Not sure how to prove you’d be great at remote working? It’s all about your work ethic…
Working remotely requires a certain skillset, meaning the interview questions for jobs in this field might differ from the norm. From testing your ability to focus and self-motivate, to checking you can combat communication-based barriers, what you’re asked won’t only test your skills and experience – but also your cultural fit and personal characteristics.
To help you with your interview preparation, here are five of the most common remote interview questions – and our advice on how to answer them:
What is your ideal work environment?
Being suitable for a job is as much about organisational fit as it is about skillset – and this question is designed to test exactly that.
Because even though you’ll be based outside of the office, it doesn’t mean you need to be an outsider. And remote jobs are often no less collaborative than those who work in-house.
So whether you’re working on the move, at a remote office, or from home, you’ll need to have a certain set of characteristics to be happy and productive in an environment that differs from the norm. Not to mention fit within your wider team.
So choose the aspects of your ideal environment that are in line with the role (e.g. an independent workspace, good team communication), and avoid referencing anything they probably aren’t going to be able to give you (e.g. large amounts of face-to-face feedback) – and you’ll be on the right track.
N.B. As a general rule, if it’s not part of their company culture, it’s not worth mentioning.
Right answer: ‘I really enjoy a good mix of collaborative work, as well as time to get my head down and really focus on my tasks. I tend to get absorbed in my work, so once I’m clear on my objectives, I like having space to really concentrate. But everyone runs into questions once in a while, so it’s equally important to maintain good communication, even in a remote setting.’
Wrong answer: ‘People always say you can’t concentrate unless you have a dedicated workspace, but I disagree. Work never distracts me when I’m watching Netflix.’
What tools couldn’t you live without?
In other words, are you aware of the importance of technology in a remote work environment?
Think online chat, email, video hangouts and project-management software, and you’ll be along the right lines. Chances are they’ll all be an integral part of your remote working day-to-day.
A good answer will acknowledge a variety of these tools and their uses (specific to your potential role) – and also prove your ability to use them in a work-based sense.
For example, claiming your webcam has the perfect lighting for selfies probably won’t go down well. But talking about video meeting programs as being a core component in attending team meetings and sharing ideas?
Right answer: ‘If there’s something that the whole team is collaborating on, I find project management software, like Asana, is a great way to manage a group project remotely. And for face-to-face meetings with colleagues off site, video hangouts are a fantastic tool, and find that Google Drive is a great way to access and share work from wherever you are.’
Wrong answer: ‘To be honest, I prefer to keep things old school. Once you go fax, you never go back…’
How do you avoid miscommunication?
Whether you’re based halfway around the globe or you’re telecommuting from your sofa, remote working requires extra effort to keep up a productive stream of communication.
Because when there’s no option to drop by someone’s desk for a quick chat or catch up on the latest project between meetings, finding an effective way of collaborating is absolutely vital to stop anything getting lost in translation.
To answer this question well, focus on the key elements and methods that allow you to avoid miscommunication – whether it’s by being sure to provide context in messages, or asking for a more in-depth explanation on a task you aren’t sure of. Or, you know, just picking up the phone and talking it out.
Remember: all it takes is one rushed email to create an unintentional Chinese whispers game.
Right answer: ‘I find that avoiding miscommunication comes down to using the right methods for certain types of contact. For example, if I have a quick question to ask another member of the team, I’ll usually drop them a message on chat. But if it’s something I need to refer back to later – then I’d use email. However, sometimes things can get lost in communication, so speaking directly over the phone is also essential in certain situations.’
Wrong answer: ‘I speak only in emojis. Winky face… ’
How do you stay motivated?
AKA, will you fall victim to distractions if you’re working independently?
Can you actually get the job done as a remote worker? Even with your bed, TV, and phone within easy reach and no one there to stop you from going incognito for the sake of a quick nap.
Not only does it test your ability to self-motivate and work without large amounts of direction, it also checks whether you’re passionate enough to create your own positive work ethic without the immediate support of your team.
Be careful about how you answer it though. There’s a fine line between being motivated to do well and motivated to stay at home in hope of an easier life – and using a remote working job as a reason to slack or a last resort fall-back is something that will quickly be spotted by an interviewer.
Instead, focus on showing how remote working actually improves your productivity. The best candidates will be proactive workers who thrive in a quiet and independent environment, so make it clear that that’s what motivates you – and you’ll be on the right track.
Right answer: ‘I’m an independent worker who tends to thrive in a quiet environment, and once I have a clear goal to work towards I’m able to get on and do it with little direction and distraction. This, with the help of a time management app, a workflow tracker, and regular communication with the team helps me to stay motivated and on the right track.’
Wrong answer: ‘Well thinking about the money helps…’
When’s the last time you missed a deadline?
Approach this question with caution.
The interviewer isn’t asking it to hear a comprehensive list of excuses explaining how Tim from Accounts is to blame for every deadline you’ve ever missed (see also: your computer, the Wi-Fi connection, anything else in the local vicinity).
They want you to take accountability, as well as provide sensible reasoning for not producing work on time. For example, if handing it in then would mean quality would be compromised or other areas of your work would suffer.
Most importantly though, they want you to be able to deal with potential failures constructively enough to learn something from it – meaning you’ll be better equipped to manage your time in the future.
Right answer: ‘In my previous job, I was a representative of the firm at trade shows. In my second year there, three events were scheduled within a month of each other. I soon realised that preparing all three to a high standard was going to be impossible – I had to prioritise. So I agreed with my manager that I’d focus on the two most relevant events even if it meant missing the deadline for the third. Both of them went really well, and actually brought back a lot of leads.’
Wrong answer: ‘Well, I don’t want to point fingers. But…’
Not sure any of these questions will come up? Don’t panic. We’ve got plenty more…
Buy James Reed’s new book: Why You? 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again and start loving Mondays now.
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