Guide: Interview questions for hiring remote employees

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Interview questions for hiring remote employees

Last Updated: March 27, 2020

We're currently seeing a worldwide experiment in remote work. Even when society returns to normal, I predict we’ll see a higher proportion of remote work.

Remote work is a skill, but is bolstered by competencies such as communication, proactivity, and independence. You’ll want to assess these when interviewing remote candidates.

What should you do if a candidate hasn't performed any remote work? First, consider if they have experience collaborating with remote offices. If not, you can still use the questions in this guide to probe whether they’ve considered the challenges of remote work. However, hypothetical questions are less predictive. Therefore, you should spend less time per question and ask a broader variety of questions.

You should also take advantage of the remote interview process to assess a candidate’s remote communication and work style. Are they able to find a quiet place for the interviews? How is their written communication and coordination? How do they handle technical difficulties?

Criteria this guide covers

Interview GPS organizes questions by personal values, competencies, and skills. Click a criteria to explore more questions

Trust Belief and confidence in the integrity, reliability and fairness of your colleagues
Communication Effectively communicates ideas to their manager, team, other internal/external stakeholders and others
Independence Ability to work independently, e.g., self-direct, make decisions, etc.
Proactivity Acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes
Remote Work Working from a different place than other team members, e.g., from home, a remote office, on the road, etc.

Tell me about a time you established rapport with a colleague or client you had never met in person

A team member's Trust Quotient is a product of their credibility, reliability, and intimacy with the team. Establishing intimacy is hard when you're separated physically because there's fewer natural opportunities to get to know each other.

In addition to probing how the candidate has established rapport in the past, you should reflect on how well they've established rapport with you and the other interviewers.


Tell me about a time when a technical issue disrupted some important remote work

Remote employees, especially those working in the field, face many more different kinds of technical difficulties. When they do arise, if the worker can't fix or work around the problem, their productivity goes down the tube

Some of these problems can be avoided. For example, video call quality can be improved by investing in high-speed internet. Some of these problems are expected. Even with high-speed internet, video call quality can still drop. And some are unpredictable. You want to find someone who anticipates problems but rolls with the punches when issues inevitably arise.


Tell me about a time you were working in a different time zone than your other team members

Remote work requires a different style of communication than collocated work. Adapting communication style is especially important when team members are scattered across different time zones and/or working a different schedule.

Look for candidates that understand synchronous vs. asynchronous communication. Synchronous communication may require keeping predictable hours that overlap their colleagues. Asynchronous communication requires providing additional context/directions to limit back-and-forth.


Could you tell me about a time you made an important decision without the help of a supervisor or boss?

Remote work means more situations where you want your team to be able to decide and act independently.

I like this question because you can use it to probe how the candidate thinks about when and how to involve their colleagues. In the linked Question Details/Rubric, I also cover follow-up questions about how they communicate their decisions.


Tell me about time you managed a remote worker who started underperforming

This last question is for managers. Remote management is hard because there's fewer ordinary opportunities to read the mood of your team. The lack of connection makes it hard to detect problems before they get out of hand.

Good remote managers have systems in place to monitor the mood of their team. Once they spot a potential problem, they are proactive in reaching out. When communicating, they'll cater their approach to the employee's communication style.

About the Author

Todd Schiller

Founder of Interview GPS. On a mission to help businesses meet their goals by hiring the right people

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