Interviewing for a remote job? Use these tips and tricks to make sure you're prepared.
If you're looking for a remote job, now's your chance. In the past decade, the number of remote opportunities has increased exponentially as more and more companies start to offer remote positions and work-from-home options.
But here's the thing: If you're looking for a remote job, you'll need to think about your job search a little differently. Although remote work might seem glamorous — ditching your commute, wearing sweatpants all day, and catching up on laundry at 2 p.m. — there are other, more difficult aspects you'll need to carefully consider.
In any job interview, an employer or hiring manager wants to make sure you're the right fit for the job and the company. However, in a remote job interview, an employer will want to make sure you're the right fit for the job, the company, and the remote role. That means you can expect any number of questions about your remote work experience and your ability to work outside of an office.
So, before you interview for a remote job, take time to make sure working remotely is the right fit for you, prepare to answer questions surrounding remote work, and then be sure you have what you need to nail a video interview.
Is remote work a good fit for you?
Before you interview for a remote job, it's important to do your research and make sure you're cut out for a remote role. Yes, there are obvious perks to having a work-from-home job, but it also comes with its disadvantages, including loneliness, at-home distractions, communication barriers, decreased motivation, and the inability to unplug from work at the end of the day. It's not always the best fit for everyone.
So what does it take to be a successful remote employee? Before your remote job interview, you'll need to get in the remote job mindset. You'll need to take time to understand traits employers and hiring managers look for in their remote employees so you can emphasize the most relevant skills in your job interview. A few of these traits (many of them soft skills) might include:
Before your interview, especially if you know it's a behavioral interview, pick out several of these traits and think of times you've showcased these skills in the workplace. This will help an employer realize you're cut out for remote work and that they'll be able to trust you, even if you've never worked remotely before.
Common remote interview questions and answers
Now it's time to start thinking about the questions you might encounter when interviewing for a remote job. Of course, the interviewer will want to hear all about your skills and experiences (just like any normal interview), but you can also expect questions about your remote work experience.
If you don't have any remote experience, don't stress. If you have any number of the skills listed above and practice answering common remote interview questions beforehand, you can still prove you're cut out for the job. To help you get started, here are a few common remote interview questions alongside some examples of answers you can use:
"What's your experience working remotely?"
If you've had a remote job, perfect — go ahead and talk about your remote successes. If you've never had a remote job, that's OK. The purpose of this question is to make sure you understand the nature of remote work — and its downsides.
You'll want to be honest about your experience (or lack thereof), but answer the question in a way that shows you've researched and understood what it takes to be a successful remote employee. You might also draw on experiences similar to working remotely, like freelancing, completing online coursework or certifications, or even working away from the office due to illness or travel.
Here's an example of how someone who doesn't have remote work experience could answer this question:
"I haven't had a full-time work-from-home job, but I do have the skills required to succeed in a remote role. I'm self-motivated and disciplined, never miss a deadline, organized, and good at managing my time. I'm also extremely communicative. Whenever I'm collaborating with my teammates, I keep my lines of communication open, and I always keep my manager in the loop — whether that's in person, through Slack, or through a project management tool like Asana. I will also say in the few instances I have worked remotely due to either traveling or being sick, I've been more productive without the typical in-office distractions."
"Why do you want to work remotely?"
This might seem like a fairly straightforward question, but you'll want to carefully consider your answer. You don't want to just talk about wearing pajamas and lounging on the couch all day. Oftentimes, that's not what remote work looks like. And if you're a parent, you probably don't want to mention that it's a good opportunity to work but also keep an eye on your kid.
Instead, focus on what will (or does) make you a good remote worker. Do you find you're more productive working from home? Do you have more opportunities for deep work? Do you live somewhere that doesn't offer many opportunities in your field?
Here's an example of how someone could answer this question:
"I've worked on several big projects from my home office, and I've found I'm much more productive. It's easier for me to focus without the distractions of an office, and I have more opportunities to really dive into my work and think critically."
You can also provide a specific example of a time you've had success working from home.
"Say you're assigned to a big project with a team that works in the office. How would you handle that?"
When asked this question, a manager wants to make sure you have strong communication and collaboration skills, so be sure to highlight those as well as your experience using any project-management and communication tools.
You'll also want to consider how you'd stay in touch with the team and how you would work together to complete the project — even without face-to-face time. Here's an example of the way you could answer this, and you can make it even stronger by providing a specific example:
"I have a lot of experience working on big projects with a number of team members. I think one of the most important parts is to hold a kickoff meeting, and this can be done effectively through a video call. I have experience using both Google Hangouts and Zoom. This meeting ensures everyone's on the same page in terms of timeline, responsibilities, and goals. If the project is big enough, I think it's important to have regular check-ins. Again, this can be done digitally — whether it's a video call each week or a Slack channel dedicated to the project. Overall, whether I'm in an office or remote, I always keep my lines of communication open and let my teammates know I'm available to connect and collaborate."
"What do you do if your internet disconnects in the middle of a meeting?"
When you're working remotely, it's important to always have a back-up plan. You never know when your internet could disconnect, when your power could flicker out, or when your computer could just decide to die. You'll want to let a potential employer know you've thought through these scenarios and that you'll be reliable, self-sufficient, and communicative — no matter what.
Here's an example of how you could answer this question:
"If my internet goes out, I can always use my phone's hotspot or use the back-up mobile hotspot I keep just in case something like this were to happen. Worst case scenario, I could walk a block to my local Starbucks and reconnect there. Either way, I'd make sure to keep my manager updated."
How to prepare for a remote video (or phone) interview
If you have a remote interview, chances are at least part of it will take place on the phone or through video call. This is an easy way for your future employer or hiring manager to test your remote capabilities.
Prepare for this interview like you would any other interview (try taking this three-pronged approach), but there are a few extra elements you'll want to keep in mind as you get ready for your virtual interview:
1. Conduct a technology test run
Whether your interview is taking place over Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, or another platform, it's important to make sure you feel comfortable using it. If you need, have your spouse, friend, or family member call you for a test run.
You'll also want to make sure your internet connection is reliable to avoid technical glitches. Always have a back-up plan in case something happens. If something unavoidable happens during the online interview — whether the sound cuts out on the interviewer's end or the screen freezes — don't panic. Try to communicate the technical difficulties as quickly as possible (send an email or give them a call if you have to) so you don't miss part of the job interview.
2. Select a location
You'll probably feel most comfortable doing your remote interviews at home — and that's fine. Just make sure you have a good set-up that's clean and clutter-free. Your background should be plain or at least professional; avoid sitting on the couch (you'll slouch) or in front of a window (you'll be a back-lit silhouette). Remember, you want the interviewer to focus on you, so avoid any distracting backgrounds. No one wants to see your unmade bed or your wine stash in the background.
3. Seek privacy
During your remote job interviews, you'll want an empty house. You don't want to risk becoming distracted or having someone walk in during the virtual interviews. If you have kids, send them to a friend's house or hire a babysitter for a few hours. If you have pets, make sure they'll be quiet and well-behaved, or move them to another part of the house — unless you want your cat to walk across your computer. If you have a spouse or other family members, send them out for some errands. Whatever you do, you'll want to eliminate any distractions for a few hours so you can prepare for and complete the online interview.
4. Consider your clothes
When doing a video interview, you'll want to dress just as you would for an in-person interview. However, you'll also want to consider what color you wear during your interview. Darker colors typically work best, whereas bright, bold colors or patterns tend to not translate as well through the computer.
5. Practice, practice, practice
A video interview can feel much different than an in-person or even phone interview, so it's important to practice. Again, you'll also want to make sure you have practiced using the specific interviewing platform, whether that's Skype, BlueJeans, Google Hangouts, or Zoom.
You can always grab a friend or family member to help you prepare, or you can hire a professional interview coach who'll tell you what you need to know about remote job interviews. You'll even have the opportunity to do a mock interview and get feedback.
Above all, the key is to understand what makes a good remote employee, prepare for questions about remote work (even if you don't have the experience), and feel comfortable with video interviews. Good luck!
Want to make sure you nail your upcoming remote job interview? Our TopInterview coaches can help. Learn more today.