Remote Interview Tips
Advice for Applicants and Interviewers
By the time I landed my first interview for a remote job, I already felt like an expert in Skype interviews. I'd done several throughout and after college, and I had my process down pat: go to my bedroom, find a white wall, prop my computer up so my interviewer wouldn't get any weird views of my nostrils, plug in my headphones, check my makeup and lighting in a test video call, and wait patiently for my interviewer.
All of this went out the window for my first legit remote job interview - the interviewer asked me if I was available to talk now, and always eager to please, I said yes. I wiped tuna fish off my face, logged onto Skype, and hoped for the best. It went great, and I got the job... but all things being equal, I'd still have rather had time to prepare.
So, what needs to be taken into account before a virtual interview for a remote position? As with any job interview, you need to know your stuff. But for remote interviews, you need to prepare your space and be ready to answer specific questions about your interest and qualifications for working remotely.
Interviews for remote jobs can be challenging no matter which side of the screen you're on - as an employer or an applicant. So we laid out four key remote interview tips to keep in mind, whether you're assessing if a candidate has the creativity and independence to work remotely, or if you're trying to convince a recruiter that you've got what it takes to work from home.
Our Top 4 Remote Interview Tips
1) Prepare yourself and your space.Giphy
- Dress the part. While there's no need to wear a full suit, or even just the top half of one (your interviewer, as a remote worker, will likely be dressed casually), you should aim to look your best - whatever that means for you. Wear something that makes you feel comfortable and confident, and maybe opt to go one step above a t-shirt.
- Make sure your computer is set up well in advance. If an employer invites you to interview via Zoom, make sure you have it downloaded and know how it works in advance (I may or may not have done this, and I may or may not have had a panic attack as I frantically emailed my interviewer to say I was having issues). You want to test run whatever program the interview will be in at least an hour beforehand - even if you think you're an old pro with the program. You don't know how many times I've had Skype interviews only to find a pesky update waiting for me that requires me to restart my computer.
- Find a quiet place with a reliable internet connection. If you're in Buenos Aires, I can tell you firsthand that a Starbucks probably isn't it. Whether you choose to have the interview from home or a co-working space, make sure you know the internet there is reliable and not too slow. Use headphones to remove distractions and cut down on echo!
- Play it cool. If you've done your "technical" prep work, it's unlikely that you'll hit too many technical snags. But you never know. A Buenos Aires heat wave could mean you have a power cut just before your interview. Or your neighbor could decide 3PM on a Thursday is the perfect time to blast heavy metal. If anything like this happens, communicate proactively with your interviewer and propose solutions - show them you know how to problem solve, and they'll likely forgive you for the rest.
Interviewers: You can tell a lot from the little things - was the call quality good? Was the person on time? If there were any issues, were they communicative while troubleshooting? Stuff happens and a poor connection shouldn't necessarily be a deal-breaker, but keep in mind that if an issue happened during the interview, odds are, it will happen again if you hire that person. If they have an old, finicky laptop, or don't really understand their way around a Zoom meeting, it definitely doesn't mean you shouldn't hire them, but you should have a plan to ensure these same things won't be issues in the future. Know you'll need to onboard them so they become more familiar with the tools your organization uses, and consider whether a stipend so they can get a better computer and/or higher internet quality is a worthwhile investment. (Spoiler alert: It probably is.)
2) Be able to articulate why you want to work remotely.
In some way, shape, or form, the question as to why you want to work remotely (especially if this is your first time doing so) will come up. You need to be prepared to give a thoughtful answer that goes beyond, "I hate wearing pants."
There isn't necessarily a right or wrong answer to this question, but showing your interviewer that you have a strong rationale will help them see that you've thought carefully about remote work and what it entails. It will also help you be sure that remote work is a good fit (it isn't for everyone!). Some questions you can ask yourself to help build a thoughtful response to this overarching question are:
- What is it about offices you dislike?
- What components of the office environment do you think you'll miss?
- What most excites you about working remotely? What most concerns you?
- Why do you think you can be productive from home? (Or anywhere?)
Interviewers: When you ask, "Why do you want to work remotely?" what you're really asking is, "Why do you think you can be successful working remotely for my company, and do you picture yourself there in the medium to long-term?" You want to make sure a remote job isn't just a matter of temporary convenience for them.
Have an idea in mind of ideally how long the applicant would stay in the role, and try and get a sense for whether they're committed to working remotely at least that long. If they're an expat or digital nomad, their desire for a remote job might be rather transparent -- they want to keep making money in a stable currency while traveling or living abroad (I certainly wasn't hiding my desire to make dollars in Argentina). There's nothing wrong with this in and of itself, but make sure you have an understanding of how long they plan to stay where they are, as both changes in timezone and cost of living could affect their future at your company.
3) Highlight your communication skills.
Anyone who's tried a long-distance relationship knows that communication gets infinitely harder when you're relying solely on text messages. You read into every period, exclamation point, and emoji (is that a smile-smile, or a sarcastic smile?).
The same applies to remote work. What your boss might've said to you during a quick conversation at your desk becomes what you might perceive to be a passive-aggressive Slack message.
During your interview, you need to convince your interviewer that you're:
- Capable of receiving and responding appropriately to others' messages and emails
- Ready to communicate clearly and proactively so others won't be left wondering what you mean.
So, good written communication is key. You need to be comfortable banging out short, quick messages in Slack, and writing long, thoughtful emails. BUT equally important, is knowing when written communication is insufficient - being ready to jump on a quick call or plan a video conference meeting is crucial, and highlighting that you understand the importance of this in your interview will help you stand out as a proactive communicator. (Your boss really doesn't want to be following up with you all the time.)
Lastly, mention tools you've used for other jobs (Slack, Google Docs/Hangouts, Zoom, JIRA, Asana, etc.) to show your competence. While any of these tools can be learned, it will certainly provide your interviewer peace of mind to know you've used them before. Bonus points if you weave them into a conversation about a cool personal project you've worked on (see the next point).
Interviewers: For all the reasons above, it's crucial that you understand how the applicant communicates, and if they'll be able to do so effectively with a remote team. Rather than asking a broad question like, "How do you communicate?" break it down into specifics:
- Can you tell me how you managed communication with your last boss? How often did you check in? Who arranged follow-ups?
- How do you like to receive feedback? (Someone who proactively seeks feedback, but isn't entirely dependent upon it is ideal for remote work.)
- Can you tell me about a time at work where you suffered as a result of poor communication?
- If your boss assigned you a task during a team meeting and you didn't fully understand it, how would you proceed?
4) Talk about your hobbies + personal projects.
When I started working remotely, I think my mom pictured me lounging about all day in my underwear. She couldn't believe that I was working 12 hour days, occasionally too stressed to even stop and eat. The reality is, when you work remotely, you often end up doing both of those things - strewn pantsless on your couch, and working your ass off.
This kind of approach to work won't be healthy for you or your employer. You don't want to be that stressed, and they don't want you to burn out.
The best way to convince your interviewer that this won't happen is to help them understand that you know how to manage your time and that you're disciplined enough to meet goals. It also doesn't hurt to mention you have compelling reasons to step away from your computer and get out of the house (a child that has to go to school, a dog that needs walked, a fitness class you love, etc.) When you're only communicating virtually, these human factors are great ways to bond and build trust!
So, how do you convince your interviewer that you've got bomb time management skills? Talk about a personal project (or a work project that you took the lead on) where you had self-imposed deadlines and met them. Showing that you're self-disciplined and self-motivated is key, because no one will be breathing over your shoulder, reminding you to get your work done. Talk about how you structured your work, the barriers you faced, and what you did to overcome them. (And again, mention the tools you use to keep yourself on track - killer spreadsheets? Weekly check-ins with team members? etc.)
Interviewers: Don't just ask vaguely about time management - anyone can cook up a BS answer about how they're great at balancing multiple tasks. Ask specific questions that will help you understand this person's approach to work. We all procrastinate to some extent (I'm talking about me here), but you need to know whether that will inhibit the candidate's ability to consistently hit goals.
- How was your day structured at your current/previous job? Did you set your tasks or did your manager?
- What percent of deadlines that you set for yourself do you meet? What about deadlines set by others?
- What are your thoughts on procrastination? (Follow-up: What strategies do you use to overcome it)
- Can you tell me about a time you missed a deadline?
- What would your ideal work schedule look like (Daily and weekly)? Do you like to set your tasks or do you prefer to have them assigned to you?
And of course, you can always assign the interviewee a small project to turn in the following week and then ask how they went about tackling it, how long it took them, when they started, etc. (If you do this, be considerate of the time commitment entailed and consider paying them for their time.)
If you follow these remote interview tips, you'll be able to convince your interviewer that you've got what it takes to work remotely. Just make sure you're convinced you do as well ;) If you're having second thoughts about remote jobs, you can search for great, flexible onsite roles on PowerToFly.
And if you're more confident than ever before that you're ready to work from home, check out our remote job board!
- How to Prepare for a Remote Job Interview ›
- How to Knock Your Virtual Job Interview Out of the Park ›
- 7 Tips To Nail A Skype Interview ›
A Look At The Challenges They've Faced & How Their Companies Support Them
We know that the ratio of women to men in software engineering is overwhelmingly low. Scroll through just about any company's roster on Linkedin and see for yourself. It's depressing.
If you're not in the mood to engage in that little experiment, just check out this PwC study that found that only 15% of employees in STEM roles in the U.K. are women, and that women hold a mere 5% of leadership roles in the tech sector.
However, we also know that diversity is the top priority for 78% of talent leaders. This is good news for us, because our goal at PowerToFly is to close these gender gaps as quickly as possible - and the more companies that get on board, the faster we can do that.
We partner with companies that are not only committed to diversity and inclusion, but to fostering a sense of belonging for underrepresented candidates once they accept job offers.
In the meantime, we know that the struggle for many women and other minorities in tech is still real, and that being a woman in this male-dominated industry is no cake walk. That's why we invited women engineers at some of our partner companies to share their experiences in their own words.
They shared some of the biggest challenges they've faced as women in tech and how they overcame them, as well as why they feel supported and enjoy working at their current companies.
We hope reading about these experiences will make other women in software engineering realize they're not alone in the challenges they're facing, and that there are lots of companies making strides to better support women in tech. We also hope that reading this will inspire more companies to follow suit, especially given that women leave the tech industry at twice the rate of men.
Hats off to these 7 women and to the companies that support their work:
What's the coolest thing Promptworks does to support women engineers?
"One of my favorite things about Promptworks is how all the female engineers support each other. Having an amazing group of colleagues to lean on, vent to, and seek advice from has been vital to me. As soon as I joined the engineering team, I felt immediately part of this amazing family of women who also have my back."
—M.K., Software Engineer at Promptworks
Want to join Promptworks' team of Women Engineers?
- Senior React Native Engineer
- Senior Software Engineer
- Contract Software Engineer
- Software Engineer
- And more!
More about PromptWorks:
Promptworks builds custom software for companies by creating amazing technologies that help achieve their vision.
Monthly work-from-home flexibility, Collegial atmosphere with family-style lunch twice a week on us, ergonomic work stations including seated & standing pair programming stations, 100% company-paid medical, dental, and vision insurance, 401(k) plan with company matching and more!
Why did you choose to work at Yelp?
"The best thing about Yelp is the culture. I had an amazing interview process which reflected how much Yelp values their employees. Once I got through, I received a welcome card from my team and AWE group and I still feel very loved at Yelp. Also, I love the people! They are very smart and innovative and Yelp gives us all the freedom to vent out our creativity."
—Supriya, Backend Engineer at Yelp.
Want to join Yelp's team of Women Engineers?
More about Yelp:
Yelp engineering culture is driven by our values: we're a cooperative team that values individual authenticity and encourages "unboring" solutions to problems.
Medical, dental, and vision insurance - 100% covered for Yelp employees, 401k program with company match, parental program: Bright Horizons, mother's rooms, paid baby bonding leave, well being and stress management resources, and more!
What's the biggest challenge you've faced at Ubiquity6 and how did you overcome it?
"One of the personal challenges I've dealt with at Ubiquity6 is imposter syndrome, which was definitely amplified by working with so many incredible engineers. Thankfully, my team is really supportive and I have been able to take ownership over some important projects. The combination of getting great constructive feedback while framing my mindset towards improvement has really helped build my confidence as an engineer."
—Robyn, Software Engineer at Ubiquity6
Want to join Ubiquity6's team of Women Engineers?
More about Ubiquity6:
We work with the design, infrastructure, and game engine teams to help guide the user through complex workflows involving spatial mapping, dynamic code loading, and game engine orchestration. Our challenge is to tie together all the different pieces of technology in a way that feels seamless to the end user.
Generous PTO, flexible work hours, work-from-home, remote positions, medical and dental benefits including family coverage, and more!
What's the coolest thing Verisign does to support women engineers?
"Verisign has been extremely warm and welcoming. Your opinions and ideas are heard irrespective your gender and position in the company. Verisign has a Women in Technology group which organizes monthly workshops and seminars, encouraging women to participate and demonstrate their skills. It is attended by the entire company and not just women. The company is full of empowering women who constantly motivate you to break the stereotypes and fulfill your passion."
—Shreyashi, Software Engineer at Verisign
Want to join Verisign's team of Women Engineers?
- Senior Engineer - Information Security Compliance
- Mid-level Software Engineer
- Sr. Infrastructure Software Engineer
- And more!
More about Verisign:
Verisign, a leader in domain names and internet infrastructure, enables internet navigation for many of the world's most recognized domain names.
Medical, dental, vision and prescription plans, traditional and Roth 401(k) with company match, basic life insurance, optional life insurance for employee, spouse or child(ren), home and auto insurance and more!
What’s one of the most impactful things One Medical does for women engineers?
"I recently attended a fireside chat with Sheryl Sandberg who pointed out that while there are increasing programs aimed at bringing women into technical roles, there aren't as many women being promoted. One of the most impactful things I see that One Medical does is actually hire and promote female engineers into both senior engineering roles and engineering management roles. Not only are they being promoted, but there is noticeable support before, during, and after the promotion. Growth and learning is a big part of the culture here, and I am excited to take part in such a fulfilling company."
—Vanessa, Data Engineer at One Medical
Want to join One Medical's team of Women Engineers?
- Senior Software Engineer (Fullstack)
- Principal Software Engineer (Fullstack)
- Staff Software Engineer (Fullstack)
- And more!
More about One Medical:
One Medical builds amazing end-to-end solutions to connect patients and our care team in new and innovative ways.highly collaborative environment, not only will you be partnering with designers and product managers, you'll also be sitting shoulder to shoulder with the doctors and nurses who deliver care daily to One Medical patients.
Top-notch dental, vision, and health insurance, paid parental leave, PTO, paid holidays, and sabbatical at 5 and 10 years
401K Match, One Medical membership for you and your family and more!
What's the coolest thing Fair does to support women engineers?
"Gender equity is a big thing at Fair. I once received a Fair-branded jacket that didn't quite fit right in the sleeves and waist. I tried to return it, but my boss wouldn't hear of it, citing Susan Fowler's leather jacket incident. Fair immediately offered to cover the jacket alteration costs for myself and other women in the company. I'm grateful to work at a place that values and includes its female employees as much as Fair does."
—Michelle, Lead Software Engineer at Fair.
Want to join Fair's team of Women Engineers?
- Senior Software Engineer - Search & Discovery Team
- Senior Platform Engineer
- Support Engineer
- And more!
More about Fair:
We are looking for highly motivated engineers interested in delivering the next level of innovation to product search and discovery at Fair. You'll be designing and implementing new search features and the systems behind them, including the integration of natural language processing, heuristics, and machine learning systems used to generate and rank search results. You'll work with microservices on AWS, multiple languages, and a great engineering team with a fun culture.
Equity incentives, 100% coverage of medical, vision and dental premiums for employees and their families, 100% paid parental leave for 4 months, 401(k) retirement plans and free lunch 5 days a week for every employee and more!
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
"Coming from coding school, my background was not in computer science nor did I graduate from college with a degree in engineering, so it has always been a bit of a struggle to build myself up. I remind myself that everyone is going through a learning process. I have spoken to my mentor about having imposter syndrome when I first started working at Yelp. He let me know that even he has moments of imposter syndrome. It is easier to relate to somebody when you hear that they are going through the same struggles as you and it's a good reminder that nobody is here to judge you. I think it's great that even when you mess up you don't have to be worried about getting fired. Yelp has a very supportive environment. In times of adversity I try to calm myself down and realize that everyone makes mistakes and tries to learn from them to be better."
—Julie, Full Stack Engineer at Yelp.
Scroll up or click here to learn more about Yelp & how to join their team.
Want to see more great roles at companies committed to recruiting more women in software engineering? Check out our job board!
A Look at Fidelity's Approach to Women's Career Growth and Engagement
Whenever I reflect on my experience as one of the relatively few women in the gaming industry, I think of a student I met at a Game Writers' Roundtable the last time I went to the Game Developers Conference (GDC).
"The floggings will continue until morale improves." We've all heard the saying, a tongue-in-cheek way of criticizing workplaces that are neither healthy nor productive — and no employer or employee wants to be that workplace. Create a healthier, more productive work environment with these tips.