Remote hiring has emerged as one of the best ways to expand your pool of potential hires as it widens the geographical area you can hire from. This provides better access to top talent and can sometimes help keep your payroll costs down.
Just like hiring for any position, to hire the best remote talent, you need to ask the candidates the right interview questions. The right questions help you assess the candidates to find the best fit for your business and the role.
So, what are the best interview questions to ask candidates when hiring remote employees? We’ve identified interview questions specific to remote working that will give you the information you need to identify the top talent that will help you reach your goals.
So when it’s time to hire for your next open position that doesn’t require working in-house, here are the 15 best interview questions for remote workers:
1. Have you worked remotely in the past? Tell us about your experience with remote work.
One of the first questions you should ask remote candidates is whether they have worked remotely in the past (even if it was only occasionally).
A candidate’s experience matters. Whether you are more concerned with how much work experience they have in general or how much relevant work experience will be up to you. But asking whether your candidate has worked remotely in the past helps you determine how prepared they are for the job, ascertain their work history, and gain a better insight into the nature of their previous remote work experience.
Thus, after asking whether the candidates have worked remotely in the past, you should ask follow-up questions like, “Tell us about your experience with remote work.”
2. What do you enjoy the most about a remote work environment? What do you find most challenging?
If your candidates answer that they have worked remotely in the past, a good follow-up question should be about what they enjoyed most about the experience and what they found most challenging.
These questions also help you learn more about your candidates’ remote working experience.
Most importantly, answers to these questions show whether the candidates have thought about how to be productive in the unique remote work environment.
In answering what they enjoy in remote work, candidates easily reveal whether they have the discipline and time management skills to handle working outside a traditional office environment.
For the best hire, look out for candidates who not only state the obvious benefits of remote work but also how those benefits positively affect their job performance.
Consider two candidates, A and B, who answer the question (about what they enjoy most in their remote work life) as follows:
Candidate A: I enjoy the flexibility that remote work offers.
Candidate B: I enjoy the flexibility that remote work allows. Setting my own work time helps me stay on task, allowing me to deliver quality work.
Working remotely has many challenges, especially communicating effectively and staying engaged with team members.
Asking candidates what they find most challenging will help determine whether they understand the unique challenges of remote work. The answers you get will reveal whether the candidates have the soft skills to handle the challenges of working remotely.
The best hires will be the candidates that not only mention the obvious challenges of remote work but also explain specific strategies for overcoming them.
3. What do you need from our company in order to do your best work remotely?
Whether people work remotely or in an office, they need to have the essential basics (a worktable, a computer, etc.).
Asking candidates what they’ll need from you to do their best work can help you determine whether they understand the equipment (hardware/software) needed to be productive in the remote work environment.
When you ask interviewees what they need from your company, you also ask them what critical equipment is needed for the job.
The best hire should be the candidate that shows an understanding of the critical equipment needed for the job and has a clear plan for accessing them.
The “What do you need from our company?” question can also help you sell your company to the candidates.
While an interview is an opportunity to assess whether a candidate is right for you, the candidate also uses it to evaluate whether your company is right for them.
Asking candidates what you can provide to help them do their best demonstrates a good company culture, that you care about helping them succeed, and that you want them to feel like part of the team.
4. What types of remote/distributed team tools and software have you used, and how did you use them?
People working as part of a remote team do not have the luxury of face-to-face communication with one another. So, virtual communication is a must for workers in remote teams via communication and collaboration tools like online chat apps, video call platforms, project management software, etc.
By asking your candidates about the remote team tools and software they have used, you’ll know if they are familiar with the relevant tools.
The second part of the question (How did you use them?) will help you determine the candidates’ savviness with the relevant communication, collaboration, and project management software/tools.
5. What is your approach to maintaining effective communication and collaboration with a distributed team?
Effective communication and collaboration are vital for team success. 86% of hiring managers say a lack of effective communication and collaboration is the main cause of team failures. As Asa Don Brown puts it, “communication is the lifeblood of an organization.”
Since face-to-face communication is absent in remote and distributed teams, a remote worker can easily fall out of the communication loop unless they actively reach out to other team members.
Asking candidates about their approach to maintaining effective communication and collaboration helps you determine how well they will reach out to colleagues.
In answering the question, they should mention how they prefer to exchange feedback (and why), how they conduct check-ins, etc. The answer to the question helps you determine the candidates’ communication skills.
In many remote work models, team members are in different countries and work from different time zones. Their answer will also help you determine how the candidates handle asynchronous working environments.
Does the candidate’s approach to communication show that they are only open to communication in their zone’s uptime, or can they also respond to messages in their off-hours if necessary? Or have they factored in ways to communicate asynchronously that will make working across time zones seamless?
6. How do you manage your time and stay organized?
Increased autonomy and independence are some benefits of a remote work life. But that can be bad news for the hiring manager because it makes supervision difficult in a remote setting.
Since you cannot have a manager nearby to supervise a remote employee, you must ensure that the person you hire is adept at managing their time and staying organized.
Asking candidates how they manage their time and stay organized will give you insight into their discipline and remote work schedule. This is an essential question to ask if your company has a remote work culture.
For the best hire, look for candidates who demonstrate an ability to prioritize tasks and use calendars to plan and execute task delivery.
7. How do you keep yourself motivated and engaged when working from home?
A remote environment has many elements that can make workers less productive. Distractions abound (chores, TV, roommates, a partner, children, a pet, etc.), and, as mentioned previously, there’s no manager nearby to keep a team member on task.
So, when hiring for remote roles, it’s essential to ask the candidates how they keep themselves engaged and motivated when working from home.
The answers to this question will reveal their professional maturity (how well they deploy specific techniques to support their own success).
The best hires should show they can handle distractions in a remote environment. These candidates would mention specific techniques that help them remain engaged and productive.
8. What’s the key to making sure a project is successful when working remotely?
The goal of any hiring process is to hire candidates who will successfully complete tasks toward delivering your project.
Thus, when interviewing for new remote employees, you should determine how candidates ensure the successful delivery of projects in their remote work environment.
The best candidates would be those demonstrating a good understanding of project success factors (especially those success factors aligning with your business requirements).
In this regard, look out for candidates who:
- Demonstrate an ability to calculate the scope of work and the effort required.
- Have workable strategies for delivering quality work without missing deadlines.
- Have an effective communication strategy to stay connected with related parties for project success.
- Aren’t interested in only delivering the project outcome, but are interested in making sure the project delivers expected business value.
9. Tell me about a time when you weren’t sure how to do something. How did you go about seeking out information?
No matter how knowledgeable or experienced someone is, there is always the probability of needing help with something. More often than not, getting help is crucial for successful task execution.
Thus, when interviewing remote employees, you should ask whether they’ve faced such a situation in the past. The goal is to determine how the candidate will handle the challenging what-if scenario.
The answer to the question can reveal a lot about a candidate. For example, it can tell you whether the candidate:
- Is someone who follows organizational guidelines: If a company guideline exists for handling such situations, does the candidate fall back on such guidelines for solutions?
- Is a team player: Sometimes, instead of wasting time and effort with trial and error when unsure how to do something, the way to go is to ask a team member. Does the candidate’s answer indicate a reluctance to consult with other team members or that they would readily seek the advice of others even if they are not in the office with them?
- Is a resourceful person: Look out for candidates who can think outside the box to find solutions.
10. How do you set boundaries between work and home life?
Remote work can muddle the line between your work life and personal life. When you work from home, you do not have the luxury of logging off and forgetting about work till the next day.
People who’ve worked remotely know that remote workers often spend their personal time working, making them work longer hours than traditional in-office workers. Recent research shows that remote work adds three hours to workers’ work week.
Overworked employees are less productive. So, you should ask your prospective remote workers how they balance their work and home life to avoid burnout.
How candidates answer will help you understand how they will balance their life when working for you. For the best hire, look out for candidates who prioritize a healthy work-life balance.
Such candidates should highlight how they plan their day and take time off for important personal activities (such as a coffee break, lunch break, walk, etc.).
11. Why do you want to work remotely?
A seemingly easy but potentially tricky question to ask is, “Why do you want to work remotely?” (You could even start the interview with it.)
Not everyone chooses remote work for the same reason. However, what informs the decision will give you insight into the candidates’ motivation for replying to your job posting.
Answers to the question will also help you gauge the level of commitment that candidates will give your project when you hire them.
Check whether candidates seek remote work for personal or professional advantages.
For example, do the candidates simply reel out how working from home will improve their life? (Such as not having a boss to breathe down their neck, etc.)
While having personal reasons for seeking remote work is not bad, it’ll tell you that the candidate is more motivated by personal gains.
On the other hand, does the candidate talk about how working from home makes them more productive? This tells you that the person is more career-oriented and will become a loyal and stellar employee that will put your projects before personal gains.
12. How do you prioritize tasks?
It’s not news that work can sometimes be overwhelming. Sometimes, it can feel like workers have so much to do and so little time to do it all. In such situations, critical tasks may suffer unless the worker knows how to prioritize tasks.
Therefore, when interviewing candidates for remote jobs, you should ensure they can prioritize tasks by asking them how they do this.
Look out for candidates that demonstrate an ability to prioritize tasks based on business needs.
Do the candidates’ answers show that they can rank tasks based on the order of importance? That way, they should be able to identify and execute critical tasks first.
Also, what criteria does the candidate use in ranking tasks? Ensure the candidate’s ranking criteria reflect an understanding of the business goals.
You may also want to check that some thought has gone into thinking about how working remotely could affect which tasks should be prioritized. For example, if working in another time zone, thought might have to be given as to which tasks must be completed first so that colleagues have any necessary information/documents at the start of their working day.
13. Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a remote team member. How did you handle it?
Conflict is inevitable as long as two or more people interact for some time.
Conflict resolution is challenging enough in traditional in-office environments. The virtual communication nature of remote work environments makes conflict resolution even more difficult.
Since a harmonious atmosphere is critical for effective collaboration and successful work delivery, ensuring your prospective employee can handle conflicts effectively is important.
So, if you’re interviewing for a remote team, ask candidates if they’ve had to deal with conflict and how they resolve it.
From the answers, you can easily identify candidates who do not allow task-related conflicts to evolve into personal conflicts. For the best hire, look out for the candidate who:
- Readily uses organizational provisions for conflict resolution.
- Handles every issue immediately.
- Shows empathy and an understanding of the other person’s perspective.
14. Describe a time when you had to provide difficult feedback. How did you communicate constructively?
A person’s communication skills are not really tested when everything is going well. Communication skills are better tested when everything seems to be deteriorating, and what is needed is frank discussions to find solutions.
So, to gauge the communication skills of your remote work interviewees, ask them if they’ve handled delicate situations in the past, such as communicating difficult feedback.
From their answers, look out for candidates who communicate criticisms professionally. Is their account of the other person respectful or accusatory? This can reveal whether the candidate is a team player or not.
You might want to ask follow-up questions to see if they learned anything from the experience. How they answer can reveal more about the candidate’s personality.
15. What do you do when you sense that a project will take longer than expected?
Sometimes workers err when calculating the scope of a job and realize later that it’ll take longer than expected. Other times, unforeseen occurrences make it impossible to deliver a job as planned.
Since delays can put the whole organization’s project at risk, it’s important to ask interviewees how they’ll handle such situations.
Look out for candidates that can tell you about times they proactively deployed a strategy to prevent a situation that would hurt the entire project. From their answers, identify candidates that’ll communicate issues to their supervisor without an air of complaint or panic.
Also, the best candidates will do more than communicate the problem—they will also try to offer a solution.
There’s a plethora of good interview questions to ask remote work candidates, including some that will be very specific to the role you are hiring for. The 15 questions above are some of the best to start with, as they’ll help you to properly assess the candidates while also positioning you to the candidates as the best remote company to work with.
However, before any discussion of the interview process, you need a pool of remote candidates.
If you’re a US company, Near can help you access top talent ready to work remotely. We have a curated job board that helps US companies hire English-speaking, highly skilled remote workers from Latin America.
Fill out this form to get a list of exceptional pre-vetted talent that you can interview for free.
You may also like: The Remote Hiring Process: Steps, Tips, and Strategies for Success.