If your goal is to continue working from home permanently, even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, you should be ready to answer questions about your remote-working skills, resources and even your home office set-up the next time you interview for a job.
For example, an effective member of a distributed team needs advanced skills in communication, self-discipline, time management, organization, remote agile development and more. A recruiter or hiring manager will inevitably probe your answers about those kinds of skills, in addition to figuring out your technical aptitude for the job.
To give you a hand, we asked three managers to share some of the questions they ask candidates for remote jobs—as well as the answers they’re looking for.
“How do you structure your remote workday?”
The ability to structure work and life is important when working from home, given how easy it is to be distracted, explained Jared Brown, CTO and CEO of Hubstaff. Just recognizing (and articulating) the challenges of remote work, as well as the habits and routines that keep you focused and productive, is a good indicator of success, even if you haven’t spent most of your career working remotely.
Tip: “We favor candidates who follow a structured routine or who have at least considered how to organize their day,” Brown added. Taking breaks to cook lunch, work out or go for a walk all help break up the day and provide a better sense of balance. Given companies’ concerns about burnout and overwork, showing that you can self-regulate when it comes to your schedule—while accomplishing all your deliverables—can really ease any interviewers’ concerns.
One final tip: Brown says that candidates who provide a detailed answer are typically better at managing their time and meeting deadlines. During the interview, you may want to break down your schedule for a typical day.
“Describe your home office environment.”
To land your dream position, you need to show that you are capable of being productive and committed to being remote permanently. In other words, working from an ad hoc space won’t necessarily work for the long term; you’ll need to show that you’ve created an environment that’s distraction-free.
Tip: Describe your office setup in great detail including your equipment, internet connection and so forth. Even better, take the hiring manager on a virtual tour. The best candidates describe the tools they use to track and automate workflow, schedule tasks, communicate with teammates, and so on, noted Shannon Hogue, global head of Solutions Engineering for Karat.
To help you assemble a well-stocked, organized toolbox, here’s a comprehensive list of tools for remote teams (and one for remote software developers).
“Describe a recent accomplishment to a non-technical audience.”
Communication must be very deliberate, clear and effective when you work asynchronously. That’s because remote team members are frequently asked to read and write documents and express complex ideas in a comprehensible way, all without receiving an immediate response or feedback from the recipient. Poor writing skills can trigger delays and numerous back-and-forths.
Tip: To nail your next interview, practice explaining one or two success stories to some non-technical colleagues using these tips and best practices.
“What are some ways to adapt Agile for remote work?”
This question is designed to see whether you know how to conduct daily stand-ups, sprint planning or hold effective ceremonies when teammates are spread across different locations and time zones.
Tip: Tech pros who excel at Agile are aware that remote work inhibits spontaneous communication, so they check for understanding by calling on every team member to contribute during the daily scrum. They might also suggest using digital whiteboards for sprint planning, breaking down complex user stories into smaller tasks, increasing documentation and/or refining the format for ceremonies and meetings.
“How have you adapted communication with the product owner?”
With a remote team, challenges with a distant product owner—such as missed meetings, lack of knowledge transfer and unresolved hurdles—become exacerbated unless you find a way to increase communication.
Tip: “This is such a common problem, that candidates for remote jobs should be able to cite specific examples of the techniques they’ve used to facilitate collaboration between the team and the product owner,” noted David Moise, CEO of Decide Consulting and member of the Forbes Technology Council.
To avoid immediate rejection, never say that you or your team decided to “wing it” because you were unable to get what you needed from the product owner, Moise advised. Make sure you describe a detailed plan for boosting communication channels between stakeholders.
“Do you prefer story points or hours to estimate projects?”
Many remote Agile teams find that story points are better at measuring the difficulty, risk and uncertainty of a task, resulting in far more accurate estimates than using time or hours.
Tip: At the very least, you should be able to able to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each approach and some ways to conduct Agile estimation in the age of remote work.
“Why do you want to work with us?”
Stating that you’re “looking for a remote job” is a dealbreaker, according to Brown. Even though many companies are giving employees unprecedented flexibility in where and how they work, you should always emphasize that you want to work for the company because of its mission and/or product, not because it allows you to work from home in your sweatpants.
Tip: Never infer that you are more interested in the flexibility of remote work than finding the right fit. Instead, research the company and its products and be ready to explain why this is the right opportunity and how you plan to put your talents and skills to good use.