Distance work has been on the rise for years, but the COVID 19 pandemic has finally put it in the spotlight.
The need to send workers home to slow the spread of the disease through 2020 and by 2021 is likely to lead many employers to rethink their positions on remote work and open more positions from home.
"A lot of people only worked remotely because they have the ability to travel or protect themselves from the virus," said Carolyn Cairns, marketing manager at Creation business consultants, based in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.
Employers in all industries want to know how employees deal with work from home, regardless of whether they are new to managing remote employees or have long been remote employees.
So when you apply for a work-from-home position, you should be prepared to answer these questions about the remote interview.
9 questions you may need to answer about working remotely
From eight company managers and human resource managers hiring and working with remote teams, here are some frequently asked questions about remote interviews.
1. Have you ever worked remotely?
The first question is obvious, but almost every hiring manager I've heard of mentioned it: What is your remote work experience?
"The most important question we always ask potential candidates is their level of comfort and effectiveness when working remotely," said Amine Rahal, founder and CEO of Little Dragon Media, a digital marketing agency.
When you present your experience, a potential employer knows that you can work remotely.
Show them that you have this by not only listing jobs where you worked remotely, but also explaining how remote work is different from in-office work for you. This shows you that you understand the skills required to work from home.
"It would be nice to know if the applicant already has experience," said Cairns, "as this will be useful because he already knows how things will go and would not require additional training."
If you've never had a remote job before, consider all the options you had to work out of the office, such as:
- Every time you have traveled to a conference or training and have had to stay in touch with your team at home.
- Working days from home, even if they were rare.
- Days you worked from home while looking after someone who was sick.
- Vacation days when you had to go online to do something urgent at work (I hope that wasn't the norm!).
2. Why do you want to work from home?
"It is important to know why a person chooses to work remotely," said Cairns. "Your reason would affect the hours and focus you could give the job."
Most managers suggested something similar. You seem to be looking for red flags – are you motivated to work from home because you want to avoid and reduce oversight?
If this is your motivation, you are probably looking for the wrong job. It is best to withdraw and find a more suitable career. At least do not mention your relaxed efforts in the interview. Instead, focus on how you can be your best self and therefore the best employee you can be with a remote job.
You don't have to disclose whether you want to work from home to get flexibility regarding childcare, housework, disability, or other non-job related things.
3. How is your home office set up?
Almost everyone answered this question. You want to know that you have enough space, equipment, and an internet connection to work effectively from home.
"Have you already set up a compatible and functional home office? … I would think twice about anyone who says that this is not the case," said David Walter, CEO of the Electrician Mentor Electrician Training Center.
Some managers told me they were asking for a zoom tour or photos of a respondent's home office. It is quite invasive. Reject politely and remind an interviewer that this is your private home.
You may be incredible at work, but an outdated computer and poor internet connection make it annoying to work with you remotely. You do your work slowly and can’t communicate easily.
If you are serious about a remote location, be prepared with:
- A current computer. The desktop is fine, but it also has a fully functional laptop if you ever work from a location other than your home office.
- High speed internet. If you don't have a perfect connection, go ahead and explain how to work effectively with slow internet.
- A way to concentrate. Interviewers may ask if you have dedicated office space. You don't need to, but you may need to explain how to eliminate distractions at home while at work.
Some companies contribute to your home office setup by sending you devices, offering a scholarship to buy things yourself, or paying a monthly scholarship to cover your internet and phone bills.
4. When do you work most effectively?
Some, but not all, remote jobs offer some or full flexibility in your work schedule.
Hiring managers want to know when you work most effectively or how to structure your workday to understand how to work with the team.
"Working from home is pretty much an empty thing compared to going to the office," said Quincy Smith, co-founder of Test Prep Nerds, which has a completely removed team of employees and contractors. "The only structure is what you do for yourself, and we like to see people who have established routines, dedicated work areas, and compliance with their availability."
Not every company needs a uniform routine for remote employees, but how you answer this question also gives them an insight into your time management skills.
Knowing your most effective working hours is a quick way to communicate your ability to manage your time and be productive.
If your best hours are unconventional – like early in the morning or late at night – explain how to structure your day so that you are available to your employees during typical office hours without being online all the time.
5. How do you manage the work-life balance?
The compatibility of private and work life is a major concern for everyone who works from home – and for their employers.
Alex Azoury, founder and CEO of Home Grounds, a website for coffee connoisseurs, asks potential employees: "What is your daily routine?"
"I don't just want to know how they structure their workday," Azoury said. “I also want to know how they involve eating and exercise, and daily personal tasks. This shows me how structured they are in their approach to time management. "
Yes, interviewers want to know how to focus on work at home. But you also want to know how to draw the line and switch off from work when the day is over.
Some questions about work-life balance obscure potential violations of Title VII. You do not have to provide your marital status, childcare, or other non-job related details.
"Burnout is real when it comes to remote work, so it's very important for us to understand how to reset when you feel your productivity is declining," said Smith. "What we like to see is that you need 30 minutes to read, walk your dog, or go to the gym."
These brain breaks are unique benefits of working from home. They may sound like indulgences or distractions on the surface, but they show an interviewer that you recognize creeping burnout and how to fight it.
6. How do you stay productive and focused?
The biggest argument against remote work in years has been the potential impact on productivity.
Although several studies over the years – and the employees themselves – have claimed the opposite, some employers still fear that we cannot do work without direct supervision.
"One aspect that cannot be overlooked is the level of maturity and the work ethic," said Rahal.
Be prepared for questions that will help interviewers evaluate these characteristics, and respond with examples to show that you:
- Take initiative.
- Stay up to date with minimal oversight.
- Assess your productivity yourself.
- Make adjustments when your productivity drops.
Sonya Schwartz, founder of the dating and relationship site Her Norm, said that supervision was not a problem for her.
"When I hire my staff, I really trust them," she said. "Whether you are supervised or not, I am more concerned with the quality of your services."
Inspire this type of trust in your interviewer by sharing certain tactics that will help you work efficiently and effectively in any environment.
7. Do you know how to use it (insert tool here)?
Working remotely means that most of your communication and collaboration is done online. You must therefore be familiar with the programs that make remote work easier.
If you are looking for remote jobs, familiarize yourself with these popular tools for:
- Collaboration and file sharing: Google Drive and Docs, Office 365, Dropbox.
- Video chat: Google Meet, Zoom.
- Project management: Asana, Trello.
- Communication: Gmail, Slack, Skype.
8. How do you communicate with a remote team?
Every interviewer should ask you this question for a distant position. If not, this is a sign that you may have to take care of yourself when you work at home.
The best form of long-distance communication depends on the team and the individuals – no method is generally correct. For example, the writers I work with slip into my DMs. When I speak to CEOs or salespeople, we call.
Think about how you prefer to communicate – it's okay if it suits the circumstances. Do you like:
- Did you carefully describe all your thoughts in an email?
- Chat casually via text or direct message?
- Are you bouncing on a spontaneous phone or video call?
- Planning a phone or video meeting?
- Save everything for the weekly team conference?
"How they respond tells whether they prefer to work alone or in a group, and how effectively they can communicate through text, video, and other remote means," said Matt Erhard, executive partner of the recruitment agency Summit Search Group.
9. How do you solve problems independently?
Working from home can mean working at times when no one on your team is up to date – especially when you have flexible hours or work with employees who are spread across time zones.
Taylor McCarthy Hansen, co-founder of The Ecomm Manager of the e-commerce industry, asks: “Name a technical problem you faced while working remotely. How did you fix the problem? "
Several interviewers suggested similar questions that you can use to assess whether you are able to address problems when there is no one available to help you.
This is a good opportunity to give a concrete example of a time when you were in this situation.
How you can deal with the situation in a potential company depends on many factors – type of problem, company protocol, position and responsibilities – but a past example shows how you think on your feet.
Get ready for your next remote job
Employers may still have concerns about letting employees work from home, but cultural changes and worker expectations are slowly forcing them to lose their hands.
"Increasing," said Rahal, "the attitude towards distant positions is becoming the new normal as the pandemic has completely changed the paradigm of the old workplace."
Look for more remote positions as the trend continues – or make your own by asking your employer if you can work from home.
Get your remote interview ready by preparing answers to the concerns that many employers still have about remote work – and show them that you're a star employee no matter where you are .
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) has been writing and editing on personal finance, careers and digital media since 2011.
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