- Kristy Murcia
5 Questions You Should Ask When Interviewing for a Remote Job
If you’re interviewing for a remote job, digging into the culture of the company where you’re hoping to work should be a top priority. Understanding the remote work culture specifically is even more crucial. This is because remote work can provide things like freedom from a commute and the work environment of your own choosing but can also ensure that you’ll be able to work well with your teammates and manager, flourish in your role, and have the chance to advance your career.
Remote work will always look different depending on the organization and its setup. If your entire team is working off-site and everyone is well-versed in using Slack, Zoom, and Asana, joining the company as a remote worker might be easy. However, if you’re the only employee having to call into a monthly team meeting from afar, the experience might be more isolating than fulfilling.
Fortunately, you can take advantage of the interview process to make sure you’re set up for success as a remote worker within an organization.
Here are a few questions to ask when you’re pursuing a remote job to discover if this organization will help you thrive in your career, wherever you’re physically working.
1. Would I Be Working Traditional Office Hours? If Not, What Are the Hours?
If you’re a full-time employee of the company, remember that flexibility in where you work doesn’t necessarily translate to flexibility in when you work—so ask about your team’s schedule and the expectations around yours.
It’s a common misconception that if you’re working remotely, you get to pick and choose your own hours when, in reality, you’ll have to maintain some sort of consistent and regular office hours, and those hours will depend on your team’s schedule. If the team is fully distributed—meaning everyone is remote—be sure to ask the recruiter or your potential manager how the team collaborates across time zones. That way, you’ll discover if working outside of 9-to-5 office hours will be a requirement of your role.
2. Is This a Fully Distributed Team? What Percentage of the Team Is Remote?
These types of questions about the team’s makeup, which you can ask when you talk to HR or to the hiring manager, can help you determine if remote work is normalized in the organizational culture.
Even if remote workers are a small percentage of the team, or remote work is new in the organization due to the COVID-19 pandemic, don’t rule it out based on that fact alone. It’s more pertinent to figure out if the team is proactively thinking about solutions for their remote workers. If the company you are interviewing with is answering your questions with, “We’ve accommodated for that,” then that’s a good sign. Additionally, if they tell you about how they’re regularly evaluating how things are going for remote employees and making changes to improve their experiences, that also bodes well for a successful remote experience.
3. How Does the Team Communicate? What Tools Do You Use to Collaborate?
When you’re interviewing, it’s a smart move to ask about your supervisor’s management style and the team dynamics. When it comes to remote work, it’s all the more important. If you’re not in the same physical space, your boss and colleagues can’t stop by to give you a quick update, toss around ideas, or tell you why they approach something the way they do. So it’ll take some extra thought and effort to ensure everyone’s on the same page.
The chance to connect with your manager, coworkers, or even the CEO is also affected by being remote, so ask questions about how you can get face time within the company. It’s important to be able to have open access to people, just as if you were in an office environment. Make sure you ask about how many regular meetings there are via Zoom, and what, if any, access remote workers have to their manager. Does your boss make a point of having regular one-on-ones with their direct reports? Are there recurring team meetings when you would have the opportunity to get to know your teammates? Are there larger company-wide meetings or email updates where you can learn about what other teams are working on and understand leadership’s longer-term vision?
The tools a team uses are also clues to how they work together on a day-to-day basis. That could be anything from Zoom to Slack to Skype, or collaboration tools that show who’s working on what in real time. This will give you a sense of if you’re in video meetings all the time, or it’s more flexible such as with an open Slack or Teams channel where people are free to comment. That being said, neither of these is bad but if you have a personal preference and it’s important to look for a team that’s the right match.
4. How Do You Typically Give Feedback to Remote Employees?
Getting feedback from a manager often happens informally in an office setting, they might pop by to tell you about a job well done or to let you know the expectations around a new project. Feedback is essential for remote employees too in order to keep their careers progressing. But, sometimes it might get overlooked. It’s sometimes easy for people to get lost while working remotely.
The best way to gauge how your prospective boss might give you feedback and how comfortable they are doing it is to ask. If the hiring manager doesn’t have a plan in place, suggest one that reflects your ideal scenario and see how they react. For instance, you might float the idea of meeting biweekly to talk about goals and get constructive criticism. If you sense any pushback or lack of an alternative, then it might be a sign that they’re not prepared to invest in the growth of a remote employee in the way you’d expect.
5. What Opportunities for Growth Exist for This Role?
Partly, this question helps determine if a company is invested in your growth as an employee even if you’re not on site every day. But it also clues you in to how a company thinks about its remote workers. Can you be a leader while working remotely? Can you take on larger projects and still work off-site? If you’re looking to stay in one role for a while or expecting to move your career forward with this company and those sorts of opportunities aren’t available unless you’re working in the office, that’s a major consideration.
With more and more companies open to remote work these days, it falls to you to determine if the job you’re interviewing for is the right remote job. So use the interview process to your advantage to find out if your potential employer’s remote work culture is a good fit for you and your career.