Cheat Sheet: What to Look For When Interviewing a Remote Worker
From my interviews as well as from research aggregating the views of nearly one hundred different sources, I’ve identified the eight most important traits to look for in hiring4—which fall into the categories of both skill set and mind set. Regarding skill sets, the best people for the job are sufficiently tech-savvy and excellent communicators. They also most often have a few essential work habits: they’re organized, they’re able to prioritize their tasks, and they manage their time effectively. In addition, it helps if they’re good at problem solving/troubleshooting on their own. Ideally, they also have previous experience working remotely.
As for mind set, it’s essential that they are proactive/independent self-starters. They must also have team-focused work ethics in being reliable, results-oriented, and highly responsive. And they are good team players in that they are pleasant, collaborative, supportive, and receptive to feedback.
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- Great equipment and setup
- Great internet connection with no dropping out
- High-quality microphone: you can hear them well
- Good speakers: they can hear you well
- Have an appropriate space for video calls
- Facility with equipment and protocols: comfortable using online apps, video conferencing, and instant messaging
- Admirable responses to all application-relevant communication: verbal (phone and video) and written (cover letter, emails, texts, IM) as well as to any assignments, as appropriate.
GOOD WORK HABITS
- Organizational skills (“Describe your workspace.” “How do you normally start your workday? What determines your first task or activity?”)
- Task management (“What task or project management tools have you used? Which do you prefer and why?”)
- Prioritizing/time-management strategies (You might present a jumbled list of daily or weekly tasks and ask in what order the candidate would tackle them and why.)
- I personally like giving candidates a scenario and asking how they’d go about solving it—or having them solve it and get back to me describing how they found the solution. Similarly the Entrepreneur On Fire podcast asks all its guests, “If you woke up tomorrow morning, and you still possessed all the experience and knowledge you currently have—but your business had completely disappeared, forcing you to start somewhere, anywhere from scratch—what would you do?” This question provides a sense of how each entrepreneur guest thinks; a similar question targeted to your industry could produce some illuminating answers.
- Ask candidates to complete a very small project. For example, a programmer could write a short program; a marketer could create a newsletter; a virtual assistant could schedule a meeting. How well they fare on this task would give you a glimpse of how well they’d fare for you across the board.
PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE WORKING REMOTELY
- “What are your favorite and least favorite things about working remotely?”
- “What do you do to address loneliness?”
- “What’s meaningful to you about working remotely?” (For some this question can flush out situational motivation, like “spending my commute time with my family,” that would drive a candidate’s willingness to make it work. For others, this or a similar question could identify if the candidate has worked remotely long enough to have somewhat philosophical thoughts on the subject.)
- Work history: Upward movement within or across companies? Rehired by former bosses?
- Outside interests? Long-term pursuits? Personal development?
- Preferred tricks to staying motivated
- Examples of resiliency in response to setbacks or hardship
TEAM-FOCUSED WORK ETHICS
- Willing to make work visible to others (“Describe how you work out loud.” “Are you amenable to other approaches?”)
- “What do you think email is best for? What other tools do you use to communicate different work-related information?”
- Responds quickly in all aspects concerning the application and interview process
GOOD TEAM PLAYER/INTERPERSONAL GOOD FIT
- Is pleasant to interact with
- Demonstrates a collaborative, supportive nature
- Demonstrates (will have) productive receptivity to feedback
- “Describe the last misunderstanding you had with a coworker and how you handled it.”
- “What do people like most about working with you? What annoys people about working with you?”