Admittedly, I haven’t been on the other side of the interview table for 10 years now. The vast majority of experience I have here is talking to candidates. However, I’ve seen a ton of mistakes from a variety of people trying to get all types of roles.
This is especially true for the new WFH workforce. Having an interview can be nerve-racking enough, but now you have to also worry about the tech and other variables that go into doing this outside of an office. For those new to this world, it can certainly be stress-inducing.
How it’s Similar to In-Person
Regardless of the format or role, you’re still going to have to answer loads of questions, rightfully so. You should prepare for the remote interview in a similar way in regards to the things you’ll have to answer. Items like job experience, salary requirements, management experience, etc, will all be necessary for you to answer.
However, there will likely be questions that you will be asked that you’ve never had to worry about before (if this is your first remote position). Here are some examples of questions your interviewer might ask you, as well as some good answers:
Interviewer: How have you adapted your communication style for remote work?
You: I try to overcommunicate during video calls, and be more descriptive in my regular messaging, like in Slack and emails. The primary reason for this is that context and emphasis can be taken wrong and lead to miscommunication or even arguments.
Interviewer: How do you manage your time and stay organized when working remotely?
You: I usually use tools like Google Calendar and Trello to keep track of my tasks and my schedule. I also maintain a regular schedule, so that I’m available for my team and that I’m dedicating the necessary time to each task. When I set specific end-of-day goals, it helps me stay focused and productive.
Interviewer: How do you maintain a work-life balance when working from home?
You: There are several ways, but the main one is probably setting specific work hours and sticking to them. I’ve found that this helps to prevent burnout by giving me time to relax and recharge.
Interviewer: How do you stay motivated and productive when working remotely?
You: Two main ways: I track my progress based on my daily output, and I by taking designated breaks throughout the day. This helps me avoid long distractions but still allows my brain some dedicated “day-dreaming” time.
Having my candidates ask questions is one of those “differentiators” I look for when interviewing them. This makes me feel like they are invested in finding a role that fits them, which means they aren’t looking to puddle jump from job to job.
Asking questions in a remote interview is just as important as an in-person interview. Don’t skip this step simply because you’re on video.
Showing Soft Skills
Along those same lines, you’re going to need to show that you have moderate to great soft skills. Try and show yourself to be relaxed, cordial, professional, and an ability to keep a conversation (no one word answers!). You want the interviewer to humanize you in their mind and think of you more as a good fit vs another candidate. Being personable will help accomplish this.
Being on Time
This is huge when taking a remote interview. I think it’s even more important on a remote interview than when it is in real life. There’s no car accident, or “I couldn’t find the suite on the directory” excuse to use here. It doesn’t take much effort to make a video call if you’re just clicking a meeting link in a calendar invite. It’s basically instantaneous. Even if you have to download software to join the meeting, that still only takes about 2 minutes.
No Food or Drink
Quite often I will have a coffee on my conference calls, but this is a no-go for someone that’s interviewing remotely. If I see this, it’s a big turn-off to me personally. I want to believe that I have their full attention and that this serious to them. Seeing them taking a drink or a bite of something, makes me think that it’s just a casual Thursday afternoon for them.
How it’s Different from In-Person
Depending on the role, I would say that you probably don’t have to be as formal with your dress as you may have to otherwise. Business casual would likely be fine for most companies and hiring managers that are hiring for remote positions. Those companies are generally more in-tune with a casual culture. Polos for you guys, and a nice blouse for women should do the trick.
All that said, anything that’s C-suite, high level professional services, etc, would probably need to still be dressed up.
And I hope this goes without saying, but be fully clothed! No matter how unlikely it is that you’ll have to move or stand up, wear bottoms.
It goes without saying that since you aren’t in-person you’ll be on video. You’ll need to make sure you the necessary preparations in place to make a good impression. Typically this means a work-friendly background first and foremost. Don’t setup your computer somewhere that has a busy background. Try and keep it simple. A study, den, or office are great choices. Try to avoid kitchens, outdoor locations, or messy bedrooms.
In that same vein, you’ll need to prepare from a general tech standpoint. Make sure your camera is good enough quality (10x more important is you are interviewing for a tech/online role), you have a steady wifi connection, and don’t wear headphones. Your goal is to make this as close to an in-person interview as possible…even though it’s remote.
If you have a remote interview scheduled, make sure the kids won’t be interrupting. Nothing is ever fail safe, but take every precaution you can. That may mean getting a babysitter, or scheduling the remote interview when they are at school or daycare. Many interviewers are cool about kid/pet interruptions, but many aren’t. Don’t risk the latter.
In short: be prepared, and don’t take it for granted. The last thing you want to do is treat it like it’s a “less-than” interview simply because it isn’t in person. Give your remote interview the importance it needs and you will reap the rewards.
Jared has worked remotely for 15 years in various marketing capacities, and has managed hundreds of marketing campaigns along the way. He has held freelance, agency, and in-house positions for companies large and small.