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Preparing for a remote job interview is similar to preparing for an in-person interview. Just as you would prepare answers to commonly asked interview questions, you should prepare answers for work-from-home interview questions too.
Working from home offers a number of benefits but also poses unique challenges. Particularly if you're transitioning from the office to working from home for the first time.
Hiring managers are acutely aware of the challenges of remote work, so as you go through the interview process be ready to answer questions focused on identifying remote work skills, as well as those specific to the role and industry.
Below are 16 questions you'll likely be asked in a virtual interview for a remote job, plus our advice on how to respond and sample answer. Be sure to check out our guides on how to use the STAR method and how to find a remote job and get hired as well.
What hiring managers look for in remote candidates
The most common traits recruiters and hiring managers look for when interviewing candidates for a remote position are:
- Reliability: Your team needs to trust that they can count on you to deliver when remote working. Interviewers will try to determine whether you are the right person to join their team by asking about how you adhere to deadlines and kept people up to date with progress in the past.
- The ability to work independently: Remote employers are looking for team members who are self-starter. This is even more important if you're applying for a remote role where your team is spread across geographies and time zones. If your remote team is signing off as you start your day, you'll need to be able to make decisions on your own.
- Self motivation: Working in a remote environment means you need to motivate yourself to stay productive and on task. Successful remote team members know how to create their own schedule and are self motivated.
- Time management: One of the benefits and challenges of remote work is that you have complete control over your time. In an office, micromanagement or intraday check-ins are the norm. For virtual work, you need to be able to manage your time.
- Communication: Communication skills are important in an office and even more important when remote working. When the majority of your communication is asynchronous and through email, chat, and other forms of writing, effective communication skills are essential. You need to be able to clearly communicate in writing.
- Cross-cultural literacy: Remote workers tend to be a diverse group of people, you need to be able to collaborate with team members from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. While this is one of the biggest challenges, it's also one of the biggest advantages of remote work. Your team can be made up of the best people for the job, regardless of location.
- Collaboration: Great remote workers are great collaborators. Without a physical space and real-time communication, collaboration can be more difficult. This is why we strongly recommend you learn about asynchronous communication, it's an important skill to have in your remote work life. Read our article on remote collaboration best practices to learn how to overcome these challenges.
- Conflict resolution: When the majority of your communication is over text, it can be easy to be misunderstood. Even if your message had no ill intent, people can read into things and is inevitable that there will be some level of miscommunication. Be prepared to discuss how you've managed conflict in the past, cleared up issues, and build rapport within a distributed team.
- Organization: Interviewers want to know whether you can self organize and drive tasks forward without blocking your team with unnecessary issues. Reading this article and preparing your answers in advance is a great way to show that you're organized!
- Time zone consciousness: Remote working often means that you'll be in a different time zone to at least some of your team. Great remote workers are aware of time zones and make sure to accommodate everyone when scheduling real-time communication.
- Cybersecurity awareness: Cybersecurity is one of the most overlooked challenges of remote work. While employers should provide you with everything you need when you start a new job, great remote workers are aware of their role in keeping the company, its customers, and themselves secure.
Do you have experience working remotely or from home?
Transitioning from an in-office role to a distributed team can be difficult, so hiring managers want to know whether you've done it before. It's not a deal breaker if you haven't, but you'll need to demonstrate that you have the ability to work remotely in other ways, such as freelancing experience or working on side projects.
How to answer
Keep your response simple. If you have experience working remotely, outline when, what company, and how you were successful in the role. If you haven't worked remotely before, share comparable experiences like when you worked from home a few days per week or any freelancing experience you have.
"I've been working from home in my customer success role at Iterable for the past three years. It took some adjustment to transition from an in-office role but I've found that the ability to build my own schedule and work without the distractions of an open office to be really beneficial. After three years I couldn't imagine going back to the office!"
Why do you want to work remotely?
If you've spent the majority of your career working from an office, the hiring manager might inquire about why you've decided now is the right time to start working remotely. Don't worry, the COVID pandemic has shown many people the benefits of working from home, so you won't be the only candidate asked this question!
How to answer
Be honest. Maybe you want to work from home to spend more time with your family, maybe you're more productive, or maybe you want to travel and work at the same time. Whatever the reason, let the employer know but make sure that you position it in a way that it's mutually beneficial!
"I'm a big proponent of asynchronous communication and I find that despite the lack of real-time interaction, an async style of work allows me to focus without distraction and produce my best work. But the main reason I want to work remotely is to work at Zapier! I've been a user of your software for years, read a lot of your blog, and really enjoy your company culture!"
What types of remote or distributed team tools and software have you used and how did you leverage them?
Distributed teams rely heavily on asynchronous communication and the tools that enable it like Loom, Slack, and Linear. Hiring managers want to know whether you're comfortable with remote collaboration tools and more importantly, that you can learn new tools as needed.
How to answer
You'll want to list out the tools and technology you've used in the past, and if you really want to stand out be prepared to explain how and why your team used them. Think about the tradeoffs you made when picking them, what could be improved, and how you leveraged them to build in more space for deep work. Chances are you won't have experience with all the tools they use and that's fine. Be sure to mention you're comfortable picking up new things.
"In my previous marketing role at GooseChase, we used a mixture of Salesforce, Intercom, ActiveCampaign, and SendGrid to engage customers across their lifecycle. For project management, we used Asana and for real-time communication, we used Zoom. I also like to think that I'm pretty good at picking up new tools and assessing which ones are right based on the company's needs."
Tell me about your favorite/least favorite aspects of your job?
This is a common remote job interview question. If your favorite part of your job is interacting with people and hosting in-person events, and your least favorite parts are working heads down, the interviewer may decide that you're not a good fit for a remote role.
How to answer
Again, be honest. The most important thing for you to decide on is if a remote job is right for you. If the parts of your job that you enjoy rely heavily on in-person interaction, it may be time to stop looking for a remote role or only focus on remote roles were your team is based in similar time zones. Likewise, if you love working on solo tasks then say that!
"My favorite parts of my job are days when I can code for 4-6 hours without interruption and then relax. Not only does this give me excellent work-life balance, I feel that I also produce my best work for the company. My least favorite aspect of my job are the days that are filled with meetings. Software engineering requires hours of interrupted time to do well and a day full of meetings does not help with that!"
What does your home office look like?
Hiring managers want to know that the environment that you'll be working from is comfortable, allows you to be productive, and is reasonably free from distraction. Use our zoom interview tips to learn how to come across well in virtual interviews.
How to answer
This answer might be more show then tell. An interviewer can learn a lot about your environment from what they can see via video. Make sure you have a professional background that is free from clutter and try to have good lighting, whether that is from natural lighting or via a ring/key light is up to you.
"I've been working remotely for a number of years and I've been lucky to work at a few companies that had generous home office stipends. I've got a sit-stand desk, DSLR as my webcam, an external mic, and a key light. When friends come over they joke that it looks like I'm about to go on live TV."
How do you keep you manage your time, prioritize, and stay organized?
One of the benefits and challenges of remote work is having more control over your time. There's no one sitting next to you to make sure you're working, so it's crucial that you're organized and able to prioritize your tasks.
How to answer
Talk about the tools and strategies you use to keep track of what you need to do, how you decide what to work on, and how you communicate your progress to the wider team. This could mean talking about specific apps like Asana, Trello, or Linear, or something as simple as writing down what you need to do.
You should also ask the hiring manager to explain how their team works. Ask about how they plan their team goals and how they like to be informed about progress.
"I keep a kanban board with five columns: P1, P2, P3, Backlog, and Done. I only allow myself to have one task in P1, two in P2, and three in P3. If something becomes a P1 then the current P1 moves to P2 and one of the P2s moves to P3, and so on. This makes it easy for me to communicate what I'm working on and my priorities. I also like to share this board with my team so they always have a clear idea of what I'm working on."
How do you keep yourself motivated and engaged when working from home?
As good as no commute and no open office is, remote work can also be distracting. Roommates watching Netflix, laundry to be done, kids wanting to play. It's easy to get sucked into doing menial tasks rather than work.
While offices are distracting at times, they can also provide peer pressure to work as you can physically see your coworkers. While it's a myth that remote workers aren't productive, hiring managers still want assurance that you'll be working.
How to answer
Answer honestly! Do you eat the frog? Use the Pomodoro method? Make public commitments to do the work? Or do you find that the solitude of remote work allows you to focus and get into deep work? Whatever it is, you need to explain how and why!
"I'm a big fan of Cal Newport's book Deep Work. Deep work describes the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. This distraction-free concentration pushes my cognitive abilities to their limit and allows me to create new value and improve my skills quickly. I also find that remote work allows me to avoid context switching, reducing attention residue and allowing me to get into flow. I'm really motivated by finding flow."
Tell me about a time when you had to adapt to change
This is a common question during any interview process, whether remote or not. But being able to adapt to change is foundational to working in a remote team, particularly if the company you are joining is a distributed team spread across time zones and geographies. When you don't have the benefit of working at the same time as your colleagues, you need to learn to be communicate async.
How to answer
This is a situational or behavioral interview question, which should signal to you that the hiring managers wants you to share a story based on your previous experience. We recommend using a structured approach to responding to interview questions by discussing the situation, task, action, and result (STAR).
"In my previous product manager role at UpGuard, we transitioned from full-time in-person work to full-time remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the product manager, I knew that we'd need to change how we worked but it was my first time working remotely. I started by following our usual process that we ran in person and found that there wasn't a lot that we needed to change, beyond more clearly communicating the potential roadmap to stakeholders. We then shared our quarterly plan with the entire management team and got their sign off. The team and I were able to transition quite easily and found that productivity often improved!"
Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a remote coworker. How did you handle it?
Employers need to know that you can manage and remediate conflict with remote coworkers. Disagreements and misunderstandings are inevitable when working remotely, so knowing how to defuse a situation is an incredibly important skill for any remote worker. If you see people in person, there tends to be natural moments to resolve conflict, while those who work from home need to be more proactive.
How to answer
This is another example of a situational interview question and a great opportunity to leverage the STAR method. Remember, the hiring manager is looking for a previous situation. Describe the situation you were in, the goals you were working toward, the actions you took, and the result.
Remember to demonstrate that you understand how caustic conflict can be in a remote environment.
"I used to work as a product manager at ClickUp and would occasionally have to disagree with the direction that a product designer or software engineer was taking on a new feature, which could lead to heighten emotions. The framework I used in these situations was to think about my certainty and the impact of the decision. If I had low certainty and the impact of the decision was low, then I would allow them to do it their way and then help them measure the impact. In many situations, their way ended up being the right way! In situations when my certainty was high and the impact was high, I would overrule them and explain why."
Can you tell me about a time when you weren't sure how to do something? How did you go about learning to do it?
When you're working in a distributed team, you're going to run into situations where you don't know how to do something you've been tasked to do. While that's normal, it's important that you can demonstrate that you know how to self-educate or ask for additional help where needed. When you're not in the same physical space, you need to be proactive and find the information you need.
How to answer
This is another situation where you'll want to leverage the STAR method. Use your answer to demonstrate how you've navigated roadblocks in the past and show your resourcefulness. You could talk about how you taught yourself a new skill or when you leveraged your network to fill a gap. Whatever you choose, be prepared to lead with a specific example.
"As the sole SEO and content marketer in a small remote company, I'm used to getting questions about why our organic traffic is changing that I don't always have the answer to. The sudden shift to working from home due to the pandemic amplified this as content marketing became an increasing important driver for the business. The questions I get range from whether the company should be increasing their investment in content to how can we measure the success of our efforts. Our company's leadership was looking to me to help them understand the impact that content was having, but no one knew what that looked like in practice. I read a bunch of content online and taught myself the best practices for reporting on content, and was able to create a report that satisfied everyone."
What is your approach to maintaining effective communication and collaboration in a distributed team?
Two of the biggest challenges of working remotely are communicating and collaborating across time zones. Since you can't jump into a quick call or tap a person on the shoulder, you need to be more intentional about your interactions with others.
Hiring managers want to know that you're time zone conscious and understand how to work asynchronously.
How to answer
The key here is to have a detailed answer with specific examples. It's a behavioral interview question. If you've worked remotely in the past, it should be simple to answer. If you haven't, you'll need to come at it based on what you would do. It's a good idea to follow up your answer with a question about how the hiring manager and their team handles distributed communication to show that you're interested in understanding how the team works.
"In my previous role at GitLab, I learned about the value of asynchronous communication and a writing culture. It's not always possible to get everyone on a video call when you are spread across the globe, so I learned how to effectively collaborate without a lot of real-time communication. I think many companies make the mistake of trying to rely heavily on synchronous communication in a remote environment when there's ample evidence that async work is better. What about you guys? How do you collaborate remotely? Are you more async or sync?"
How do you ensure projects are a success when working remotely?
A lot goes into making a project successful, regardless of whether you're working remotely, but hiring managers need to know how you approach project management when in-person, and often real-time, collaboration isn't possible. Writing is key when you are working remotely, you need to demonstrate that you understand this and have experience driving projects forward with writing.
How to answer
We recommend that you demonstrate that you understand the importance of written documentation, overcommunicating progress and expectations, and being a manager of one: A manager of one is someone who comes up with their own goals and executes them. They don’t need heavy direction. They don’t need daily check-ins. They do what a manager would do — set the tone, assign items, determine what needs to get done, etc. — but they do it by themselves and for themselves.
"It depends on the team and project, but I've found that writing out a six-pager that outlines the project's goals, timelines, and who will be responsible for what aspects is always a good idea. This allows people to collaborate across time zones without having to rely on synchronous communication. If we do need to have a kick-off meeting, I always make sure to record it so people who are unable to attend can watch and catch up."
Why do you want to work here?
Why do you want to work here? It's a common interview question and one you should expect to encounter during almost every job interview. Even though the question can seem simple, it's difficult to provide a good answer if you're not prepared.
How to answer
With a little preparation, your answer can help you stand out from the sea of job seekers, get the hiring manager invested in you, and prove you're a great remote worker. A good way to think about this question is to reframe it as two questions: "How does your experience relate to the position and the company?" and "What makes you excited to work here?"
"Not only is Stripe a leader in the payments industry, you're driving forward product design. I've been a Stripe user for the last five years and I've seen how much it has evolved. My ten years of experience as a product designer at other software companies like Webflow, GitLab, and Canva mean I understand how to design for a global audience at scale."
Why are you interested in this position?
"Why are you interested in this position" is a common question in the early stages of a job interview as it can help set the tone for the conversation and filter out any potential job applicants who aren't interested.
How to answer
Preparing a good answer requires self-reflection and research, but a good answer can help you emphasize your interest in the role and company culture, show off the research you've done about the company, and help you expand on your career goals. Ideally, you'll weave in a few accomplishments and relevant past experience to highlight why you're a perfect fit for the particular position.
"I've been working at Mailchimp for a number of years, and while I value the friendships I've made and the skills I learned there, the recent acquisition has made me look for new opportunities. What excites me about this position and Customer.io is that I would get to learn about and sell a truly best-in-class automated messaging platform.
While this role is a big step up from my current content marketer role, I'm excited to take on new challenges and grow into the remote marketing manager role. My research has shown me that Customer.io is a great place to learn and level up your craft, and I'm committed to working harder than ever."
What can you contribute to this company?
There's a good chance you'll be asked something along the lines of "What can you contribute to this company?" in your next remote job interview. It's one of the most common job interview questions because it helps the hiring managers assess whether or not you'd be a good fit for the company's specific needs.
How to answer
It's easy to feel intimidated by this question but the best thing you can do is focus on your past successes and how they relate to the company and job you're applying for. Answering this question is much easier if you've done your research on the company and the role, so be sure to thoroughly read the job description and company website.
"I can improve your email open rates. In my previous email marketing role, email open rates were falling off for our weekly newsletter and a large number of emails were not making it to our subscriber's inboxes. My task was to increase the open rate by at least 15 percentage points. The action I took was to design an email sunsetting policy that removed inactive contacts after a month and to A/B test subject lines each week to drive open rates up. I also setup a double opt-in policy that ensured only people who wanted to receive the newsletter would. The result was an increase in open rate from 13% to 35%."
Do you have any questions for me?
Interested candidates will always answer yes to "Do you have any questions for me?" Answering this question well is a great way to stand out and show that you've done your research and understand what it'll be like to work remotely at the company. It's also a great opportunity to learn about the company culture so you can determine whether there is mutual fit.
How to answer
There's no excuse to be unprepared for this question. Read through our list of the best questions to ask in an interview but keep in mind that your questions will need to be adapted to the specific company and interviewer. Prepare a few questions in advance as some questions will be covered throughout the interview.
If the company is newly remote, you might ask about how the transition is going, what tools and practices they've put in place, and how its affected the company culture. Inversely, if they're remote-first, you might ask about what they do to maintain company culture and the traits they look for in their employees.
Learn about the key differences between remote-first and remotely-friendly companies.
"Yes, I have a few questions about this role and the company. The first thing I'd love to know is what a typical day looks like. I'm also curious to know what job the last person who had this job is doing now? And finally, what you enjoy about working here!"
Red flags for remote interviewers
There are a number of red flags you'll want to avoid as a remote job candidate:
- Having poor communication skills: Working remotely relies on clear communication. Candidates who struggle to communicate during video interviews and have poor written communication abilities might not be a good fit. Read our guides on async communication and remote collaboration to learn how to communicate effectively in a remote environment.
- Being uncomfortable with technology: Remote work relies on tools, SaaS apps, and computers. You need to be able to demonstrate that you're comfortable in a virtual environment where you'll need to teach yourself new things.
- Struggling with work-life balance: This is a common problem for remote workers but the best candidates will demonstrate that they know how to put a limit on the numbers of hours they work to avoid burnout.
- Lacking of team spirit: Remote employees might work on their own, but they're still part of a team. As a candidate, you need to strike the balance between showing that you can work on your own asynchronously and that you can also collaborate.
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