10 Interview Questions to Ask Remote Workers

Companies are evolving to incorporate remote workers on their team. Some businesses don’t even have offices anymore. Thus all the employees work remotely. As more candidates have taken the remote work route, employers had to change the way they conduct a remote job interview. Seasoned hiring managers that interview remote workers have tested a variety of interview processes to narrow down the best person for the open position.

If you’re an employer considering to onboard remote employees, keep reading. We’ll provide you with remote interview tips, tools to conduct remote interviews as well as ten interview questions to ask remote workers.

What Is a Remote Interview?

 The definition of a remote interview is a job interview between members that are located in different locations. Some job searchers are under the impression that a remote meeting is more relaxed than a meeting in person, but on the contrary, these can be the hardest because the candidates are competing against local talent, plus the interview takes place over the phone or video conference.

Remote interviews have become more common as employees are hired for more remote-friendly positions. In certain aspects, job interviews for remote positions are similar to the traditional interview questions. However, remote job interviews are a bit more unique, as the nature of remote jobs is different from the requirements of on-site employees. Remote workers need a unique set of skills to dedicate themselves to working remotely.

Essentially, hiring personnel will ask several unique questions that the candidate may have never heard before at a traditional interview, or the same common interview questions may require entirely different answers for a remote role. The answers to these questions will provide them with information on whether the candidate is competent enough to fill that position. We know you want to make a good impression as the potential employer of a good candidate, and these few tips can help you prepare for this process.

Remote Interview Tips

Human resources and recruiters should use specific methods for conducting remote job interviews and manage remote employees based on the function of the job they’re filling. For writing positions, or where written and communication skills are crucial for their position, recruiters could use written formats for the preliminary interview processes, such as text-based conversations, writing tests and email. Lengthily written exchanges on more than one platform provide valuable information that determines whether a candidate can convey complex ideas in writing, plus whether they are at ease with technology. Can they communicate in full sentences and figure out new platforms quickly, or do they only use “texting language” over social media channels and email?

Also, just because a remote interview doesn’t concern personal contact, it’s still essential for the candidate to remember some interview basics, like dressing appropriately, making eye contact, and ensuring the area from which they’ll be interviewed from is tidy and quiet with no distractions. It will show that the candidate has prepared for the interview and respects the company and position they’re applying for.

Whether you’re a seasoned remote interviewer or are conducting one for the first time, there are a few best practices to follow to ask the right questions, make the most out of the interview time, and ultimately finding the best candidate for your remote position. Let’s look at some of the basic setups for a remote interview

1. Candidate Communication and Preparation

Most candidates know what to expect when it comes to traditional on-site interviews. However, with remote meetings, there are no front desks to announce their arrival and no-one to lead them to the interview room. It might be your candidate’s first remote interview, and therefore will not necessarily know what to expect. You, as the hiring person, can set them at ease by communicating and preparing them.

First off, inform them whether it will be a phone or video interview, and make the candidate understands. They’re likely to be nervous already. No-one likes to be surprised by logging into a communication platform, and it turns out to be a video conference. Also, make it clear which software you’ll be using and send any download and setup instructions for the program. Even if you use commonly used applications, your candidate may need to install these programs beforehand. Make sure to include any usernames and passwords that will be required.

Lastly, provide your candidate with a date and time of the interview, including the time zone if applicable, to avoid any confusion. Also, mention the name of the interviewer and anyone else they may be meeting.

2. Prepare Questions

This goes for on-site interviews as well, although the questions will provide answers that will determine a candidate’s suitability for a remote position. It’s a good idea to research and prepare questions beforehand and have it nearby during the process. You will also want to have some facts and figures of your company, the team and the position available to share with the candidate, should they ask questions towards the end of the interview.

3. Practice Makes Perfect

The interviewer has to prepare just as much as the candidate for the interview process. Test the programs beforehand to make sure everything works correctly and to fix any bugs if necessary. The last thing you need is for the candidate to stress because they can’t hear you. Practice the interview questions and have a notepad ready to take down all your notes. Being prepared will help you feel more comfortable with the interview process.

4. Clean Your Environment

While you’re practicing for the interview, check your environment from your video’s perspective and get rid of any clutter. Do not to sit with a window or bright light directly behind you, which will act as a backlight and make it hard for one to see you on camera. Make sure you’re sitting comfortably, whether for a video or a phone interview. If you’re conducting the remote interview from your office, put a “do not disturb” sign on your door to ensure you’re not interrupted.

Remote Interview Tools

There are a few remote interview software and tools that will enable a smooth interview process. It’s a good idea to have a video platform so employers can meet candidates face-to-face in real time, and also use a method to test a future employee’s skills and aptitude. Mainly, there are three main ways most employers conduct remote job interviews.

1. Multiple Platforms for One Interview

Employers with experience in hiring remote employees frequently use video conference platforms where content sharing is possible. Examples of these platforms include Skype, Google Hangouts and Hackpad. It’s the closest to a face-to-face interview that tests a candidate’s conversation abilities, as well as how they handle potential bad signals.

2. Detailed Written Exchanges

Emails and living documents on Google Docs can be used to have a formal and detailed hiring conversation with potential candidates. These platforms will also give hiring managers an idea of how well-versed candidates are in communication, especially when team members are from different time zones. Good remote employees should be able to write explicit emails and follow instructions that will minimize back-and-forth communication.

3. Phone Interviews 

Some employers still prefer to talk to candidates over the phone. It’s efficient, cost-effective (unless it’s an international call) and personal. A phone interview can lead to an honest conversation with a potential remote employee about the advantages and disadvantages of a remote position.

Best Interview Questions to Ask Remote Candidates

A reason why many companies are reluctant to hire remote employees is that they’re worried about these candidates being able to perform their duties off-site. Some challenges that work teams face when working remotely are communication, lack of direct supervision, and culture fit. Thus, tackle these challenges by hiring remote workers who are good communicators (verbally and in writing), motivated, self-disciplined, organized and problem solvers. Also, ask candidates whether they have the equipment they need to work remotely unless your company provides it.

Here is a list of ten interview questions to ask remote workers as well as the best answers to expect for those questions.

1. Do you have previous experience as a remote worker?

Experience is not always necessary, but it is a big plus. A successful track record shows that the candidate has already gone through the growing pains of remote working challenges and are more likely to work with the team for longer. If the candidate is new to remote work though, they might be able to show potential by highlighting instances where they completed projects at home or worked on freelance assignments.

2. Why are you interested in this role?

This is a typical interview question that filters willing candidates from those that are willing to take any remote work. The best candidates should be able to discuss why they’re interested in working for YOUR company and the relevant experience and professional goals they want to bring to the virtual table, not why they want to switch from working at an office.

3. How do you overcome a drop in creativity or productivity?

Employers want to know that a remote employee will be able to manage themselves to accomplish their work without the support of a team around them. Look for answers other than the typical “I go for a walk”. A creative answer proofs that the candidate has personally mastered the ability to work alone.

4. How do you maintain a work-life balance?

Remote workers can combat isolation and burnout by having a work-life balance. The keyword is “balance”. A candidate might be tempted to list all the hobbies and opportunities that will arise once they can work remotely. But this goes back to why they’re interested in the role of your company. All you want to know from their answer is whether they’re able to create a balance for themselves.

5. How do you avoid miscommunication?

Without meetings and in-person communication, it’s easy for messages to get lost in translation. Team members need to be responsible for their end, whether it’s receiving or sending a message. Some answers to look out for are repeating and confirming project information or goals when receiving an assignment and avoiding secret languages and codes.

6. Why do/will you thrive in a remote position?

There is no best answer to this question, but if it includes virtual collaboration, diversity and other benefits of being a member of a remote team, you are on the right track with this candidate. Someone who answers that they’ll benefit from freedom and traveling has a different goal that is not in line with the companies.

7. When do you prefer to work during the day?

A company with distributed remote employees should have a canonical time zone that includes an eight-hour window of primary business hours. With remote employees around the world working for you, of course, it would be impossible to have them all available during your working hours, but you can still confirm or discuss with the candidate to be available for two to four hours of the company’s business hours to accommodate team collaborations.

8. What skills do you think are necessary to be a successful remote worker?

This question helps the interviewer to evaluate whether a candidate has remote work experience, or at least know what they’re letting themselves in for. A candidate sharing a personal experience should provide evidence that they know what will be expected from them.

9. What challenges do you anticipate as a remote worker?

This is considered the equivalent of the “what’s your greatest weakness” question. If a candidate answers that they don’t foresee any challenges, it’s a giveaway that they’re either lying or have never worked remotely before. Remote workers often deal with problems, such as lousy wifi signals, distractions at home, and combating isolation. Candidates must include some transparency about an obstacle they had to overcome, including their solutions and the results.

10. Any irrelevant and unexpected question.

Flexible work requires flexible employees with creative solution thinking abilities. It’s a simple way for employers to test a candidate’s ability to think on their feet and answer honestly about their work-life balance. Their answer also shows a bit more about who they are and whether they would be an excellent cultural fit for the team. Any question like “what book are you reading right now” or “what’s your favourite animal” will do. Be creative and see the creativity come out.

All good interviews will end with the candidate asking a few questions themselves. If they do pass the opportunity to ask questions, it shows a lack of interest in the company and that they were not entirely prepared and engaged. Other red flags to look out for are poor communication skills, a lack of team spirit, discomfort with technology, and if they struggle to balance work with their personal lives.

It is essential for employers to demonstrate flexibility by providing remote work opportunities. Taking the technological leap of faith can broaden a dedicated team of future employees.