Interview questions to ask remote
Interviewing remote workers is much
different than hiring for a traditional, on-site position. In addition to the
usual questions about knowledge, hard skills and experience, interviewing
candidates for a remote position must take into account commitment,
communication skills, conflict resolution, motivation and technology prowess.
"There are some differences to
look for when you're hiring remote workers. You need to emphasize constant
communication, availability and collaboration skills, as well as the ability to
work independently, to solve problems and resolve conflicts and be able to
gauge productivity," says Madhav Bhandari, head of growth at cloud
productivity management and time tracking software company Hubstaff. These
questions will help you find the perfect fit.
What's your remote work experience?
previous remote work experience isn't the only predictor of a candidate's
suitability, it can be useful to gauge their comfort level and reliability,
says Tricia Sciortino, president at virtual assistant outsourcing firm eaHELP.
want to know where they're starting from. Are they an old pro who's been
working remotely for years? Or would this be their first experience working
remotely? That can help us tailor the rest of the interview. If they already
have the necessary mindset, the right tools and are used to working without
on-site supervision, it lets us move on to other areas of the interview,"
2. What tools do you use to manage
and complete work remotely?
Collaboration apps, email, time
management and tracking software, messaging apps, video calling and
conferencing technology -- these are all necessary tools for a remote worker's
arsenal, says Sciortino. For her organization, all candidates must meet a set
of basic technology requirements and all interviews are performed using video
and a webcam.
"All of our interviews are done
via webcam, both to assess body language cues and to check someone's basic
technical capability and ability. Do they have a webcam? Can they operate it?
Can they figure out different video and collaboration platforms -- like
GoToMeeting, Zoom, Skype?" she says. We require candidates to meet certain
minimum technology requirements, too, including a reliable, high-speed Internet
connection with enough bandwidth to do video calls, Wi-Fi, a smartphone and a
computer with minimum speeds and operating system versions, she says.
3. What's your home office like?
Though not everyone is privileged
enough to have a separate, dedicated home office, it's important that they have
some kind of distinct workspace, Sciortino says.
"We ask this question because
having that type of space shows commitment and dedication to working -- even if
it's just a small table in a corner of your living room, or a specific area set
up in your bedroom that's devoted to work, we want remote workers to have a
space where they can get into 'work mode'," she says.
4. How do you manage conflicts or
issues when working remotely?
Communication and collaboration are
the linchpins of a successful remote work strategy, so it's vital to make sure
a candidate can handle little problems smoothly and tactfully before they
become big problems, says Hubstaff's Bhandari.
"Managing disagreements or
conflicts with managers, coworkers and other colleagues is critical, especially
for remote workers who are more independent. Are they comfortable tackling
these politely, tactfully and quietly? Do they know when to ask for help, and
who to ask? This can give you a peek into their personality and how well they
will work with others," Bhandari says.
5. How do you stay focused and on
deadline when working remotely?
One of the common misconceptions
about remote work is that those who work from home can more easily multi-task
things like childcare, housework and other personal events like doctor's
appointments. While it's true there's a greater level of flexibility, the key
to a successful remote work strategy is being able to focus on work -- because
remote workers are actually at work, Sciortino says.
"Just because your office is at
home doesn't mean you shouldn't have childcare, that you can take extended
lunch breaks or that all scheduling goes out the window. We are a 100 percent
distributed, remote company, but we still keep normal business hours. Of
course, your actual hours depend on your role, but in general we want to see
candidates who stick to a schedule just as if they were going into an
office," she says.
6. Tell me about a time you were on
a tight deadline and how you managed it.
Remote workers are still bound by
the same time schedules and deadlines as those workers in a main office, so you
need to make sure remote candidates are just as dedicated to meeting deadlines
and keeping projects on-schedule, says Bhandari. Asking them to provide an
example can help gauge their problem-solving skills and their commitment to
staying on track, he says.
"You want to make sure they're
able to deliver on promises. If you're a remote worker and you have three or
four tasks every day, it's not unreasonable to think you might run into
bottlenecks. That doesn't mean you just give up, you have to prove that you can
work around these obstacles creatively and independently," Bhandari says.
7. What kind of hours do you keep?
Again, the specific hours a remote
worker keeps are dependent on the requirements of the individual organization
as well as the role they're interviewing for, but in general, you need to know
if they're an early bird, a night owl or somewhere in between. You also have to
know that they can adjust their schedule to adapt to the business' needs, work
late when they're needed, or work around personal scheduling conflicts, says
"Personally, for me, I've set
myself up on a schedule. I wake up at the same time every morning, I take a set
amount of time for a lunch break -- I'm usually available and working during
normal business hours, give or take 20 or 30 minutes. It makes it seamless --
you'd never know I didn't work in a regular office," she says.
8. How do you troubleshoot problems
on your own?
Remote workers have a certain
independent, self-sufficient quality, and it's important to gauge that early on
in the screening process, says Bhandari. If there's a technology hiccup, or a
project isn't going as planned, what steps can they take to address the problem
on their own? And how can remote workers gauge when it's time to ask for help?
"Remote workers have to be
problem-solvers. Can they handle certain troubleshooting on their own? Do they
ask for too much help with things they should be able to figure out? Or do they
not ask for enough help when there's a serious problem?" he says.
9. Are you comfortable using
One issue with remote workers is
that it's often hard to "turn off" and know when the work day is
over. On the flip side, it can be easy to give in to distractions and waste an
hour here and there catching up on Criminal Minds reruns. Time-tracking
software can be a great way for both remote workers and their managers to keep
tabs on hours worked and contribute to greater productivity, says Bhandari, as
well as keeping track of project status, goals and daily and weekly tasks.
"We've found that many clients not only use time tracking software to
manage working hours and track productivity, but to keep track of
communications, status updates and project documentation. When everything's in
one place like that, it's easier for everyone, no matter their location, to see
exactly what's going on," Bhandari says.
10. How do you keep up with industry
Finally, gauging a remote worker's
passion for their potential role and their curiosity and willingness to learn
can help you decide if they're a great fit culturally, too, says Bhandari. Ask
what news outlets they follow, what Twitter users they follow and how active
they are in forums, chat rooms and in industry groups.
"Since they're working
remotely, it's harder to gauge their cultural fit since they won't be on-site.
But this is a good way to assess how committed and passionate they are about
the industry, their company and the role," he says.