions about their experiences and education
Now that the candidate is relaxed and invested, and you've learned more about what drives them, you can go to the next phase, the questions about their career, so far. It is crucial that you assess if their chosen path has given them enough tools and knowledge to be a successful remote worker.
How did your previous experiences prepare you for a remote position?
Although surely some candidates will have a lot of interesting and valuable things in their biography, what really matters is how it is related to their next career step with your company. Another important piece of information is what are the values and qualities they find relevant to working from home. Pay attention to this answer and see how it aligns with your own vision for the particular job post.
How did you resolve miscommunications in your previous roles?
There is no role, team, or company that is free of conflict, misunderstandings, and communication challenges. However, remote teams face another challenge of not being able to talk face to face. Teamwork is the foundation of every company, and having the ability to focus on problem-solving instead of passing guilt around is of crucial value to any potential employee.
This question can let you know a lot about their preferred method of conflict resolution, and which steps they take in order to get out of a messy situation. Make sure to also ask them to describe a situation where they were the culprit and not the victim.
Interview questions to learn more about their chosen methods of work
Every remote employee faces the challenge of self-organization, and all the fancy PM tools can't help someone who isn't able to deal with this issue on its own. Fortunately, some people are naturally good at this, or they have developed this skill over time. Your new hire definitely needs to have a good grasp on their work schedule, in order to limit the time-consuming micromanagement or check-ins from their superiors after the trial period is over.
What tools do you use to increase your productivity?
If you ask the candidate how they organize their time they will tell you that they are great at that and that you shouldn't worry about it. You won't learn that much if you don't include some unusual questions in your remote interview process.
If you ask them which tools they are using they will be forced to essentially explain to you how they organize their day and tasks. You can use that info to judge if they are optimizing their time, if they spend way too much time planning instead of doing and if the tools they are using are similar or comparable to the ones your company has chosen.
What is your ideal home office setup?
Although it seems like a very easy-going question when a candidate reveals to you what they strive for it can help you learn whether or not you can fill that gap. If your company has incentives for home offices or other perks and benefits, you can use them to convince the candidate that you are the best option for their next career step. By this part of the interview, you should already have a pretty clear picture of whether or not this candidate would be a good fit for your company.
Interview questions about the candidate's personal life
Asking questions that weren't work-related used to be frowned upon in the HR community. However, the times have changed and now most people realize that work life and personal life can't really be all that separated. All of the strengths and weaknesses that we have in our personal life tend to overflow in the professional one, proving that there isn't a strict line and that every employee is a whole package of all of their experiences. The same goes for candidates, so don't glance over these questions, they are just as important as every other, if not more.
What does work-life balance mean to you?
A lot of companies are highlighting this concept as a benefit they are offering, but the balance in these two areas isn't the same for everyone. In order to see if an employee would be a good fit, you can't neglect their private life, especially if you are hiring someone to work from home. Their private life is now your office, so to speak.
So, ask them, and ask them in detail about the importance of this balance, and how they see it. Figure out which arrangement would make them happy and see if your company can provide those conditions.
Have you ever had experience with burnout?
One of the biggest challenges for remote workers is burnout - working from home sometimes means that you are always working. If a candidate tells you that they've had experiences likes this, don't toss them aside - their ability to overcome these types of challenges can be of great value to their next team and coworkers.
Ask them to tell you why they reached that point, how did they notice it and what did they do to make themselves feel better. Watch for their emotional involvement, and how has this episode affected their mental health and ability to be a productive part of the team.
Hiring remote workers is a complex process that should be set up with a clear structure and an end goal in mind. These questions can help you choose the best possible candidate while making a strong positive impact even on the ones you decide to reject. Maintain a good reputation of your company while finding the very best new addition, that will help you grow even more.