Remote workers are giving our calcified attitudes about collaboration and office culture a much-needed shake-up. They're just as--if not more--productive than co-located workers, and enjoy a high level of job satisfaction and general well-being to boot.
But let's face it: not everybody has what it takes to be successful working from home full time. The last thing you need is a new remote hire who (oops!) doesn't have the right stuff.
The good news is that the most successful remote workers have several things in common. And you can sniff these qualities out with a few strategic interview questions.
1. "What's the most ambitious project you've ever dreamed up and pursued?"
Speaks to: self-motivation.
Contact between managers and remote employees is unavoidably sparser than with co-located workers. You need to know they'll keep plugging away (on the right things) without constant check-ins from you.
People who are self-motivated will have a solid answer to this question. They love a good challenge and stay focused on it, even when they face a setback or a shiny new object enters their field of vision.
2. "Tell me about a time you took a calculated risk and failed. What did you learn?"
Speaks to: growth mindset.
The collaboration practices that worked well in their last job, might not work in this one. Especially if your team isn't used to having a remote member, or if this would be the candidate's first remote-based job. You need someone who is flexible, persevering, eager to experiment, and doesn't assume they already know the best way of doing things. Sound familiar? Those are key components of a growth mindset.
If your candidate is all about growth and continuous improvement, they'll probably tell you more than one story in this vein.
3. "If you're hired, what's the first thing you want to work on?"
Speaks to: amazing communication skills.
It's unlikely anyone you're interviewing would walk in with enough information to answer it authoritatively. And that's the point. A good remote worker will ask clarifying questions right away. What are the team's priorities right now? What projects are already in flight? What have we already tried that didn't work?
Once they've got enough context to formulate an answer, look for candidates who get right to the point. A low signal-to-noise ratio is key for effective, efficient remote work.
It's also important that remote workers communicate openly and effectively via multiple mediums: email, chat, talking live, slide decks, etc. Make a point to incorporate as many mediums into the interview processes as possible so you get a holistic view of their communication skills and style.
4. "What are 3 things that struck you about... "
Speaks to: initiative.
This question varies based on what type of role you're interviewing for. If it's a design or marketing role, ask what struck them about the company's website. If it's a finance role, ask what struck them about the numbers you released last quarter. And so on. "What struck you about our company values?" is a good all-purpose variant.
What you're sniffing out here is how pro-active the candidate is. Did they take the initiative to research the company a bit? You have better things to do that prod remote workers into action all the time. So make sure you won't have to.
5. "What worries you about not being part of an office community?"
Speaks to: self-awareness.
Even the most introverted of remote workers needs a little social nourishment. How does your candidate plan to get it? It's less important what exactly their answer is. Really, you want to see that they've considered how being remote will affect them and have some idea what they'll do to adapt.
In an office setting, people look out for each other ("Hey, you look really tired today--everything ok?"). Remote workers, on the other hand, have to be keenly self-aware and good at self-care or they risk burning out.
6. "What excites you most about this role?"
Speaks to: purposefulness.
Effective remote workers are hyper-engaged in their work. They understand why it's valuable and that shows through. It's hard to course-correct someone's sense of purpose if they're remote, so make sure your candidate nails this one.
Ideally, they'll say that their passionate about the company's mission. Or they might be excited to hone a new skill. Or work at a different type of company. However they answer, make sure their sense of purpose and yours are in alignment.