There are a surprising amount of questions that need to be asked when interviewing for a remote position. Probably half of them you won’t even know to ask if you haven’t ever held a remote position in the first place.
There may be some obvious ones about work hours, but there are also some not-so-obvious ones, like company culture as it relates to a mobile workforce. The only way you can know how you’re going to fit in as a remote worker is to have an organized list of questions to ask.
What kind of culture do you have?
As elementary as this question might seem, it can give you all kinds of insight as it relates to their remote workforce. For example, if they’re still figuring things out (or worse, trying to manage their remote workforce just like they do in-office employees), you might hear answer like this:
Passionate self-starters who strive to provide the best customer service are the backbone of our company culture. Those employees are what push us to be the leading company in [XYZ industry].
It may not sound that bad at first, but it’s Company Jargon 101. Think about it, “Passionate self-starters” is just code for: you’re going to work your ass off here no matter what time zone you’re in. If you don’t, we’ll replace you. Additionally, the entire comment focuses on the outward perspective of the company. They want to deliver the “best” customer service, and be the “leading” company…Nothing speaks to actual culture or the makeup of how the company interacts with employees and the outside world. This is obviously a huge issue since communication within a remote workforce requires even more discipline to function properly.
On the other hand, an answer that shows actual compassion and highlights the personality of the culture would be something like this:
Our company culture puts a big emphasis on communication, innovation, accountability, and transparency. We feel that those characteristics are paramount to helping our employees, customers, and community thrive, and in turn, helps all of us succeed.
As a remote worker, this is more in line with an acceptable answer. This answer shows that there has been some significant thought put into their specific company culture, and that it has been transmitted throughout all levels of employees at the company. They truly live it.
Are there plans to go back to an office setting?
Obviously this would only be applicable for a company who was recently in-office. That said, if that is their situation, this is an incredibly important question to ask before accepting a remote position with them.
Most of the time, you won’t even get an interview if the company has plans to go back to an office exclusively. Training and onboarding is very costly for a company, so you are likely ok for the foreseeable future.
However, the huge caveat to that is if you are interviewing for a remote position that is in close proximity to where you live currently (0-50 miles). It’s entirely plausible to think that just because they hire your position to be remote right now, that they won’t permit that in the future if you live close.
If that’s the situation you’re in, you have to make sure you ask this question before accepting a remote position.
How is communication handled for remote workers?
Does the entire company operate on robust setup within Slack? Perhaps the company doesn’t even know what Slack is! Communication is arguably the most important aspect of successful remote working. For this reason, ensuring that the company has a tried and true apparatus in place for company-wide communication for remote and in-office employees is extremely important. Trust me, it will save you months of pulling out your own hair later.
At the most basic level, communication within a company should exist in at least two key areas: email communication and tasked-based communication (often a project management or marketing automation tool). In my experience, the more organized the company, the more pieces they can add to this “communication stack”. For example, in addition to having email, they also have Slack. Or, in addition to having Salesforce, they also have Hubspot. There are a lot of overlap between these pairings, but have distinct differences. Those differences are even more evident when used correctly and with standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place.
If you accept the remote position that they offer you, you’ll need to know some of the details of what tools you’ll be using to facilitate communication, but also how that particular company uses them. If they use Gmail to email and to assign tasks, you’re going to be in for a rough road no doubt. As a general rule, any tasked-based communication needs to be able to be tracked efficiently so that the entire team (project managers especially) can have context and see the progress of any given item. Keeping all this isolated to an inbox almost ensures that important pieces will be lost, and no one will be able to justifiably held accountable when that happens.
Adjacent to this, if you find that communication is isolated to certain departments, that could be worrisome as well. This could vary based on what you’ll be doing and company size, but from what I’ve seen, the more open communication is, the better.
Lastly, it’s important to get answers as it relates to scheduled communication with your coworkers and bosses. This will give you insight into what accountability looks like for your role, as well as expectations. A company that expects you to be on 5 video calls per day isn’t going to allow you to get much work done most likely. On the flip side, if you never have calls from coworkers/bosses/project managers, then you’re likely never going to feel like your part of the team.
Are there specific days / hours that I need to work?
Just as the traditional office has changed, the traditional office hours have often changed as well.
It’s not uncommon for remote employees to have complete autonomy over their working hours (this is especially true for those that are more on the digital nomadic scale). But if you haven’t had experience with that much freedom over your schedule, you may not think about this as a question to ask.
It’s entirely possible that your company will need you to work unusual hours, especially if you are in a different time zone compared to the “home base” of the company. If you’re based in the U.S. but your company HQ is in London, you may be working early in the morning, but get off early in the afternoon.
Similarly, your days could be different as well. Remember, not all countries celebrate the same holidays throughout the year. You may be required to work some of these days if your company is based in different countries.
Make sure to address this before accepting a remote work offer to ensure expectations of both parties are in line.
Will I need to come into the office?
Companies will often require employees to come into the office every month, quarter, or year. This is more likely if your company is in the same country, but nonetheless, you want to make sure you know the requirements with it comes to travelling into the office.
If you live relatively close to the office, it’s entirely possible that they will let you come into the office whenever you want to-a hybrid work model. This could be advantageous for a number of reasons, so be sure to inquire about those options before accepting an offer.
Are there salary differences between remote and in-office positions?
Don’t be surprised if in-office positions have a higher pay rate than remote workers. Granted, this is more often the case when company offices are located in larger metropolitan areas, but it could be applicable for any remote workers regardless. Either way, it’s best to check with them before accepting a remote position.
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.