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by Jen Leigh on September 24, 2018

The Ultimate List of Remote Hire Interview Questions


"What you don't know can't hurt you" - that old axiom may be true, but it certainly isn't the case when you're hiring remote employees. In fact, failing to adequately assess a candidate for a remote position can have disastrous effects when they're put into place in their virtual job.

Everyone, by now, has surely heard the story of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who put an end to that company's telework policy a few years back when a review of their server logs turned up the discovery that a cadre of remote workers was failing to log in to their network - ever - meaning they simply weren't working at all.

The truth of the matter is that leading studies suggest that remote workers actually routinely outpace their counterparts in key productivity metrics. However, while remote workers who abuse their autonomy and independence are more the exception than the rule, depending on the position held by a rogue remote employee, careless or - worse - malevolent and unsupervised actions in the virtual sphere can take smaller companies down in a hurry.

Do a Thorough Evaluation

Therefore, candidates for remote positions should be evaluated thoroughly, in a well-considered manner, and with questions tailored to the fact that they'll be working largely in the absence of direct supervision.

Giving remote candidates a rigorous screening doesn't mean that they have to go through a costly and time-consuming process that sees them facing panels of interviewers for days on end; rather, this process should simply be focused on taking the unique nature of both the position in question and the demands of remote work into consideration.

Pursuing the right line of inquiry, being well versed in what a candidate's input means, and making a deliberate evaluation of the candidate and all relevant data points as you determine not only his or her appropriateness for the role but ability to discharge it in a virtual setting - that's the key to getting a good fit.

In short, the secret to hiring candidates who become successful and productive remote employees lies in the questions you ask them as candidates. But let's back up just a minute. First and foremost, establish right off the bat whether or not your candidate has worked remotely before: You'll find that successful remote employees tend to fall into a bit of a different personality group than the average in-house worker.

If he or she has, ask about their most successful experience - what has encouraged them to look for another remote experience - and also ask them to fill you in on what they find discouraging or unappealing about remote work. Get them to tell you about a particular triumph in a previous remote position, and also about an Achilles' heel they've discovered while working virtually that they'll bring their awareness of into your position.

Self-awareness is a great thing, and seasoned virtual employees who already have an affinity for working autonomously are a good bet. However, don't let a candidate looking for a first-time remote position discourage you: We're closing in on a time when 50 percent of the U.S. workforce will be comprised of remote workers, and they all have to get their start somewhere.

Generally speaking, when you're evaluating a candidate for a virtual position, the questions you need to ask break down into four areas: autonomy, productivity, technology and personality. So, without further ado, here it is, our Ultimate List of Remote Hire Interview Questions.

Ultimate list of Remote Hire Interview Questions

Autonomy

1. Tell me about a hard decision you made without any input from your boss.

2. Tell me about a time you managed an entire project by yourself, whether professionally or personally.

3. Explain your strategy for keeping up with what's going on in our industry.

Productivity

1. What does your preferred work schedule look like, and how do you ensure it remains consistent?

2. Tell me what working remotely looks like to you. 

Here, you are probing to see exactly where and when they'll be working, to see how that overlaps - or doesn't - with your company's needs. For example, unless the role you're hiring for requires an employee to be on the phone constantly, in which case you will, of course, want to ensure that they're in a quiet place, be prepared to relinquish control over exactly where your remote employees are working. For remote employees, the amount of time in the chair isn't the metric by which you measure productivity - the amount of work completed is.

3. How do you manage or eliminate distractions in your work environment?

4. How do you prepare for meetings? How do you prefer to manage or run meetings when you're working remotely?

5. Are you willing and equipped to regularly communicate via video/chat? Customize this question as is appropriate for the role for which you are hiring.

6. What are the pros and cons of remote work, as you see them?

7. What happens when you get thrown a curve ball? How do you structure your day or your week to accommodate changes in your responsibilities?

Technology

1. What equipment do you have that makes remote working work for you?

2. We use x to track time or manage communications (use specific examples). Are you familiar with this software? (If the candidate is not familiar with your system, ask about what they are familiar with; also inquire about an instance in the past where they've had to get up to speed with new technology.)

Personality

1. What do you see as the downside of not being part of an on-site team?

2. How do you handle conflict remotely?

3. How about the lack of "watercooler time" - the inability to just rub shoulders with your coworkers?

4. You have a time-sensitive problem with a client or a project and the rest of your team is unavailable. Tell me how you'd handle it.

5. What is something you believe or practice in remote working that most others do not?

6. How do you best process information?

7. Run me through a typical day in your life with respect to your use of technology.

8. How do you maintain a divide/balance between your work life at home and your life life at home?

9. What's your biggest struggle when it comes to working remotely?

10. What's your greatest asset as a remote worker?

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Jen Leigh

Jen Leigh is a Senior Product Specialist with Inflection HR's Cloud Based HR and Workforce Management Solutions. Connect with Jenni and the rest of the Inflection HR Team on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, or Google +.