Just over a year ago, businesses all around the world were working out the kinks in their new — though seemingly temporary — remote workforces.
Since things have reopened, many companies decided to adopt remote roles and hybrid workforce models long-term. That means a whole new take on the best interview questions to assess for fit. Especially considering the candidates may join a team they may never meet face-to-face.
Most of the hard and technical skills you’re used to hiring for remain the same, but it takes a certain kind of talent to fill autonomous roles outside the office environment.
We decided to ask hiring experts what questions they use to determine whether a candidate has what it takes to succeed in a remote or hybrid role. Here are the 10 best questions they shared:
1. How do you handle the cons?
For remote workers, more important than the question, is how I ask: I do my first interviews over text chat. This tells me a lot about how the person would behave in an environment where text chat is our main form of communication. What I’m searching for is acknowledgment of the isolation that can happen when working from home and how the worker has a rich social life beyond work and/or engages with a rich social life online. Without that, I’d have a burnout worker in a few months.
Pablo Fernandez, Founder, pablofernandez.tech
No one wants to focus on the negative aspects of any role, but the truth is, working alone can feel isolating. Candidates applying for remote and hybrid roles need to show they recognize the social limitations of the job and are capable of finding a balance to ensure they don’t burn out.
2. How do you unwind after a stressful day at work?
This might seem like an odd one, but nowadays, I think it’s important to get a mental snapshot of the way in which employees treat work. Especially with remote positions, it’s important for me to know that they have a clear work/life distinction and will approach their job professionally. I’ve found that people who haven’t put much thought into this distinction tend to struggle with more complex job roles.
Mark Webster, Co-Founder, Authority Hacker
Mental health is a priority for many employers. But your company can only do so much to control employees’ workload and balance their remote workday. It’s critical candidates recognize the importance of putting down the stress of work and regrouping after a hard day in the ‘home’ office.
3. What do you like and what do you dislike about working in an office?
A number of candidates are excited about the idea of remote working, but they don’t fully understand the challenges that come with it. Many candidates end up completely taken aback once the work starts as to how they should structure their schedules, meet the deadlines, keep up with the workflow, etc.
Moreover, there are often a number of distractions that workers have to know how to manage while working from home that can compromise productivity. As such, it is important to identify those who already have experience because if the candidate says that they don’t have any challenges, then they are either not being honest, or don’t have sufficient experience working remotely.
Eden Cheng, Founder, WeInvoice
In some instances, what a candidate likes about working in an office environment may contribute greater to their mental well-being and productivity than what they dislike. It’s one thing to be excited about remote work, it’s another to actually enjoy it. Once candidates are in a remote or hybrid role, they may find that they miss the in-person interaction and teamwork experiences of the office. It’s important to make this personality distinction before offering them the job.
4. What is an example of a creative project you developed on your own?
A question like this opens the possibility for a candidate to give answers not only related to former employment, but also in their lives outside of work. You want a hybrid candidate who is creative and full of ingenuity. If they are able to create a multidimensional project just for fun, it means they are comfortable wearing many hats. Imagine what they could do for your company.
Alex Mastin, CEO & Founder, Home Grounds
Creativity lends itself to a number of different attractive attributes in a candidate. There is an element of curiosity and adaptability found in people who are creative. These are necessary traits to show resilience and overcome obstacles in the remote workplace.
5. What do you see as your biggest obstacle in working in this role remotely or as a hybrid?
This question allows you to see their working preferences and self-awareness to observe and call out gaps and blindspots. Because the biggest challenge in this work environment is not having visibility to visual cues, it is essential that individuals have the maturity and emotional intelligence to advocate for themselves and resolve challenges.
Follow up: What do you need to overcome or resolve this obstacle?
This question will highlight if someone can problem-solve on their own or look to others to fix things. There is no right answer here, but depending on the constraints and team culture, it’s important to make sure there’s a good fit for the team ethos.
Lauren LeMunyan PCC, Founder, Spitfire Coach
Self-awareness is a soft skill that cannot be overlooked in the interview process. A candidate’s level of self-awareness is a key indicator of their emotional intelligence and is essential for working both independently and collaboratively.
6. How do you overcome moments when you lack motivation?
Instead of the usual question regarding how to stay motivated, this question provides an additional piece of information about an employee’s ability to overcome failure in a position of remote work. Typically, an interviewee is caught off guard by this question because they have to come to terms with the fact that they will indeed run into moments when they lack motivation — which is difficult to admit. However, it’s very common in remote work and at-home employees have to be able to self-motivate, so this question will give valuable insight into how well a potential hire can do that.
Kristaps Brencans, Chief Marketing Officer, On The Map
The best interview questions require a bit of introspection or catch candidates off guard, but are still relevant to the job. This is a great way to gain authentic insight into what drives a potential new hire.
7. How quick are you to adapt to new technology/software?
Remote working requires organizations to use software and applications that make remote working more manageable and efficient. However, there is a learning curve that slows down progress. It is essential to ask candidates because it tells you how easily they can adapt to using new technology unfamiliar to them. The better they are with adapting, the faster your team can progress.
Marina Vaamonde, Founder & Commercial Real Estate Investor, Property Cashin
Adaptability is a key soft skill in any circumstance, but especially when it comes to learning new technologies. In a remote work environment, new software and apps are the only way employees have to communicate and complete tasks. They also need to be able to self-guide learning. Top candidates of any generation ideally should have experience with learning new tech or troubleshooting technology.
8. How do you respond to change or unexpected circumstances?
This question lets me get an insight on how the candidate is able to handle stressful situations such as change and a challenge on his or her thinking. Can he or she think out of the box and come up with creative solutions? Does he or she adapt quickly? Is the applicant collaborative in his or her approach?
Stephan Baldwin, Founder, Assisted Living Center
Work-related stress is an unfortunate and unavoidable obstacle. What’s important is how employees handle stress on the job. There are a number of soft skills you can assess for that indicate how well a candidate deals with change and the stress that comes with it.
9. Do you have any side projects/activities you are focusing on?
Unfortunately, remote work can significantly contribute to burnout, disillusionment, and work-life balance challenges. And, of course, it gets lonely at times. The good news is that having something exciting to do apart from work is the best burnout prevention strategy. Learning about candidates’ hobbies and passions can help you understand whether they can handle remote work without risking their mental health.
Ewelina Melon, Head of People, Tidio
Finding work-life balance is the best way to boost mental wellness and avoid burnout. Researchers have found remote work has boosted performance. However, it’s important for talent to have projects and activities outside of work they are passionate about to find balance, especially when they never “leave” work.
10. What would you need to be a successful member of a team while working remotely?
Here, I’m not looking for their, “I’m good at this because…” answers as I am looking into their holistic approach and broader perspective on remote teamwork. Being an individual remote worker is great, but if that skill can’t translate into effective teamwork while working in a distributed environment, that’s a red flag. We can’t separate one from the other. In fact, team success in remote work will help individuals be better remote workers.
Remote work is full of hills and valleys, and strong team support systems in a remote environment are lifelines to individuals who will inevitably venture through those valleys. So, I want to know how they’d be a support asset to their teammates.
Karin Cross-Smith, President, easyDITA
Hiring for culture fit is still important, even when employees work remotely. Finding candidates who can work well with your established team and contribute effectively is essential to everyone’s success.