Screening, Assessment, Interviewing

The Best and Worst Remote Interview Questions

So, you’re looking to hire a remote worker. You’ve gone through the job-posting process, scoured hundreds of résumés, and picked a few people who seem to be a good fit for the role. Now it’s time for the interview, but where do you begin?

interview

sorbetto / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty Images

Because these workers won’t be coming into the office every day, do you make them come into the office for an interview? What if they’re 300 miles away? Do you fly them in? With advancements in technology, it’s now easier than ever to connect with people halfway around the world. And in light of this technology, it makes it even easier to conduct interviews with potential remote workers. So, what’s the difference between remote work interviews and in-house interviews?

What’s the Difference?

Remote worker interviews are vastly different from in-house worker interviews, according to Rachel Jay, Senior Career Writer for FlexJobs and Remote.co. “One difference between an interview for a remote candidate and an in-person job is the method. Most remote job interviews happen over the phone or via video chat. This can present challenges, as there can be technology problems, long pauses, and a lack of body language.”

Once you’ve got your preferred method in place, whether it’s through phone or Skype, it’s time to figure out what you’re going to ask the candidate. Here are four great questions to consider asking:

The Best Interview Questions to Ask Remote Candidates

“Are you able to self-manage?”

According to Remote.co, some workers come into the office motivated and ready to work. Others need the fear of a boss busting into their office to keep them on task—and not texting. Finding out ahead of time if someone is good at meeting his or her deadlines (without ever having met his or her manager) is a good indicator that he or she will be able to work well from a home office.

“Why do you want to work remotely?”

Some people get their best work done at 2:00 a.m., which is not during the traditional office hours most people work. For them, a remote job is best. Or, someone else might need the flexibility that can come with working from home. While you don’t have to know the ins and outs of why he or she specifically wants a remote job, it can give you some insight into what the person is looking to gain by not having a traditional office job.

“What would you say is your communication style?”

In order for a remote team to function effectively, remote workers have to proactively communicate about, well, everything. From concerns to clarifications, remote workers have to speak up (and often!) if they’re going to be successful. The last thing you want to do is hire someone who remains mum when there’s a problem—or goes radio silent when you need to find out some information.

“Why do you want to work for our company?”

When screening job candidates for potential hire, this question should be at the top of your list for ALL candidates. After all, knowing why candidates chose to submit their application to work for your company can tell you a lot about how they’ll be as workers. For example, if they cite your company culture as a motivating factor for wanting to work for you, or if they are well-versed in your company’s history and know how to take your business to the next level, these are the types of applicants who are already invested in your company—without even having the job yet.

Now that’ you’ve got a sense of what the best questions are to ask, here are some you’ll want to avoid:

The Worst Interview Questions to Ask Remote Candidates

“Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years from now?”
Does anyone really know where he or she will be in 5 years—or even a year from now? Most likely, the life you planned might look quite different from the one you’re living at this exact moment. So, you can’t really expect a jobseeker (who’s currently applying to various positions) to know where he or she will be, either.

“What does your home office look like?”

The goal of this question is innocuous enough. You’re trying to determine if the person already has a home office set up (and that it’s functioning) so that he or she can work well. But in the age of digital nomads, you might find that your next best hire is going to traverse the globe in search of adventure, all while working for you, too!

So unless your job has a location requirement, or if you need your workers to always be available during set hours and be in a quiet place, you shouldn’t worry too much about where they work—as long as the work gets done.

“What’s your greatest weakness?”

This, too, is a great example of what not to ask all candidates, not just remote ones. Although some employers use this question as a way to understand how self-aware people are about their strengths and weaknesses, many times, it puts job candidates on the defensive.

Think about it—what jobseeker is going to want to admit any failures he or she has had to someone he or she is trying to win over? To get the answer that you want—and avoid the ugly awkwardness that this question can create—ask the applicant instead to cite a time when something went wrong and how he or she fixed it. This answer gives you what you’re looking for in terms of a weakness but also highlights the person’s strength to show how he or she turned a wrong into a right.

Tips for Conducting a Remote Interview

Now that you’ve got a list of what you should, and shouldn’t, ask, what else should you be prepared for? Jay offers this advice to hiring managers: “Interviewers need to be familiar with any programs used to interview—do a test run and practice to help eliminate any issues that can arrive. Pay attention to your lighting and your background if you’re doing a video interview. You want to be clearly lit and have your background clutter-free to make a good impression.”

When it comes to conducting the actual interview, Jay says, “During the interview, whether via phone or video, it’s not always easy to get a sense of a person through their body language. Body language can tell you if a candidate is confident or nervous, or even interested or uninterested in what you have to say. Eye contact can help you connect and know you’re being heard.”

Jay adds, “Without these things, it’s critically important to pay attention to what the remote candidate is saying, and to ask clarifying questions to make sure you’re getting the best information possible.”

Finally, Jay says, “Interviewers should also ask questions to determine cultural fit and the candidate’s ability to work remotely. Pay attention to their overall ability to communicate openly and effectively during the interview process. Those qualities are vital to working on a remote team.”