Ask Sophaya: How Do I Conduct a Job Interview for a Remote Professional?

Ask Sophaya: How Do I Conduct a Job Interview for a Remote Professional?

Ask Sophaya Remote NationDear Sophaya

 I’ve been put in charge of creating a team to manage a digital project for my company. Because we need specialists, we are looking for people who work remotely. What questions should I ask them during the interview to know if they are the right fit? 

 Thank you, 

Team Builder 

 Dear Team Builder, 

Congrats on your new assignment! Very cool!  

 Using remote professionals is smart because it gives you lots of opportunities to see the specific talent at a price that works best for you. Choosing talent, particular remote talent, does take a bit of preparation up front. Let’s break it down for you so you have a clear game plan for how to identify the best “fit” for your remote team. 

How to run a successful remote professional talent search for specialized skills: 

1. Clarify the project goals, timeline, budget and specific skills you need before you start your talent search.

This doesn’t have to take a lot of time; however, it’s hard to identify talent and present them with a work plan and then hold them accountable if you aren’t clear on the end goal. The timeline is important as availability is also a consideration, particularly for busy professionals. If you find the right person but they can’t meet your timeline, you have to decide if you are willing/able to wait for them or if it’s necessary to look for someone else. Talent comes in all price ranges, so you need to know your budget before you start your interviews. Be sure to do a little market research as to the current market demand for the skill so your budget is realistic. If you’re searching for something hot like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Data Security or Big Data Analysis prepare to pay top dollar.

2. Once you complete step one and you have your list of skill needs, you can compose interview questions associated with those specific skills. For example, if you need Search Engine Optimization (SEO) skills, craft questions specific to this area:  

  • “Please describe a specific project when you were in charge of implementing a tactical SEO plan for a client. Describe your approach and the results of your work.”  
  • “Please describe a time you were responsible for managing SEO for a company similar to ours, describe your approach and the results of your work.” 

 NOTE: We use a technique called “behaviorally-based interviewing” when we look for talent because we think past performance is a great indicator of someone’s work style, teamwork capability, communication skill and natural approach to problem-solving. So you’ll notice our suggested interview questions are crafted to encourage your candidates to tell you about their previous work experience in more granular detail. We find this gives us the best results and a clearer picture of the candidate’s capabilities.  It also helps you stay job-focused. When you listen carefully and ask thoughtful follow-up questions, you’ll be amazed at how much information is conveyed. Plus these questions tend to give a good look at a candidate’s communication and collaboration capabilities as well.  

 While it’s important to ask questions related to the specific skill you need, there are also universal skills sets that apply to everyone on a remote work term. Excellent communication skills (including digital communications savvy), ability to work respectfully with others, strong work ethic, critical thinking, strong self-motivation and organization skills are all essential traits.  

Build your list of skill questions in advance. Develop lots of them. Then select the ones that are most relevant to your project. We’ve also added a few universal remote work questions for you at the end of this article just to get you started. Edit them to suit your particular situation. 

3.  Searching for and locating the talent you need. Start by looking inside your company first. If there is someone within your organization that can help, it will be most cost-effective plus you won’t have any set-up time for system access.  If that’s a no-go, try your broader business/industry network. Candidates with industry background are a plus and they may have specific insights that could add value. If this doesn’t work try LinkedIn. LinkedIn is currently one of the largest white-collar skills databases in the world. Use advanced search features to search for professionals with your skill set. If you’d prefer to post the job, there are several job boards specifically geared for remote talent such as https://weworkremotely.com/  

4. Once you’ve identified a candidate, what’s next? We suggest you start with a phone screen. It’s a quick way to start the conversation and eliminate candidates that don’t meet the basic requirements for the job. It’s important to remember that interviews need to be job related questions only…this is a requirement in the US due to employment law. It’s also a smart business practice as it means you hire for skills rather than your personal preferences. Keep the phone call to 30 minutes. “Tell me about your background.” “What prompted you to answer our post?” “Can you outline your experience {insert the required skill here}” “How familiar are you with our industry?”  Depending on the answers, you can assess whether you wish to move this candidate to the next level. If not, simply thank them for their interest and let them know you’ll keep them in mind for future opportunities.  

5. Remember the 80/20 rule. Interviews are a tool for you to determine a candidate’s “fit” for your need. To do this you need information from the candidate as to their capabilities. So let them do most of the talking. Rule of thumb for any interview – the candidate talks 80% of the time, the interviewer talks 20%. If you find you are the one doing all the talking, be aware that you are interviewing yourself.  

6. Second interview, use video. Not only does this add visuals, it also changes the dynamic. It speaks to a candidate’s savvy with digital communications and also helps you to see their collaboration style. If someone has difficulty with video in an interview, that speaks volumes about their approach to remote work.  

7. Ask remote work questions that address critical remote work skills. Remote requires unique skills – excellent communication skills (including digital communications savvy), ability to work respectfully with others, strong work ethic, critical thinking, strong self-motivation and organization skills. When you interview candidates, asking questions tailored to explore these skill capabilities is a vital part of selecting the right “fit” for your remote team. We’ve pulled together our list of favorites for you. 

  • Tell me about a time you started a new job and you had to establish relationships with your boss and teammates. Walk me through how you handled it and how things turned out. 
  • Think about a time when a co-worker or a customer sent you an email that offended you in some way. Describe the circumstances to me, how you handled the situation and how it turned out. 
  • Tell me about a time when you were unable to meet a deadline because of someone else. Describe the circumstances, how you handled the situation and how things turned out.  
  • Think about a time when you were juggling multiple deadlines and you missed one. Describe the circumstances, how you handled the situation and how things turned out. 
  • Tell me about a time when you were confused by an assignment or misunderstood a request. Describe the circumstances, how you handled the situation and how things turned out. 
  • Tell me about a time when you were faced with a particularly difficult situation and felt a lot of stress. Describe the circumstances, how you handled the situation and how things turned out. 
  • Think about a time when you received work from someone and the work was incomplete or incorrect. Describe the circumstances, how you handled the situation and how things turned out. 
  • Tell me about a time you had to work with colleagues situated across multiple time zone. Describe the circumstances, how you handled the situation and how things turned out. 

 Once you get the hang of it, you can use this same approach to construct new questions of your own that speak specifically to your unique circumstances. The format is pretty simple and quite easy to use. Pose the question so the candidate has to tell you about a specific experience and make sure they tell you how things turned out. Ask follow-up questions if the candidate’s answer is unclear or doesn’t make sense to you and be patient if it takes them a minute or two to think of something to say. 

 If you pose the question in an open-ended way then stay quiet, make the candidate do most of the talking (remember the 80/20 rule) and listen very carefully to their answers, you’ll learn everything you need to know to make an informed decision.  

 Good luck with your team search! Let us know how it goes.Remote Job Interview 

 

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