6 Questions to Ask in an Interview for a Remote Job
June 19, 2018

6 Questions to Ask in an Interview for a Remote Job

by Brian de Haaff

I believe in remote work. Big shock, right? But I have a secret — it is actually not a deep passion point for me. You do not find me on the speaker circuit pushing the idea that it will save the world. Sure, I have written a lot about the topic on this blog and elsewhere. And yes, I founded a company with an entirely distributed team. But I did not set out to become a remote work champion. Let me explain.

Having a distributed workforce was not the goal at Aha! — it is the means by which we achieve the real goal of building a lovable company.

The reason we chose to build Aha! with an entirely remote team is obvious. We knew it would enable us to hire the best. Not because of the digital nomad fad or because we wanted to work less. We work remotely and we work incredibly hard. We just know that great work is about achievement — not location. And motivated people do great work wherever they are.

It used to be that remote jobs were the exception, not the norm. Many others are finding this out too — statistics show that the number of people joining distributed workforces grew 115 percent from 2005 to 2017.

With the momentum behind distributed teams, employers are getting savvier about working remotely. More acceptance from company leaders means more opportunities to work from where you perform best. But it also means there is potential for murkiness around what it looks like in practice. So what is a remote job seeker to do?

Before accepting a remote job, you need to find out how the company actually approaches remote work. You need to know if you will be central to the team or on a remote island.  

Of course, like any job, you need to do research on prospective employers to make sure the company is a match for your needs and values. And that goes beyond where you will work from. But then comes an additional step that most people do not consider — understanding if you will be able to thrive in that particular environment.

Your best opportunity to learn this is during the interview process. Here are six questions to ask in a remote job interview:

What percent of people work remotely? During your interview, find out if the company has a fully distributed workforce. If they do not, ask what steps they take to make sure remote teammates are fully integrated and included. You also want to understand where the leadership team is located and whether they are distributed too. Unfortunately, many remote workers report feeling left out and even bullied by co-located colleagues. So you want to understand what steps the company takes to prevent divisions between remote and in-office teammates from forming.

Do you use video or phone for meetings? The answer you are looking for is video. There really is no reason for disembodied voices over conference calls anymore. For any in-depth discussions with a distributed group, you want video meetings. These give everybody the opportunity to pick up on body language and expressions. Recent research even shows that we are able to judge someone’s emotional state based on subtle changes in facial blood flow. The more of these sort of cues we have, the clearer the communication.

What collaboration and workflow tools do you use? Email has its place. But if the company relies solely on email, there is a good chance there will be communication lags, cross-messages, and conversations happening offline that leave remote colleagues out of the loop. Our team at Aha! uses our own application to share strategy, plan work, assign tasks, track due dates, and much more. Having everybody together in one collaboration tool helps, no matter where teammates are located.

How frequently do you meet? Quarterly? Monthly? Our weekly, company-wide meetings keep everybody at Aha! informed. Anything short of weekly would hurt transparency and teamwork. Just as important are the targeted 1:1 meetings that team leads hold every week. You want to understand how the company focuses on building relationships and guiding each teammate’s specific work.

How do you build team spirit? You want a company that works at growing bonds and camaraderie year-round. The Aha! team has many ways of doing this — from chat channels dedicated to pets or sports or travel, to daily expressions of gratitude to one another, to shared rituals in our company-wide meetings. This will look different depending on the company, but it is important nonetheless.

How often do you gather in person? The only wrong answer here is “never.” Getting everyone together for a few days of work and learning (and fun) is a great way to share big plans and tackle projects while enjoying each other’s company in person. For us, we hold an all-company meeting in a destination location twice a year.

Remote work can open up opportunities for job satisfaction and career growth — but only if the role and the company are right for you.

This might sound great — but only if the particular remote culture is designed for everyone to succeed. Do not wait until you have the job to find that out. Dig deep during your interview to learn as much as you can.

What other questions should people ask when interviewing for remote jobs?

Remote workers are happier and more productive. Find out for yourself — Aha! is hiring.

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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