In a world where everyone is keeping their distance, what do you do when you need to hire? If you have open roles to fill, odds are you're going to turn to remote interviews in order to find your next great employee. But what is the secret to hiring remotely and how should you be adjusting your current interview strategy to be more effective in a virtual world? From managing technology hurdles to updating your go-to favourite interview questions, you should be prepared to face a different sort of hiring process when going virtual. But when done well, remote interviewing can be just as effective as one done in person and can lead to an excellent new addition to your team.
How is remote hiring different?
Remote hiring is a useful option when you can't be in the same room as a candidate. This could be for many reasons and not all of them are pandemic related. For example, you might want to hire someone in a different part of the country or you might be expanding to a new section of the world. Regardless of why you need to use online interviewing, it pays to be prepared. Make sure you sort out your technology and pick a platform you'll be comfortable with to communicate with candidates. Also reconsider what exactly you are looking for in a candidate. Maybe the desired skill set you wanted isn't as conducive to the current climate and what you really need is someone with a different range of abilities. Take some time and think critically about who your ideal candidate is and what traits they'll bring to the team. Then plan your hiring process around finding someone who meets that target. The key to remote hiring is to be prepared. That means having a clear vision of exactly who you are looking for and what you have to offer them in return. Once you have that nailed down, you can think about what information you'll need to gather when you meet them online.
Interview questions for remote workers
Assuming you've sourced some strong candidates, how should you adjust your interview style for a remote world? Don't throw all your strategy out the window just because you're hiring through a screen. Structured interviews are more predictive of performance no matter the setting. But that's not to say your usual set of interview questions can't be updated. Consider adding a few of the following questions into your repertoire to help you learn more about the candidate and their approach to remote work.
1) How comfortable are you with using technology and video conferencing software?
While these days most people are familiar with video conferencing tech like Zoom or Skype, it still pays to check. Ask your candidate about their relationship with technology and how they approach learning a new system or piece of software. Are they tech savvy or do they prefer in person work? Do they have access to the tools they need like a good internet connection and a workstation? No matter how they answer they might still be the best candidate for the role but if you are considering hiring someone who is not as comfortable with new technology, take that into account in their onboarding as they might need some extra training to get them up to speed.
2) How do you keep yourself on-track while at home?
Remote workers need to be able to manage themselves. Asking a candidate how they deal with the distractions around them at home will give you a sense of how they set up a routine and what their work ethic is. Ideally you'd like to find a candidate who is self-motivated and committed to achieving their assigned tasks. And again, one who doesn't have a home routine might still be a good hire but they might need some help figuring out how to navigate remote work successfully.
3) Have you had any experience working in a remote capacity before?
For some, staying home during the pandemic is the first time they've been exposed to remote work. Asking your candidate about their previous experience will let you see how comfortable they might be with the process or if they'll need any extra training or support. For candidates who are familiar with working from home, dive deeper and ask them to walk you through a project they've worked on from a distance to gain a better sense of how they think about and strategize their tasks.
4) What is your opinion on how team work changes in a remote context?
There are many different types of remote workers. Some teams work seamlessly in a virtual environment and spend the day connected to their peers. Others prefer a more hands off approach and might only touch base with their colleagues for check-ins. Determining how your candidate views team work remotely will help you figure out if their approach matches with the team members you already have in place. If everyone is social online and you hire someone who hates turning their webcam on, for example, you might have a culture clash that leads to the new hire feeling left out.
5) Are there any problems or areas of concern you have about working at a distance?
Ask your candidate if there are any barriers they anticipate facing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this could be factors like young children at home or increased isolation if quarantining alone. They might even want to know about company health and wellness policies and how they apply to remote workers. Asking this question gives candidates an opening to be upfront about anything that might impact their ability to succeed so you can both make informed decisions about whether the role work for both parties.
6) Would you be interested in working in the office, or in splitting your time, if that was a possibility?
Right now, office work is an option for very few people but it still pays to ask about how a candidate views their role in the future and what sort of working environment they prefer. If an employee never wants to work in person, then that's something to consider when hiring. Eventually we'll be back to a new normal and when that happens, you'll have to decide if the roles you filled remotely will stay that way or will change to an office role (or a hybrid of the two). If a job will eventually be in the office and your candidate only wants to work from a distance, then that probably isn't the right fit for the long term.
7) What communication skills have you learned that will be useful on a remote team?
If they've worked remotely before, ask candidates about how they connect and communicate with their peers. We gain a lot of information out of face-to-face interactions from body language, eye contact, and facial expressions. When those conversations shift to a virtual environment, they can lose some of their impact. Gaining a better understanding of how a candidate thinks and communicates will help you see if their style will match the rest of the team.
8) What time of day are you most productive?
This is an interesting question if you are looking for a candidate who needs to be reachable during set hours. Not everyone is productive on the same schedule. Some employees may hit peak productivity in the middle of the night. Others might prefer starting early in the morning when they're fresh out of bed. If a position can be flexible about the time of day work needs to be achieved, share that with your candidate. If you need someone who can answer calls 9-5, then make that clear as well so the employee knows when they'll be expected to be reachable.
9) Tell me about your routine on a typical work-from-home day.
What does a day in the life look like? Ask a candidate to walk you through their typical day from their morning coffee to shutting down at the end of the day. How do they plan out and approach their workloads? Do they take the time to have breaks or connect with their peers? Are they alone all day or sharing work space with someone else in their home? Asking them about their day will give you a sense of how they organize themselves.
10) What do you do to switch work off at the end of the day when you’re already at home?
Lastly, think about wellness. Is your potential hire able to disconnect at the end of the day? Do they have any division between work and the rest of their lives? Burnout is on the rise as many workers struggle to adapt to a remote world. You want to check that your candidate understands their own mental health and can maintain a work-life balance even from their own home.
Interviewing from a distance
Video interviews can help you uncover a lot about a new hire, especially if you use your time together wisely. These 10 questions can help you probe how a candidate handles remote work but it's also important to remember this isn't everything you need to know. You still have to decide if the candidate is a good culture fit and if they have the skill set to succeed in the position. The best candidates will have a strong work ethic both in and out of the office and be able to take much of the uncertainty we're facing in stride. So before you post about that new job, take a moment to think about your interview process and what you want to get out of it. Making a successful remote hire is absolutely possible, even if you can only meet your candidate through a screen.