The single greatest benefit to recruiting remote workers is accessing a wider talent pool. You can handpick exactly what and who you need for the team, from any corner of the globe. The choice can be endless. But that brings about a challenge. How do you find the right fit?
Interviewing is key to all recruitment. It’s even more important to remote recruitment as you have less time to build an impression. Tactics are different as well. How to interview remote workers is mostly unlike a typical office interview.
In this article we explore the key attributes of successful remote worker interviews, so you can reduce a wider talent pool to the best person for the job. You’ll find questions that can easily separate experienced remote workers from wannabes, along with shortlisting and video interview tips.
How to Interview Remote Workers – Step by Step Recruitment Guide
How to Efficiently Shortlist From Hundreds of Candidates
Compile a great job offer and use a good recruitment platform like Search Remotely and expect hundreds of applications. You may be overwhelmed by the volume of applicants. Where do you start when the list is so long?
Good interviewing is very time consuming. After 8 – 10 interviews the candidates will unfortunately blur into one. And is that the right one? Or a preferred one combining the expertise of many?
Shortlisting is all about efficiency. If an applicant doesn’t make an impression after ten seconds you don’t have time to go digging for more information. First reduce the list to those who may be a good fit. Then use pre-screening to look beyond impressive CVs and cover letters.
There is no magic number when reducing the shortlist. Ten, two or even one applicant for interviewing can be good. But you can’t handle 30 interviews for one job.
1. Reject unqualified candidates quickly – use objective criteria to instantly reject unsuitable candidates. A recruiter spends an average of six seconds reviewing a CV, so think of objective criteria that can help you make a decision in six seconds, based on the job specifications.
2. Use a task to screen candidates – screening tests are the easy way to explore variations in quality, character and style. Plus, they help you cut through wannabes with impressive CVs. Create a quick and straightforward task with results that are easy to analyse. Anything that takes too much time or is too complicated will be off putting and it becomes a challenge to make objective decisions.
3. Use assessment questions to screen for culture and values – translate your workplace values into a series of questions that can filter candidates. For example if your value is to always be learning, ask candidates what they learnt this year. Whether this assessment is two or even ten questions, include a key make or break question that you can always assess first (this saves loads of time).
What to Expect from Applicants
With creative shortlisting you can reduce applications down to a manageable number. Most remote recruiters cap the number of interviewees at ten. Before jumping into video interviews it’s important to set your baseline standards. You are recruiting for a remote position and interviewees need to show good video meeting skills.
1. Solid connection, webcam and microphone is not an obstacle. It’s essential. If the applicant can’t find the right place for a video interview they don’t have enough remote working experience.
2.. At the end of every time you interview remote workers, there should be a time for applicants to ask questions. Most applicants will ask questions about your day to day processes and specifics about the job role. Questions about remote team culture are a very positive sign.
3. Remote workers need to know their lingo. They should be comfortable discussing collaboration tools and terms like sprint, distributed teams and asynchronous communication. Proactive interviewees will use lingo to prove they’re bonafide remote workers.
How to Conduct Video Interviews
Video interviews are a mix of video meetings and traditional interviews. There’s the digital side and ensuring you have a professional set up to conduct business remotely. And then an interview for what can be a life-changing job role for the applicant.
This interview means more to the candidate than it does to you. Of course they will be nervous, even if this does not show. Interviewees know very little about your company. They haven’t seen your office or people working in your office. Putting the interviewee at ease over a video call requires specific tactics.
1. Speak slower than usual. Video connections are not always absolutely clear. More importantly, accents can be hard to decipher when you live on the other side of the world and haven’t met before. A clear tone and slower pace will also help to calm candidates.
2. Introduce yourself and your expectations in some depth. In traditional interviews it’s easy for a candidate to build an impression based on the office building and the people inside. A longer introduction will substitute for this important context. Make sure you introduce the other interviewers as well, giving them time to say who they are and what they do.
3. Record the interview. In the rush to build first impressions it’s amazing how often this is overlooked. Reviewing footage is very beneficial when you have two similarly matched candidates, or want to fact check something that was said. Scribbling lots of notes can be off putting. Instead, press record and you can sustain eye contact throughout, encouraging the interviewee.
The Questions to Ask When You Interview Remote Workers
Remote job interviews are no different to traditional interviews. Good interviews need great questions. All your candidates need specific skills and experiences to do the job. But you must also understand if they will be a great remote worker. Do they have the skills and motivation to work independently, communicate across time zones and cultural complexities, and to collaborate within a distributed team?
You need a tailored set of questions along with clear expectation of what is a good answer. The following eight questions are not a definitive list but they are trusted topics by many recruiters on Search Remotely.
These questions can give you ideas for structuring an interview as well. Don’t think an interview must follow a linear structure. Jumping between topics and questions will require candidates to think on their feet and prove their communication skills.
The following eight questions are in addition to questions specific to the job requirements. After pre-screening you should have a brief idea of the candidate’s experience. But to interview remote workers you must combine job-specific questions with remote work questions.
1. Why do you want this job?
A standard question in most interviews and one that candidates will expect. Yet this question can quickly ascertain experienced remote workers. The golden answer is a connection between the candidate’s experience and how they can improve the business, an answer that demonstrates confidence and commitment.
However, applicants with no remote working experience get carried away by the benefits of remote working. So their answers revolve around a desire to work remotely, such as “I want the job so I have the freedom to work from anywhere.”
Location does not impact the suitability of a candidate. But candidates who want the job primarily because it is remote are not helping to improve your business. You must ensure the candidate’s personal mission is aligned with your business.
2. What do you have in your physical workspace?
This is a great scene setter and question that will ease candidates further into the interview, while also separating candidates. Experienced remote workers can answer this question without pausing to think. There is no right answer as everybody works differently. But there is so much an applicant can say that shows solid experience.
For example, do candidates discuss different setups at their home office and coworking space? Do they extol some of the freedoms afforded by remote working and keeping a lean workspace set up? Do they explain why or how their set up is beneficial.
The applicant who claims to “just have my trusty laptop” may be very new to remote working. How about an answer that acknowledges what’s required for virtual meeting? Or ideas about minimising potential distractions?
3. Why and how can you thrive in a remote team?
This follow up question tests different approaches and trumps the more prescriptive questions about remote teams. You can ask how do you get to know new members in your remote team. Or how do you collaborate with colleagues in a distributed team. Some will ask what collaboration tools to use.
This more open question will help you understand what is most important to the applicant. Do they discuss collaboration tools and tactics for getting to know colleagues? Are they proactive in offering solutions to common challenges? How do they adapt their skills to changing remote work environments? What can they bring to your remote team?
4. What skills make you a successful remote worker?
This can be somewhat of a sneaky question as the most obvious answers is to discuss organisational skills, good attitude, and specific tech skills. It seems like such an easy question, a question the candidate will have prepared and practiced.
But attitude and tech skills? Or great written communication? Are these the skills or throwaway lines from online articles? Experienced remote workers will provide answers with more complexity. Like a proactive approach, open communication and documenting processes. They may discuss remote professionalism, building trust and skills that help them work more efficiently.
This question also creates a good opportunity for candidates to share their personal experiences and prove they know what they’re talking about. An honest answer about skills the candidate wants to improve is also a good sign.
5. What are the challenges or concerns you face with remote working?
First-time remote workers are big on the benefits, less so the challenges. Such as communication, managing a work-life balance, isolation and burnout from working too much. There is nothing wrong with giving a candidate their first remote role but they at least should have done their homework for a question like this.
Any candidate claiming they don’t have concerns about remote working has never worked remotely before. Good candidates will be transparent about challenges they have faced and overcome.
6. How do you manage miscommunication?
Remote teams don’t catch up on an office corridor and there’s always risk of miscommunication across time zones and Slack messages. Virtual communication skills are fundamental and asking this question will provide insight into the interviewees’ approach. The best answers are proactive strategies for minimising miscommunication. Answers that mention process and utilising multiple channels are also a good sign.
You’re looking for an understanding of how email, Slack, video calls and project management software can be used collectively. The simple answer is what you would do in an office – make a phone call. A more complex answer details the importance of documenting and over-communicating, especially if there is a time-sensitive problem.
7. How do you prioritise tasks?
A question like this when you interview remote workers will help you pull out a candidate’s ability to work independently. Like the previous question about miscommunication, you can adapt a question on task priority to the specific job role.
Does the candidate organise tasks based on their urgency, or on the value and benefit they bring to the business? Will the applicant acknowledge the complications of time zones and prioritising tasks based on when team members are available?
You need to understand whether a candidate can work well with limited supervision. Urgent tasks are always urgent so how does a worker manage their workload so every task isn’t a race against deadlines?
8. How do you stay productive?
“I go for a walk…” Almost everybody goes for a walk to clear their head. “I drink another coffee…” Haha, you can relate to that but caffeine isn’t the answer.
Productivity is a personal thing and more complex answers indicate that a candidate has honed their approach. Does the candidate lean on the benefits of remote working to be more productive? Like taking a two-hour break in the middle of the day to go surfing? Or anything to disrupt the traditional 9 – 5 in a way that boosts their productivity?
This is also a great question for gleaming more information about work-life balance and remote experience. Does a candidate show a big desire to be productive, so they can work less and enjoy more of their freedoms? Or do they seem to measure productivity by the number of hours worked?
Elevate Your Recruitment With Search Remotely
Search Remotely is a leading platform for remote jobs. It’s unique in maintaining an exclusive focus on remote work. Job seekers on Search Remotely filter jobs based on industry and job role, not on whether the job is remote. This helps job seekers target what they want. And it helps recruiters access higher-value candidates. Other platforms have more jobs and more users. Search Remotely is a specialist platform that helps you specifically target the world’s leading remote talent.