How to Master and Ace a Remote Job Interview

Preparing for a job interview remains the most challenging experience for job seekers. For first timers, it could even be nerve breaking. Imagine a situation where you have to combat an ocean of candidates; some of which are even more desperate than you. Everything about your disposition must be impressive to your potential employer.

Besides your appearance, you must be able to display a personality that will convince your interviewer of your untold value and worth. Your statements have to be coordinated; your answers mustn’t look premeditated; your must have the right posture; and so on.

Of course, all these are typical of normal work interviews. Now imagine having to go through the same hurdle on a voice or video call in a different time zone. A newbie would probably commonize such an arrangement. But that would be a terrible mistake on your part.

On the contrary, remote work interviews are a bit more challenging because now you have to prove to a potential employer that you can work effectively without supervision and also maintain constant communication with the company. In other words, telecommuting is borders on autonomy and visibility which both heightens the traits you’re required to exhibit in a normal office setting.

So if I were you I would never allow a barking dog, a dinner call from a loved one, or any other form of intrusion to screw my chances of getting my dream job.

Like I told you earlier, I was a remote job seeker for 3 months before I got my present job. Based on my failed attempts at many companies and the experience I have gathered so far as a remote recruiter, here are some tips I think you will find most useful when applying for a remote job.

Before the Interview

Check for any technology issue– Before the interview, make sure you check and troubleshoot any issue with your computer. Check if the computer camera is working properly as well as the video conference software if need be. You can carry out a dry run just to make sure there are no hitches. It might help to practice with a friend; that way you can get familiar with the entire set up.

Take care of your appearance– Just like in-person interviews, remote interviews also require you to dress professionally. So try your best to look smart and make sure your background has a good setting. Use good lighting and keep things neutral. An indoor room is preferable; don’t use your bedroom. It might help to preview everything so that you can see how you look before the interviewer.

Get rid of distractions– Ensure there’s nothing in the background that’s distracting. To prevent any noise, shut the doors and windows and also keep the dogs and cats away; this is serious business. Your mobile phone should be switched off or set to silent. The last thing you want is for your phone to ring during an interview session. Also inform your family members or roommate about your interview so they can stay away from the background. Distractions are not only annoying to interviewers; they can also make you lose focus.

Don’t be in hurry– If required; give yourself a little more time. Some interviewers may want to go beyond the normal time that was scheduled for the interview just to know you better. This is a good sign and you should you should use it to your advantage.

What are the questions to expect?

Regardless of the company, when applying for a remote job, you will be expected to demonstrate that:

  • You will always be available to respond to calls and messages no matter the time zone
  • You can bring in ideas and processes that will be beneficial to a workforce that is distributed
  • You have great communication skills and listening ability
  • You know how to effective use technology so that limitation imposed by distance is not felt much
  • You are highly composed (organised) and accountable for the tasks assigned to you
  • You can perform your own quality assurance on deliverables before asking for feedback from your team members

With this in mind let’s briefly consider some of the most common questions that pop up during your interview and the areas they are meant to address.

Do you have any remote work experience?

Recruiters want to know if you have the ability to work on your own. Though you have a greater advantage if you have a previous remote experience, however, you should still provide a good answer if you’ve never worked remotely. Since the emphasis here is to show the interviewer that you can work independently, try to come up with any experience that relates to any independent work you’ve done in the past even though it’s not an actual remote job.

For instance, does your current work in a traditional office require you to work a lot on your own (a good example is photo editing)? It might not even be your current job; it might be something else. As long as it was a task you were able to accomplish independently, feel free to mention it.

What is your daily schedule?

Here you need to show the interviewer how well you know yourself. This includes your daily schedule and the hours of the daily when you are most productive; whether you fit as a night owl or the type that leaps out of bed and gets straight to work. Your interviewer will also want to know the strategies you employ in organizing your work so you don’t go off track.

Your daily schedule should appeal to you naturally. If you struggle to keep to it, then it’s not really your rhythm. So make sure you understand what works best for you before you provide an answer to this question.

What are your modes of communication?

When working as a digital nomad, you might never get an opportunity to speak with a colleague in your team face to face. The only way to stay in touch is through virtual means. This means you need to have reliable communication tools on hand in order to maintain contact with your team.

So you will need to show your interviewer that you are proficient in using various digital communication technologies such as online chats, email, project management software, video hangouts and others. It is common for the company to suggest some of these tools or ask you to choose the one that works best for you.

What are the things you need to create a productive workspace?

The reason for this question is obvious. Your interviewer is trying to find out if you are really aware of the tools you need to set up a remote office. Sometimes the company might provide you with certain equipment if they decide to hire you. However, it’s important for you to understand all the physical aspects of creating a productive workspace.

I have already discussed the major requirements of a remote workspace. Feel free to refer to chapter 2 if you forgot anything. Make sure you do your best to paint a picture of an ideal workspace.

Do you have a home office?

When it comes to remote work, preparation matters a lot. This is why we devoted a whole chapter for preparing a workstation. Like I pointed out earlier, it’s very important to have your personal office space ready at home or in town before moving forward to apply for remote jobs.

Although, sometimes you might work from a coffee shop or a bus station, no manager would like to hear that or they might not take you seriously. Coffee shops or other public places are filled with prying eyes and employers don’t want them seeing confidential information.

You might want to review the basic equipment you need to setup a home office here.

How do you deal with distractions?

Besides the need to enjoy greater flexibility and location independence, one of the other reasons for telecommuting is to get away from the distractions common in corporate environments. It would not be nice if you allow some of these distractions to re-surface again in your own cubicle.

Failure to properly handle these distractions can affect your productivity to a large extent. So it’s important you know how to deal with them so they don’t affect your performance and work flow.

Working remotely should never be used as an excuse for full parenting.

So make sure you have a good answer ready on how to address the issue. I suggest you set up some rules to tame the force of chaos that might result from having your kids or spouse around.

Rules like:

  • No loud music (or none at all) before 6pm
  • No interruptions except it’s really important
  • No pets around when am working (a cat might less of a distractions except when it insist on sleeping on your computer)

Things you want to do:

  • Close your office if you can; you will do more work that way
  • Turn off social media
  • Always set a to-do list
  • Set deadlines
  • Change your work station occasionally
  • Don’t remain in pyjamas

More tips to ace your interview

Start a side project– most remote jobs especially in tech requires a lot of creativity and accountability. You must be able to show potential employers that you can take on tasks with little or no supervision. Side projects helps to you to get the nod in this area.

They don’t need to be anything huge; just something that showcases the skills you claim. For instance, for programmers, these can range from personal projects to contributions to open source projects.

Become a better writer – Since nonverbal communication is mostly adopted in remote work, employees are often required to possess strong writing ability. Many companies usually include this among their requirements. However, most times this issue might pop up during your interview.

So if you’re not already proficient in your writing, you might want to work on it. This doesn’t mean you should be a master of prose. However, you must be able to communicate effectively in written form.

From everything I’ve written so far, it’s obvious am not a bad writer. Even though I might never be able to write like Wole Soyinka, Charles Dickens or Jane Austen, am sure I have been clear enough; which is the most important thing.

Improve your planning and organizational skills– if you don’t know about project management, then you should learn about it before you even start applying for any remote position. Even if you don’t end up working in a team, you will still be required to constantly interact with your boss.

Companies employ various project management systems to plan and organize their projects and workflow. This is why it’s very important to know the basics the most common methodologies in the industry as this will help prepare you for whatever system adopted by your potential employer.

To Wrap it Up

I will draw the curtains here. I think I have covered most of what you need (if not all) to prepare and ace any remote job interview. Feel free to ask me your questions in the comment section or at least let me know if you enjoyed the article.

2 Comments

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