Remote work requires a specific skill set. Use this list of interview questions to help you effectively hire remote job candidates.
Here's what you need to know:
- Remote work is often solely considered to be working from home, but other elements may be present
- Ask the candidate questions to determine whether they are comfortable working alone and how they manage distractions
- Also, ask the candidate about their preferred methods of communication when working remotely and how reliable their internet access is
- It’s important to determine how the candidate values written communication and how they would handle various scenarios that could arise
If you offer remote work opportunities, it’s important to hire the most qualified people for those positions. This means interviewing promising candidates before making selections.
While this process may sound similar to filling vacancies for onsite jobs, it is oftentimes more complex, because remote work requires unique worker qualities.
To help you effectively hire for remote positions, we’ve created a list of interview questions to ask prospects. Before we get into these questions, let’s look at what makes remote-work hiring complicated.
Remote work can mean more than working from home
Remote work is often solely considered to be working from home. While most remote jobs are done from home, other elements may be present.
- Some employees work partially from home and partially from the office, also known as “hybrid work.”
- Remote employees may be allowed to work in coworking or public spaces, if feasible for the role.
- Organizations with a distributed workforce may have remote employees in different states, cities, or countries.
- A remote workforce may include not only employees but also freelancers and independent contractors.
It’s worth noting that remote work is persisting, and trending toward permanence. In other words, it will remain, and adoption is likely to increase. Despite the escalating demand for remote work, not everyone is built for it.
One way to secure qualified people is to ask targeted questions during the job interviews. These questions vary by different factors, including the job requirements and whether the candidate has prior remote work experience.
That said, questions may include the following:
- How comfortable are you with working alone?
- Which remote environment do you prefer to work in?
- How would you manage distractions while working from home?
- What would you do if an urgent work issue arises but your colleagues are offline?
- What are your preferred methods of communicating remotely?
- How would you approach cybersecurity while working remotely?
- How would you rate the importance of written communication for remote teams?
- What are your thoughts about potentially working onsite?
- What steps would you take to achieve success in this remote position?
- How would you handle conflict with another remote employee?
- How likely are you to maintain reliable internet access?
Next, we explain why these questions are crucial to ask.
How comfortable are you with working alone?
Distance is the primary component of remote work. So, if a candidate isn’t comfortable working alone, at least most of the time, then you can safely consider them unqualified for the position.
You should not overlook the fact that people have social needs. As demonstrated in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, people want to feel a sense of love, acceptance, and belonging.
Similarly, most employees want to feel like they are part of a group and welcome opportunities to interact with their peers — whether they work remotely or not.
If a candidate isn’t comfortable working alone, then you can safely consider them unqualified for the position.
But largely speaking, remote employees must be able to work independently, because that’s the nature of the job.
Which remote environments do you prefer to work in?
Depending on the position, you may require the employee to work remotely only from a specific location. By asking the candidate from where they prefer to work, you can gauge whether they will be able to adjust to the environment you require. This is important, because remote work can be done in different places, including the following:
- Coffee shops
- College/university campuses
- Coworking spaces
- Public parks
In many cases, all the employee needs is a portable computer and secure internet connection. This means they can even work from their vehicle or a restaurant. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you want them to work from those places, especially since data security is always a concern for employers.
How would you manage distractions while working from home?
Oftentimes, people choose remote work because it allows them to better juggle their personal and work responsibilities. Those caring for small children or a family member may be particularly attracted to remote work. The same goes for candidates who have certain disabilities or want to avoid the commute of onsite work.
Regardless of why they prefer to work from home, distractions are a real possibility. These distractions can come from external sources, like having to tend to their child’s needs during work hours. Or, they can spring from the employee’s own vices, such as surfing the internet or watching television when they should be working.
A smart candidate will acknowledge the potential for distractions, plus have preemptive strategies for combating preventable distractions.
What would you do if an urgent work issue arises but your colleagues are offline?
This question lets you measure how proactive the candidate is. Would they wait until their boss or a team member is available? Or, would they pursue all reasonable avenues to reach someone?
A candidate who would simply wait is likely to have a low level of initiative. They are not proactive, do not think on their feet, and may hesitate in matters requiring decisive action.
What are your preferred methods of communicating remotely?
This question serves 2 purposes:
- To determine the best ways to communicate with the candidate if you hire them.
- To decipher whether the candidate can adapt to your preferred communication methods.
Note that there are many types of remote communication methods, including:
- Text messaging
- Instant messaging
- Online meeting platforms
- Team communication apps
Try to get a feel for which methods the candidate prefers, as this can help to improve communication with them.
How would you approach cybersecurity while working remotely?
This question is vital because the growing trend of remote work has created new opportunities for cybercriminals to exploit. “Home devices being used for business purposes” are particularly vulnerable, according to a Microsoft report.
Another report says that remote employees may pose an “insider threat” to employers. An “insider threat” is defined as:
- A negligent or careless employee or contractor
- A criminal or malicious insider
- A credential thief
The report says the vast majority of security leaks and breaches stem from employee carelessness or negligence. So, consider asking the candidate about their stance on workplace cybersecurity.
How would you rate the importance of written communication?
The distance element of remote work makes written communication skills a must. Among other things, it provides a paper trail of essential communications across remote teams.
If the candidate does not value written communication, or has poor writing skills, then this is a huge (and potentially costly) red flag. Studies show that the costs of poor communication is skyrocketing, now running around $12,506 per employee per year.
How do you feel about potentially working onsite?
Change is guaranteed in business environments. So, even if the position is fully remote right now, this could change based on your business needs in the future.
Depending on how the candidate feels about onsite work, you can measure:
- Their flexibility regarding where they work
- Whether they are best suited for only remote work or only onsite work
- Whether they might be open to working in a hybrid environment
What steps would you take to achieve success in this role?
This helps you to determine whether the candidate views the position as:
- Just another job, where they will do the bare minimum; or
- A career they would like to succeed and grow in
For example, a candidate who sees the position as a career will have the following goals:
- Adhere to the company’s mission, values, norms, and policies
- Submit quality work on a continuous basis
- Take advantage of development opportunities
- Aim to form and maintain healthy relationships with their colleagues
How would you handle conflict with another remote employee?
It’s a misconception that because employees are working remotely then conflict among them is unlikely. The odds of conflict might be reduced, depending on how much time the employee spends working alone. Still, the fact that they must work with others in some capacity makes conflict possible.
Ideally, the candidate should say that they will follow the company’s protocol for handling employee grievances.
How likely are you to maintain reliable internet access?
Do not assume that because we live in a technologically driven society, that the candidate has reliable internet access. They might not, if they live in certain rural areas.
Even if they currently have dependable internet access, that could change based on their life circumstances. It’s critical that they know reliable internet access is a core component of the role.
They cannot guarantee reliable internet access because this ultimately depends on their internet service provider. But they can tell you the odds of them having and maintaining reliable internet access.
What’s your biggest 2022 HR challenge that you’d like to resolve
Answer to see the results
Hire the most qualified remote candidate for your business
When hiring for remote positions, remember that these roles should not be filled by just anybody who looks good on paper. The selected candidates need to also have attributes that are ideal for remote work. You can simplify your search by asking remote-specific interview questions.