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How to Interview for a Remote Job

More people are working remotely than ever before. In fact, as many as 43% of Americans who are employed reported they spend at least some time working remotely, and about 31% work remotely 80% to 100% of the time.

Does the idea of working from home appeal to you -- not to mention the other benefits of remote work, such as working with a diverse group of people on some of the most cutting-edge products in the world? Then maybe it's time you considered applying to a few remote job listings!

Image source: Getty Images.

But there's just one thing...not everyone enjoys working remotely. The way you interact with your manager and coworkers is completely different, and your strengths and weaknesses may or may not leave you satisfied with your work experience. So, when you first start thinking about taking a remote position, it's critical that you go into the interview process ready to have an honest conversation about how you work and how well you might adapt to the remote work environment.

To dig deeper into what makes for a successful remote job interview, we connected with Catharine Strauss, infrastructure capacity planning manager at Fastly. Strauss is part of a global team, half of which works remotely and half of which works at the company's San Francisco headquarters. She also manages a 100% remote team.

Whether you're preparing for your first or 15th interview for a remote position, here's some valuable insight you can use to find out if a particular remote position is the best fit for your skills and how you work.

Glassdoor: What are the top three skills a job candidate needs to have in order to successfully function as part of a remote team?

Catharine Strauss: It can be hard to pin down which skills make someone most successful when they are working out of a solo office, but here are some skills that are helpful:

1. Self-motivation

For our work at Fastly, I look for proactive candidates who demonstrate the ability to collect information cross-functionally, read from the context of a group chat whether it'd be most helpful to own the solution to a problem (versus assuming a supporting role), and connect with colleagues to get regular feedback on how they are doing.

Self-motivation can also manifest itself as taking initiative to research and leverage technological tools for sharing, crafting processes that lend themselves to asynchronous feedback, and showing that you've thought about how to make your role more fault-tolerant.

2. Communication

Individuals who are looking to work remotely, especially for the first time, must able to provide examples of how they are currently successfully communicating with email, video conference, and online chat programs like Slack or IRC.

Although I work from the central Fastly office, the majority of my conversations with team members -- even the "how was your weekend" type -- happen on Slack, because we're not being inclusive if the conversation isn't accessible to all of our co-workers, whether remote or across the desk in San Francisco. Even work conversations in the hallway are put on pause to consider, "Who else needs to be part of this conversation?" then picked up in a more inclusive Slack or IRC channel.

3. Visibility into impact

If you deliver something great and no one can tell, then you're not doing your job effectively. I like to hire people who don't need an invitation to provide clear visibility into their work and the value it drives for the business, which allows them to become a respected resource for their peers, whether they're in the same room or collaborating from across the world.

Glassdoor: What questions should someone interviewing for a remote job expect to be asked?

Catharine Strauss: One of the questions I might ask to evaluate fit is, "What tools do you use to collaborate?" The key follow-up question would be: "In your current job, how do you remain productive when one of those tools goes down?" The way a candidate compensates for the loss of a core collaboration tool says a lot about their problem-solving skills, and whether they view communication with their coworkers as essential.

I also ask a lot of questions to determine how customer-oriented a candidate is, and whether helping people makes them feel good, as that is one of Fastly's core company values. This is also a good marker for the kinds of positive interactions that allow people to stay empowered and energized at work.

Finally, I also look for people who aren't shy about discussing the time they take away from their job. When you work remotely, you need to be very clear about when you will not be behind a keyboard. Setting healthy boundaries and clear expectations prevents confusion around deadlines; if you share a well-thought-out process for what colleagues should do if you're a dependency while on out on vacation, I know that you're the kind of diligent employee who can handle complex projects without constant supervision.

Glassdoor: What do you think are the biggest indicators that a candidate is or is not likely to be successful as part of a remote team?

Catharine Strauss: Working remotely requires a really intentional and facilitative attitude toward all kinds of communication, including conflict and disagreement. If this is something a candidate struggles with, remote work may not be the right fit.

Glassdoor: What are some common faux pas you've seen during the actual remote interview process that candidates should try to avoid?

Catharine Strauss: As for the actual remote interview, being prompt is important, as is the ability to handle things like high-latency video lag with grace. Try to prepare for common technical issues with sound or background noise by mentally rehearsing how you would handle them, what you plan to say, and what backup communication you have to reconnect or reschedule. Privacy and attention are important, so make sure you're meeting in a location where you won't be disturbed, and turn off notifications on your phone or background applications so you aren't reading them during your interview.

Another faux pas in remote interviews is having the camera in one location and the screen for the call in another, because it's hard to connect if you don't have the illusion of shared eye-contact. Make sure your camera angle doesn't obscure your face, give your full attention to the interviewer, and dress professionally.

Glassdoor: What else should remote job candidates consider before their interview?

Catharine Strauss: Communication and collaboration are a two-way street, and you should use interviews as an opportunity to judge whether your potential colleagues and company are committed to helping you be successful in a remote role. Some companies will have an existing network of remote employees that you can learn from and depend on; at others, you will have the opportunity to forge new ground and take an active role to build a culture that supports remote employees.

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