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!
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Branwyn Baughman, recruiter at Lockheed Martin, shares an exclusive take on the most important tips to keep in mind when preparing for an interview.
Take a look at the company's application process, culture, and values, as well as some top-notch tips that Branwyn outlines on how you can make your application stand out.
To learn more about Lockheed Martin and their open roles, click here.
6 Tips for Companies & 5 Tips for Individuals from Indeed's Group VP of ESG, LaFawn Davis
Earlier this month, LaFawn Davis, Indeed's Group Vice President of Environmental, Social, & Governance, joined us as part of our Diversity Reboot Summit to talk about the 'shecession' experienced by many women, and especially women of color, as a result of COVID-19.
LaFawn shared some great tips for companies and individuals looking to be part of "the great rehiring." If you're looking to find a new role, or to ensure that you help bring back diverse talent displaced by COVID, check out her advice below, and catch her complete talk here or by clicking the video above!
Q: What would your advice be to companies that are looking to step up their diverse hiring in 2021?
My advice: Good intentions are no longer good enough. Nobody wants to hear what you meant to do, wish you could have do, intended to do. Nobody wants to hear that you can't find Black Women or any other dimension of diversity. We're obviously out here.
My squad and I have a saying "Impact over intentions." So, if 2020 was the year of good diversity and inclusion intentions, let's make 2021 the year of actions and impact.
So, now that we got that out of the way. If you're looking to step up your diverse hiring. Stop and get your house in order. Because you shouldn't just want to hire a diverse workforce, you should want to grow and keep them too. So there are 5 things, ready?
1. Focus on long-term systemic change.
There's a lot of momentum — and need — for change right now. It's not just about a message of support or donating to a cause one time. Take a look at your own systems. How do you hire and grow employees? Do your succession planning, talent reviews, recruiting and other processes have built-in biases? Is equality part of your core values? Are you actively working toward change? Recognize that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. Above all, hold yourself accountable for the way things are, then work to improve.
2. Take a close look at your data.
Share it internally to be transparent with employees of where you are now. When possible, share it externally to be visible and accountable (I'm happy to announce that Indeed will be releasing its own diversity data this summer). Use it as a baseline for comparison against what you hope to achieve.
3. Change behavior.
Focus on behavioral changes throughout the company with an emphasis on coaching, training, and having crucial conversations with managers. Leaders and managers set an example for the entire workforce. If employees see the behavior of managers or leaders in a negative light, a true sense of belonging is difficult to achieve.
4. Representation matters.
If leadership roles are perceived as exclusive to many members of the workforce, then a broader sense of belonging will continue to elude many employees. People in leadership roles should reflect the diversity of a company's workforce. Observing someone "like me" in a leadership role helps attract and retain talent and motivates workers to pursue roles with greater responsibility.
5. Create Policies And Procedures Reflective Of The Entire Workforce.
As you work through new or existing policies and procedures, be aware of barriers experienced by different populations. Take, for example, the case of caregivers. More scheduling flexibility for calls can go a long way for employees who share their home workspace with others and must tend to family responsibilities while working remotely.
Q: Do you have advice for individuals that are looking for new career opportunities, especially women of color who might have lost their previous jobs during the pandemic?
Adaptability has always been an important part of an individual's career progression - even before COVID-19, it is especially important now.
It is important to show a potential new employer how your abilities adapt to a new role or a new industry. Focus on skills more than just experiences because skills can be applied in so many different ways. So… I'll give you 6 things for this one.
1. Perform a professional audit. Taking some time to understand your qualities, qualifications and values can help focus your career transition and narrow down your career path options if you haven't already. Doing so can also help you understand how you might position yourself during the job search.
2. Identify your hard and soft skills. Soft skills are often the most transferable, so identifying them early can help you understand the ways you might bring value to a new role or industry. Taking inventory of your hard skills will help you identify if there are certain industries that might be easier to transition into.
3. Highlight your biggest career wins. Communicating the impact you've made throughout your career can help employers quickly understand the value you'll bring to their organization, even if you come from another role or industry.
4. Utilize online job search to your advantage. Pay close attention to the requirements and duties of jobs so you can evaluate whether the career would align with your skills, interests and values.
5. You just need to meet "most" of the qualifications. Try to focus on positions for which you meet at least 60% of the qualifications with your transferable skills. Meeting 60% of the qualifications isn't a hard rule, but it's a good general guideline to help you determine whether it's worth applying for.
6. Get a sense of the company. Before interviews, do some research to learn how inclusive a company is. Peruse the organization's core values, its social media accounts, and any recent statements in support of marginalized groups. Pay attention to the interviewers themselves. Is the panel diverse or are you likely to be an early "diversity hire"? If the interviewers seem to be emphasizing "cultural fit," ask what that means. Basically, be an active participant in the hiring process. You are also interviewing the company, as much as they are interviewing you.
Stephanie Acker, director of inside sales at Commvault, gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the company's application process, culture, and values, as well as her own career journey.
To kick things off, Stephanie mentioned the three things that make a great inside sales professional: an independent work ethic, the ability to learn and execute on their own, and an awareness of what keeps them motivated.
Over her 12-year career at Commvault, Stephanie's greatest motivation has been helping customers to find solutions and catapult them to success. In both her past role as a sales representative and her current director position, Stephanie remains committed to ensuring her team understands what motivates them to sell and setting them up for success.
The biggest surprise during her career at Commvault was becoming the director of inside sales. Stephanie shared that she loves working for a company that listens to new ideas, thinks outside of the box, and tries new things.
Don't miss her take on what moves a candidate forward in the interview process! For example, Stephanie loves when the interviewee gets into "the zone"—showing their selling technique. She also shares her favorite interview questions.
As Stephanie says, stop thinking and apply today!
To learn more about Commvault and their open roles, click here.
When you think about strong female leadership, what comes to mind? For Tatiana L., a global client partner in Miami, it's about more than having an executive seat, being a mother, or making dreams come true. "Good leadership is about being open, flexible, and able to understand different perspectives," she says. "It's about fostering collaboration, bringing people together, and empowering them to connect."
Tatiana L. is a global client partner based in Miami.
Tatiana is part of the Women@ Facebook Resource Group and helped plan Women's Leadership Day, an annual global community summit. While the highly-anticipated event takes place over just one day, its massive impact is felt over the course of the entire year.
Amy W. is an operations lead based in London.
"Women's Leadership Day is more than an event. It's energy, and it's a movement," Amy W., an operations lead in London, says. "Moments like this can completely change the perception of women in technology."
From choosing the content and programming for the event to making it accessible for women around the globe, we went behind the scenes with seven members of the Women@ Facebook Resource Group to learn more about how women are empowered—and are empowering one another— in their career journeys at the Facebook company.
Behind the scenes with Women@
Amanda M., an internal recruiting manager based in Singapore, speaking onstage at 2019 Women@ Leadership Day in APAC.
"I've always been passionate about empowering women, but I didn't know how I could do it at work. My first Women@ experience changed how I felt at Facebook," Amanda M., an internal recruiting manager in Singapore, remembers. "From then on, I wanted to help other women feel heard, valued, and confident."
Planning the global event, which brings together women from more than 20 countries, calls for close collaboration across multiple teams, regions, and timezones. Members of Women@ also partner with other Facebook Resource Groups, such as the Pride@ Resource Group, Latin@ Facebook Resource Group, Desis@ Facebook Resource Group and Black@ Resource Group, to ensure all women at Facebook are represented and feel included.
Vivian V. is a program manager based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
"Across regions and communities, we each bring unique differences and powerful stories. When one of us moves forward, we have the opportunity to bring all of us forward," Vivian V., a program manager in the San Francisco Bay Area explains. "While planning the summit, we meet weekly to talk about what women in different regions are experiencing. From the event theme and content to planning speaker sessions and fine-tuning details, we each have items to own. Two months before the summit, we meet daily to share updates and make sure nothing slips through the cracks."
"Just like me, women in APAC look forward to Women's Leadership Day all year long," Amanda says. Planning something that's deeply meaningful to so many people can feel like a lot of pressure, but at the same time, it's uplifting. I appreciate that we have the opportunity to talk about our individual and shared challenges, and we map out ways we can build community while empowering leadership for women across the globe."
Empowering confidence, equality, and leadership through storytelling
Paris Z., a vertical strategy lead in Singapore, and Amanda M. collaborate with women across the globe to plan Women@ programming and events.
Women's Leadership Day encourages women to talk about challenges like experiencing imposter syndrome, breaking through barriers, and how to manage work/life flexibility. "Storytelling is a huge part of the event," Paris Z., a vertical strategy lead in Singapore, explains.
Vivian says, "I've been at Facebook for nearly two years and help plan these events, and honestly, I never really understood imposter syndrome before I got here. Working with the Women@ community and hearing from our speakers—who are talented, brilliant superstars—I've seen firsthand how it affects them too."
Michelle C. is a client partner based in London.
Michelle C., a client partner in London, says that the summit's speaker sessions, which feature people from inside and outside of Facebook, are a highlight of every event. "We had a speaker from Tel Aviv who talked about the importance of balance in her personal life and how she co-parents with her husband. She shared specific things she's done, like adding her husband to the WhatsApp chat groups for mothers she's in and reminding her daughter's school that her husband is also available when their child feels sick. Her message was that we'll never be equal in the workplace until we're equal at home, and it really struck a chord."
Paris says that in APAC, Eva Chen's talk about facing challenges amidst the coronavirus pandemic and how she's raising her daughter was a top-rated session because it was so relatable. "From talking about her daughter's love for dinosaurs—a "boy" thing—and raising kids to fully be themselves to opening up about what it was like to grow up with immigrant parents from China and Vietnam, Eva inspired us with her authenticity and openness. Her struggle to feel supported while working in fashion and tech, rather than medicine, is something a lot of people in APAC understand."
"Every woman has a unique story," Michelle says. "Hearing from others is inspiring, validating, and truly eye-opening. It reminds us that we're not alone."
A memorable and lasting impact
It's no surprise that with the tremendous amount of planning and careful consideration that goes into the summit, its full impact is impossible to measure.
"It meant so much to me when people shared such positive feedback about Women's Leadership Day," Paris says. "We heard that some attendees felt inspired for days and weeks."
Kira G. is an agency partner based in Berlin.
Kira G., an agency partner in Berlin, has witnessed how the summit's programming can inspire action, even helping people push past a career plateau. "We might reach a point in our careers when we think, "I can't do this anymore, I'm not moving forward'," she says. "Women's Leadership Day gives us fresh perspectives, shows us new approaches, and starts important conversations. This can unlock new paths for growth and help us move forward."
Impact is felt in other Facebook groups, communities, and across teams too, inspiring interest and allyship. Amanda explains, "I felt so proud when a male VP from the Sales team came to us after hearing about what people talked about at Women's Leadership Day. He told us he wanted to learn more because it's everyone's responsibility to be an ally."
Empowering the community throughout the year
While Amanda describes Women's Leadership Day as a "bump in energy and inspiration" and "an injection of adrenaline", Vivian says that the real magic is what happens afterwards—and takes place all year long.
"When we think about Women's Leadership Day, our focus is on making sure that the powerful messages we hear and experience serve us throughout the entire year. We ask ourselves questions like, "How can we sprinkle these themes into our programming throughout the month or quarter? How do these ideas fit with our Women@ initiatives?" Going through something awesome together is just the beginning. Our work takes place year-round and we're constantly building on it to do more."
Paris agrees: "There's no shortage of amazing stories from our Women@ community throughout the year. Women's Leadership Day is just one channel for those stories, and I love how it stays top of mind with people and empowers them to do more good. When we come together, we can do anything we dream of."
"We're building a sisterhood and a community," Tatiana beams. "It feels so good to know there's always someone there to support you."
Learn more about Facebook's Employee Resource Groups, including Women@ here.