Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova
Working from home has its perks. However, if you’re applying for a remote working opportunity, you must be ready to answer these interview questions.
Whether you’re applying for a remote job or requesting your employer to let you work from home, you should be ready to answer a couple of interview questions regarding your work. After all, your employer wants to know how you’ll remain productive and meet all your deadlines when working from home.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss:
How to respond to commonly asked interview questions for remote workers
What do employers look for when hiring someone for a remote job?
When it comes to interviewing for remote positions, hiring managers are likely to place a lot of importance on your soft skills, such as active listening and body language, since you’ll be using these skills on a daily basis in your remote role. Here are some of the questions they’re likely to ask you.
One of the first questions the interviewer is likely to ask you involves your familiarity with a remote working environment. The hiring manager wants to assess your interest and level of comfort with the remote job role.
When answering this question, keep your response simple and straightforward. If you’ve worked remotely in the past, talk about when and where, and how you were able to succeed in that job role. If you haven’t worked remotely before, be honest and talk about any comparable experiences from your past - such as working on a thesis in your college or organizing a fundraising campaign through social media.
For example, if you have previous relevant experience, you could say:
“Yes, I previously worked at ABC Corporation as a remote customer success specialist. It was a bit of an adjustment for me, but I was able to set up a productive work-from-home environment and leverage communication tools to improve customer satisfaction rates and reduce complaint resolution time. I find it easier to manage my workload and remain productive when working from home.”
If you don’t have sufficient work experience, you could say:
“I haven’t worked remotely before, but while I was in college, I did get the chance to work on my thesis from home. I found it easier to organize my notes and achieve my thesis milestones when working from the comfort of my home.”
When a hiring manager asks this question, they want to know what gets you going. What would be your ideal working hours where you’re most productive? Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Typically, remote teams consist of individuals working different shifts to ensure adequate coverage, especially if the job involves interacting with customers. Remote jobs also provide greater flexibility, so you won’t necessarily have to work 9-to-5. However, you would want to make a good impression on the interviewer and let them know that you’re an organized individual, irrespective of the office timings.
For example, you can say:
“I’m an extremely organized person. I start my day by first checking my emails and responding to all urgent queries. After that, I view my dashboard and prioritize my work with respect to their urgency and deadlines. For projects that require collaboration, I book meetings with the respective team members during the second half of the day. This gives me ample time to review project requirements and prepare a plan of action for the meetings.”
One of the biggest challenges associated with remote working is a lack of proper communication and collaboration and the risk of working in silos. Since you can’t just casually walk up to a colleague’s table for some chit-chat or schedule an impromptu meeting in the conference room, it becomes difficult to stay connected with others.
The key to answering this question is to prepare a detailed response and talk about some of the tools and software solutions you’ve used in the past to ensure effective communication with team members. You can also finish your response by asking the interviewer about the solutions they have in place to foster communication and collaboration.
You can respond to this question by saying:
“I typically rely on a varied approach to communication, depending on the project and the individual I want to talk to. For instance, I use Microsoft Teams to keep my team members informed on minor updates and changes. If we need to brainstorm on a large, complex project, I prefer scheduling a meeting and preparing an agenda with some discussion topics, giving my team a couple of days to review all items on the agenda. I also schedule regular check-in meetings with my supervisor to keep them up to date on all the tasks I’m working on and their expected deadlines. Finally, I schedule biweekly one-on-one meetings with my subordinates to keep an eye on their projects, identify bottlenecks, and obtain periodic updates on some of the key tasks they’re working on. I also take others' communication preferences into consideration. If someone prefers MS Teams communication over an email, I make sure to use Teams when talking to them.”
The objective of this question is for the hiring manager to assess what tools and equipment they need to provide you with. They also want to know what remote working means for you, both physically and logistically.
Since the employer cannot physically see you at work, they’ll need to be aware of how you’re working. If there’s something that’s preventing you from delivering your 100% while working at home, they’ll need to know what it is and what can be done about it. If there is any particular equipment you need from the company, make sure to say it, but be reasonable with your demands.
Here’s a good example of how to respond to this question:
“At my home, I have a dedicated office space where I have a proper table, an ergonomic chair, high-speed internet, and an adequate source of light. My office room is at a distance from my kitchen and living space to avoid unnecessary distractions. To deliver my best at work, I do require noise cancellation headphones and a large monitor screen.”
Remote working offers a lot of independence, including setting your own working hours. However, with this much flexibility, it’s important for you to have certain systems and methods in place to stay organized and productive - and this is something the hiring manager probably wants to know.
Talk about all the tools, strategies, and methods you have in place to keep track of your workload, deadlines, and priorities - even if you’re maintaining spreadsheets and MS Word documents for this purpose. Also, briefly mention communication. That is, how are you communicating with your supervisor to set priorities and deadlines for tasks?
A good response to this question might be:
“I set regular reminders on my calendars for key meetings and project deadlines. I also maintain a detailed spreadsheet with a list of all tasks I’m working on, ranked in their order of priority. My supervisor also has access to the spreadsheet so that they can make changes based on instructions from the senior management. I have a weekly meeting with my supervisor to inform them of my progress and share details of all tasks completed for the week. I also share my calendar with my team members so that we’re all aware of each others’ priorities as well.”
Some remote jobs tend to be fast-paced, and they require you to have excellent prioritization and multitasking skills. With that being said, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when there is just too much to manage in a short span of time.
During the interview, the hiring manager would want to know how good you are at managing your workload and meeting deadlines. This is where you should talk about how you handle tasks with respect to their deadlines and tend to the most critical tasks first.
For instance, you can say:
“I tend to prioritize tasks based on their importance. Troubleshooting tasks that cause bottlenecks and prevent teams from performing their daily activities tend to be high on my list, and I generally work on these tasks during the first half of the day. On the other hand, activities that fuel business growth (such as lead generation) are spread over a couple of weeks because they tend to be time-consuming and research-intensive.”
Rolling out of your bed onto your office table might sound like a good idea. However, in the long run, if you’re unable to maintain boundaries and handle distractions, working from home can feel like a drag. It’s no surprise that the longer people work from home, the less productive they tend to become.
The good news is that you can stay productive while working from home. Your employer would also want to know how you’ll work efficiently with limited opportunities for interaction and collaboration. Make sure to answer this question honestly and talk about how working from home actually makes you more productive and focused at work.
Here’s a good answer to this question:
“I feel extremely comfortable working from home independently, but I also enjoy opportunities for collaboration. For this reason, I prefer working with teams that maintain regular contact over chat and/or email. I also look forward to weekly meetings with my supervisor - it’s nice to have some one-on-one interaction with another individual. These regular check-up meetings keep me productive and engaged, and they boost my motivation to continue working on complex projects and tasks. I’ve designed a number of systems that help me stay organized and work with minimal supervision, which allows me to stay active and productive during working hours and complete tasks well within their deadline.”
While every company has different requirements, hiring managers typically look for a couple of traits when interviewing people for remote jobs. If you have one or more of the following skills, you might be well-suited for remote working opportunities.
Your potential employer wants to know whether they can trust you to show up to meetings, meet project deadlines, and keep your supervisor(s) up to date on your progress. If you show up on time and are always available to help your colleagues and respond to messages and emails, irrespective of your location, then remote working is an option worth considering.
Conflicts tend to get amplified in a remote working environment. The ability to sense escalations and take proactive steps to keep conflicts at bay goes a long way in creating a positive and productive work environment, even if you and your team members are working remotely.
Your organization won’t be able to keep taps at you when you’re at home. However, if you’re self-motivated and you have the ability to work with minimal supervision, then working from home might not be a bad idea!
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As organizations are adapting to the new remote working environment, hiring managers are also coming up with new questions to assess a candidate’s ability to work from home.
When answering a question involving your ability to work from home, focus on your key soft skills, such as independence, communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills.
If you’re skilled at staying productive and efficient, meeting your deadlines, and being available for your team while working from home, then remote working is for you.
Asad's writing expertise lies in the fields of HR and marketing—putting him in the unique position of understanding the job-search process: both from the side of the applicant, and the side of the hiring managers. With this valuable blend of perspectives, he’s able to help his clients position themselves as top candidates for their desired roles.