How to Ace the Remote Job Interview

by on Jun 23, 2017 in Careers

You open your inbox and practically scream with joy when you see that the hiring manager of your dream remote company has just contacted you. She wants to interview you tomorrow at 2PM ET. Now what do you do?

Good news: In many ways, the hardest part is now over. You’ve gotten your foot in the door and now you just have to wow that interviewer with your amazing personality and competence. But here’s the reality: The competition for that job is probably very fierce, since nowadays, there are far more people who want to work remotely than there are remote jobs available.

For that reason, you’ll probably have to go through multiple rounds of interviews before you get that dream remote job. And because remote positions are so different from the normal 9-to-5 office positions, the interview is going to be a bit different as well. Working remotely requires a certain personality. It takes self-discipline and time management. It requires an autonomous and proactive work style. It calls for a great deal of organization.

Employers are going to want to know that you will be successful and productive without someone looking over your shoulder all the time. They want to know that you are a good fit not only for their company, but for the remote lifestyle, as well. So let’s just say that the remote job interview is probably not going to be like all of those interviews you’ve had in the past. And since the interviewer is likely interviewing a lot of other people in addition to you, they are probably even looking for excuses to eliminate candidates.

But don’t panic. In this blog post, we’ve laid out exactly what you need to do to ace that interview. Here goes…

Set the Scene

Get to know the company

Show the interviewer that you’ve done your homework. Read the company’s blog posts and the other content that they are putting out there. Check out their social media. Know how, when and why they were founded. Then bring up something you’ve learned about the company in the conversation somehow.

Look the part

You may be on webcam, but this is important for two reasons. Firstly, your interviewer will be able to see you from the chest up, so at least wear a nice shirt to show that you take the role seriously. Secondly, what you wear can influence how you feel. So if you are wearing sloppy clothes, you will probably feel sloppy as well (this is one reason why you shouldn’t work from your pajamas, even if you work from home).

Choose the right setting

Pick an organized setting. For obvious reasons, you don’t want your interviewer to be peering behind you and noticing bed sheets in disarray or a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. Also make sure that the setting is quiet and not full of distractions. If you are in a loud place, not only will this be distracting for you and the interviewer, but it also may make your interviewer question how you will be able to handle your work if you work from such a messy or noisy place.

Make sure you have a good internet connection

The last thing you want is for the internet connection to cut out midway through your elevator speech. If you tend to have a flaky Internet connection at home, then go out and find a place with a reliable connection. If you are planning on doing the interview from a new location, then test it out beforehand to make sure that it’s reliable.

Test out digital resources

It’s likely that your interview will take place on either Skype or Google Hangouts. Get acquainted with both so that you aren’t scrambling to figure out how to use one or the other just before the interview starts. Test them both beforehand to make sure that the sound and video are both working. Depending on the role that you’re applying for, you might not have to be super tech-savvy, but it helps to have at least a basic understanding of things like WordPress, Dropbox and Hubspot.

Prepare for the Right Questions

All interview questions are, in essence, asking the same thing. For the most part, they are all asking (but in different ways), what your strengths are. Think about several (five, if you can) different stories that highlight your strengths and demonstrate how you have overcome challenges. In addition to all of the normal interview questions, here are some questions that you can expect for a remote job position.

How do you schedule your day?

One essential ingredient to remote success is structure. It’s being able to manage your time effectively and separate your personal life from your work life. It’s having a routine and certain habits in place. It’s knowing what you plan to accomplish each day and allocating appropriate time for each task. Show your interviewer exactly how you are able to do all of that. And provide examples.

Describe your work style?

Do you juggle multiple things at once or tend to home in on one thing at a time? Can you adapt to changes quickly and easily or does it take you a bit more time? Are you a perfectionist looking for the little mistakes in everything or more of a big-picture person? There’s no wrong answer here, since each person has different and unique things that they can bring to a team (for instance, it would be ideal to have one perfectionist and one big-picture person on the team, instead of two perfectionists).

However you answer, interviewers are looking for someone who is able to work independently. They want someone who is an effective communicator (flakiness is not really acceptable when working remotely with team members all across the world). And they want someone reliable. If you aren’t any of these things, then a remote job position may not be the best fit for you.

Have you worked remotely before?

Whether you have or haven’t worked remotely before probably won’t matter too much (although of course it helps if you have). But this question gives interviewers a feel for how you will work remotely if hired. Can you work autonomously? Do you know how to structure and organize your day? That’s what your interviewer really wants to know.

What helps you stay productive and get in the zone?

Part of the reason why the 9-to-5 office environment is ineffective is because there are many people who are not productive working in that kind of environment. What makes you tick? What kind of environment helps you stay focused? And what habits do you have in place in order to help you block out or eliminate distractions?

How do you stay organized?

Organization is a major key to success for remote workers. How do you organize your tasks, collaboration needs and to-do list? How do you organize all of the files that you receive on a daily basis? If you don’t have some kind of system in place, it’s only a matter of time before something will fall through the cracks. Make sure you establish organizational habits before getting hired—and then tell your interviewer exactly what habits those are.

How do you prioritize tasks?

If you’re lucky, you’re never going to run out of work. And if you never run out of work, you are never going to run out of things to do. The trick to working effectively and efficiently is learning how to prioritize that never-ending to-do list of yours. How do you determine which tasks to conquer first and which ones can wait an extra day?

Give me an example of a time when you messed up at work.

Interviewers don’t care about how you messed up. They care about what you did to solve the problem. Did you fess up and take charge of the situation immediately or did you let it sit and fester for a while and then try to cover up your mistake? If it was the latter, did you learn from your mistake? If so, why? Employers aren’t looking for their candidate to be perfect. They know that everyone makes mistakes from time to time. They want to know that you learned from your mistake and can apply what you learned moving forward.

Why do you want to work remotely?

Everyone has their own reasons for working remotely. For some, it might be spending more time with their family and newborn baby. For others, it might be traveling the world and trying out the digital nomad lifestyle. Interviewers are probably going to be curious as to what your reason is. More importantly, how will it benefit your employer? For instance, have you found that you are more productive working remotely? If so, then you should mention that.

Why are you wanting to make a change?

Are you interested in this role purely because it’s remote? Or are you truly interested in the position and do you think that the role will really help you grow? How you answer this question can tell your employer which category you fall into and whether or not you are after the job for the right reasons. Don’t lie, of course—but ask yourself this: would you be interested in the position if it weren’t remote? If the answer to that question is no, then it’s probably not a good idea to take it (or even interview for it). If you do, you will get bored quickly and probably not be very happy. A lose-lose for both parties.

Ask the Right Questions  

The job interview is a two-way street. It’s just as much an opportunity for you to learn about the company and the role as it is for the interviewer to learn about you. It’s also a good opportunity to show your interviewer that you have done your research about the company.

The questions that you ask will probably depend on the company that you’re applying for. If you covered everything in the first part of the interview and are out of ideas, here are a few questions that you might want to consider asking.

For this position, what are people doing to excel at it? Or if they didn’t excel, what would you have wanted to be done better?

Surely you want to do the best job that you can possibly do. The answer to the question will tell you how you can do that. Asking this also shows the interviewer that you are hard-working and already looking to bring value to the company. Who would not want to hire someone like that?

Can you tell me a bit about your company culture?  

Every company should have some kind of culture in place, even if they are remote. If nothing else, it’s a sign that the employer cares about employees. How does the company recognize employee achievement? What are some team-bonding exercises that they engage in? What kinds of habits do they have in place that set them apart from all the other remote companies out there? If you find that the company that you’re interviewing with has no company culture whatsoever, you might want to ask yourself if you really want to be a part of that company.

What would a typical day look like?

The answer to this question can help you decide if the role is something that you would be happy doing. If you find for example, that the position of Lead Designer that you’re interviewing for will be repeatedly doing the same thing over and over again (and not exercising much of your creativity), then you might find that is not something you would be happy doing on a daily basis.

How does your team ensure effective communication and collaboration?

How your interviewer answers this question can say a lot about the company. What kinds of habits are in place to ensure effective communication? Does the team use Google Hangouts on a daily basis or do they only video chat once a week? What kinds of tools do team members rely on to collaborate effectively? If your interviewer cannot come up with a proper answer to this question, that could be a sign of a disorganized company—definitely a red flag.

What kinds of benefits would I have?

Would you get several weeks of paid time off or none at all? Would your employer cover health insurance? Would your employer cover the cost of any equipment or would you be expected to buy your own? These are all questions that you might want to know the answers to before moving forward in the interview process. Don’t let your employer take advantage of you just because you are a remote employee. You should be given all of the same benefits as the typical office employee.

Final Tips

Add flavor to your answers

People will best remember you if you share stories with them. Even better if it’s an interesting story, peppered with detail. Think of a few stories that you can tell that show off how stellar of a candidate you are.

Don’t over-prepare

Be prepared and know how you’ll respond to these questions. But don’t write out scripts (which is unfortunately possible in a remote job interview, since the interview will likely take place over video). Your interviewer wants to interview a human being. And sometimes preparing so much can make you so nervous that you’re at a loss of words when you’re put on the spot. Relax. Don’t put so much pressure on any interview. Remember: even if one doesn’t work out, there will be many, more to come.

Be honest

If you aren’t great at managing your time, then don’t pretend to be. If you were fired from your last job, then don’t neglect to mention that if it comes up in conversation and your boss asks you, for instance, why you are looking for a change or why you left your last job. Being fired isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, since there are plenty of reasons that relationships don’t work out. And if you did something wrong, then your interviewer will appreciate you all the more for your honesty. If you do lie (or even exaggerate the truth) in an interview, your interviewer is likely to find out one way or the other. And even if they don’t, is that really the way you want to start a relationship?

Keep applying

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Even if you have one (or two…or three) interviews lined up, keep applying to more jobs. If nothing else, you’ll have more opportunities to choose from when all of those job offers start rolling in…

About the author of the post
Mary Blackiston is the Content Marketing Specialist for SUCCESS agency.