Ace Your Remote Interview With These 17 Tips

The nature of work has truly changed over the past couple of years. While companies do hire employees for office environments, they’re increasingly exploring the viability of hiring off-site employees, or whom you would call remote employees or telecommuters. Although they’re hiring people to work remotely, it doesn’t mean that on-site employees aren’t required. In many ways, hiring telecommuters becomes sort of an experiment for companies who have never explored the option — either partly or completely.

Some companies do offer this option to select employees whereas others do not see why they should do it as it’s not a business requirement. But with the advent of the gig work culture, and the obvious benefits — such as saving on workspace rent and resources — many have started embracing it. And with work moving out of office premises, so has the process of hiring employees. Obviously, remote hiring of employees also means everything being done remotely, including the interview(s).

Remote interviews, for job seekers who have never experienced it, is a little tricky. In fact, it’s a completely different experience. Even with years of face-to-face interview experience — with numerous companies and recruiters — under your belt, you might find your first few remote interviews to be nothing like how you imagined it to be.

You might think nothing could go wrong being interviewed in the comfort of your home. But that’s the catch; you’ve (may) never have faced an interview within your four walls. And this experience can be grossly overwhelming, especially if you let your guard down. Eventually you could botch the interview which will definitely not leave a good impression.You could come off as inexperienced, unprepared and unprofessional in the eyes of your interviewer. 

If you must know, apart from experiencing an interview from home for the first time, there could be other external disturbances, distractions at home, technical difficulties that could ruin your remote 1v1 with the panelist.

The good news is that there are ways to ace your remote interview, even if you’re experiencing it for the first time. And you’re just at the right place, at the right time (hopefully, before your upcoming interview) to know them all. Let’s begin!

1. Getting the interview environment in order

When it comes down to the interviews, it’s all about the level of professionalism. If you should know, the professional setting during interviews, done either in-house or off-site via video conferencing, must be of the highest order. Just because you’re being interviewed at your residence doesn’t mean you go ahead and get it done without being prepared. 

While you will dress your part (and you should) to reflect your professional attitude as you would for a face-to-face interview, it’s important that you do something about the environment as well. And by environment, we mean the venue (most probably your home). It has to be organized, clutter-free, and clean. In no way should it reflect poorly on your professionalism, attitude and preparedness. 

Speaking of the environment, take care to ensure that there are no distractions at all. While employers do understand that distractions will be present, you should, to the best of your abilities, take the responsibility to limit them. For instance, if you have children at home, you can set them up for a play date. And if that’s not possible, have someone engage them in a separate section of your house. Noise can also dampen the experience of a remote interview. Before the interview begins, make it a point to shut all doors and windows so that the commotion from the outside doesn’t infiltrate your environment and distract you.

2. Change out of your casuals and PJs

When you’re at home or anywhere else for that matter, it’s easy to think that your attire for the video interview wouldn’t be that big a deal. But it could be a big mistake on your part, that is dressing only waist up. You’ve probably had a laugh or two watching TV bloopers where hosts, especially male news anchors reading the bulletin behind a desk, are caught by the camera, live on national or international broadcasts, in their sweats or something really casual waist down but in a nice, slick suit up top. You don’t want that to happen — it’s utter embarrassment. 

But saving yourself from making a complete fool of yourself isn’t the only reason why you should dress your part. You also get into a professional mindset when dressing up for an in-house interview. And let’s not forget that once you take the effort to get into your formalwear and look in the mirror, your confidence will get a much needed boost, which you do need for an interview — in fact, more the confidence, the better. Wouldn’t you agree?

3. Dig up details about your employer

Your potential employer wants to get to know you better during an interview. Whether you’re the right fit for the company, culture or otherwise. But, you see, an interview is a two-way street; it’s a formal setting for the two of you (employer and candidate) to get acquainted. In your situation, it’s an opportunity to learn more about the company where you might find yourself working shortly or in the future. 

The bottom line is that you need to do your homework. It can be downright unprofessional on your part if the interview asks something about the company and you stare into oblivion. Dig up everything you can find on them. Find out how they started, who were the founders and the early partners, any investments they received, their breakthroughs, the leadership team, news surrounding them and so on — more the better. And while you’re at it, do take the time to learn more about the interviewer ( if the identity is already disclosed to you) on professional networking platforms like LinkedIN.

Not only will you impress your interviewer with knowledge about the company, but it also helps the conversation flow naturally. Your preparedness will shine through, so will your interest in the company.

4. Set up everything you need for the interview

Don’t wait until the last moment because you never know what might go wrong. As a rule of thumb, you want to ensure that everything you need for the interview to sail is set up the day before or at least 3-4 hours in advance. The interviewer will have already told you which tool or software is needed for the one-on-one before d-day. Even though you might have it installed on your laptop or phone, you should check everything as there’s nothing worse than making your interviewer wait because of a software failure or a bricked laptop. You should do a trial run of the software that you have installed or downloaded at least a day before. Let the interviewer or the person who scheduled the interview know immediately that you couldn’t install or run the software on your laptop despite several attempts.

Let’s say that everything is set up and the interview is underway. You want to maintain direct eye contact with your interviewer during the session. Adjust your camera or the viewscreen in such a way that you’re looking right into it, giving the interviewer the notion that you’re maintaining eye contact and not looking down or elsewhere. 

Also, whatever device (laptop, PC, or mobile) you’re running the communication software on has to be configured in a way that it doesn’t run any background applications or tools. You do not want your conversation to be interrupted by a popup or programmed alert so turn off everything except the software or tool needed for the interview.

5. Ask questions before you say yes to any offer

You’ve done the digging and found a wealth of knowledge about the employer online or through someone you know who has worked there already. But there will be some details that you’d want to know but can’t find anything on it anywhere. And even if you do, you want to corroborate your findings through the interviewer. So, this is where you ask your questions. Don’t make questions on the spot unless it’s really important as that could lead to something like asking the interviewer a question that they’re not comfortable answering, or asking something that’s totally off-topic or unprofessional. 

Instead, before you appear for the interview, you should make a set of questions that’s related to the company, the job role, the vision, mission, and so on. Perhaps you could ask them about their work culture and if they’re new to telecommuting. You’d be right in asking their employee strength, on and off-site. And while you’re at it, ask about the resources available for remote employees like certain tools or software.

There are many questions that you could ask. Asking about company benefits and your compensation is completely okay and within your rights. But, as a rule of thumb, you want to save that for last, unless the interviewer is the one initiating as you might come off as greedy or rude. Get other doubts out of the way first. Ask about employee communications and coordination — how they make it happen between in-house and off-site teams. You can also foray into employee engagement, team building exercises, learning and development programmes, and remote training drills run by the company for on and off-site workers.

6. Convince the interviewer that you’re an extraordinary remote employee

What comes to your mind when it comes to remote work? Reduced work pressure and load could be one amongst others. Studies suggest that more than half the employees prefer working from home as opposed to coming to office. The popular belief is that work is definitely easier when done remotely. However, that is not true. Although remote work has its positives, many employees prefer coming to the office because it provides the right environment for work. 

For those working remotely, it can be really easy to blur the lines between work and leisure. In fact, remote workers can find meeting targets and staying productive difficult. Employers are well aware of this possibility. Having said that, there are those who work from home and maintain the same in-office productivity levels if not more. As a potential candidate for a remote position, you need to explain your motivation to the interviewer as they wouldn’t have the slightest clue if you would be the right person for the role, and why you’re opting for the position in the first place.

If there is any particular reason, such as a personal health issue or your role as a caregiver to your elderly parents or children, relay it to the interviewer, clearly explaining the circumstances that led you to applying to the open position. And don’t skip out on convincing them that even though you will be working remotely, you’ll always hold your own and flawlessly execute all assigned tasks on time. 

Be clear and upfront about it. As a matter of fact, if you have any recommendations from ex-employers in a similar role and proof of having met or exceeded expectations, throw it in to back your claim. Maybe you are the person who is actually more productive when offered a flexible work schedule, functioning away from office distractions. Whatever the reason, state it clearly, be confident and honest. If you’re able to do just that, the interviewer might see you as the ideal candidate for the role, an asset, a prime example of a remote employee that any employee would love to have working for them.

The above mentioned tips were more about how you would prepare for a virtual interview. What now follows are tips that add value and weightage to your profile, candidacy and personality. Tips, which applied, will impress your interviewer and hopefully help you bag the job. 

7. Familiarize yourself with the necessities of remote work

The success and efficiency of any remote work done rests on uninterrupted communications and collaboration between employees. As a remote worker, you must be able to satisfy these requirements. You already know that the possibilities of meeting your supervisor or co-workers in person are zero to none. Therefore, your employer will expect you to be familiar with digital tools and software for communication and collaboration. In fact, if only one person from a group of many is to be chosen for a remote position, the employer will always go with a candidate who has a proven track record in using digital tools and software.

You should also be careful of what you will say to the interviewer. For instance, if a question about your preferred mode of communication or collaboration is directed at you by the recruiter, saying something like “email” will almost definitely move you to the bottom of the list. But picking tools and platforms such as Google Docs, Trello, Slack, Hangouts, Skype, Zoom which are critical to any remote teams success will gain you immense favour. You could start right away by asking your friends to communicate with you via such tools and platforms if you don’t know where to start. The best part about such platforms is that most of the basic features are free and they're extremely easy and quick to download or install.

By letting the interviewer know that you’re familiar with a wealth of tools and platforms for collaboration and communication will only earn you brownie points. In fact, you can send out hints regarding your familiarity and preference with such tools even before the interview. For instance, you could use Google Calendar to block your session with the recruiter or use Google Docs to relay information such as your qualifications, work history and so on. 

8. Engage in some form of remote work or mention your experience

Saying that you can flawlessly work remote jobs is one thing but is a whole other ballgame if done. You should have experience telecommuting — that’s the bottomline. The interviewer looking at your profile will be convinced that you are indeed an experienced remote worker with a strong work ethic; that you do not need to be shepherded by a supervisor. But, as mentioned earlier you must have alteast engaged in some form of remote work. There’s nothing you can lose here. On the contrary, if you’ve never done it before, you’ll atleast walk away knowing whether you enjoy working remotely.

You can start off by actually working from home for a change if your current job policy allows it. And if it doesn’t, you can start with a side project by freelancing. At the end of the day, the recruiter wants to know if you have the relevant experience working from home and that you do put a shift in all the time. Anything will do; you can mention that you have done some work from home for your current employer because you had some personal issues to balance. And while you’re mentioning this, do back your claim by providing numbers or figures that demonstrate your efficiency when working remotely.

9. Get some remote project work experience

When employers start their search for candidates who can fill remote job roles, they want those who do not need to be directed and supervised all the time. They’re looking for people who are accountable for their actions and are creative. And that is why you must find side projects to work on. 

Any project will do. Just be sure that the work allows you to demonstrate all the skills and creativity you possess. For example, you can find some freelance gigs online. It could be as simple as contributing to a community. Case in point, building a website for your local NGO, designing banners and pamphlets for any social events, or writing code for an open source project.

Just be sure that whenever you contribute to anything on the side of your regular job, you have complete records somewhere. For example, your contributions towards an open source project could be recorded on a platform like GitHub. If your side project is building a prototype for a product, have the necessary patent and an online presence that tells the world about what you’re trying to achieve.

10. Do something about your written skills

The success of any remote work you engage in depends on effective and clean communication. Since you’re working off-site, communication, more written than verbal, will be used to get in touch and reply to clients and coworkers. As such, employers are always on the lookout for strong communication skills in remote candidates.

Of course, for someone in a role such as programming or writing code, the communication need not be over the top. The trick here is that your communication has to be clear and correct so that it’s understood by everyone; even those who themselves possess poor communication skills.

Leveling up your written communication skills is more of a habit — the more you work at it, the better it gets. There are plenty of free tools and resources you can use today to clean up your writing and know where you’re going wrong. For instance, Hemingway Editor and Grammarly are fantastic free tools that you can use to improve your writing. And let’s not forget blogs such as Copyblogger and Grammar Girl that give you important tips on error-free, effective writing. As mentioned earlier, you must get into the habit of writing to improve your skills.

11. Gobble up the nuances of project management

Remote workers need to be effective at project management. Not that since you will be planning and coordinating with coworkers and clients with minimum interactions, everything that you do must be recorded and planned effectively. If you’re not familiar with project management, it’s the method and framework through which any product or service being developed is planned from start to finish. It helps companies stay on track in terms of the deadlines that are chalked out and the budget. Every company uses some project management tool or software. And if you’re familiar with atleast a few platforms, you can effortlessly adapt to any tool that your potential employer uses.

There are many methods used in project management. But start with something like the Kanban methodology that uses virtual or physical cards to manage the work. But why just stop there? Get to know more methodologies such as the waterfall model that maps the logical process of the project or the agile method that zeroes in distributing the entire project into several short-term goals called sprints. If you’re able to demonstrate your work experience or familiarity with any of the aforementioned models during the interview, the recruiter will have confidence in your ability to manage and finish your work.

Doing this will essentially push your profile for the role to the top of the list. In fact, demonstrate your understanding of project management on the next level by telling the recruiter or the supervisor interviewing that you have certain project management methodologies that can improve the quality and the turnaround time of the work insignificantly.  

12. Have your current or ex-supervisor put in a good word 

For employers, finding a remote worker with a strong work ethic is no easy task. While you might say that you are indeed an excellent remote worker, they might not know if you really are unless you have someone to back your claim. Words that come from you about yourself will have little or no effect on your selection.

This is where your references will have a huge part to play. You could have someone on LinkedIn recommend you for the position or mention your reference’s contact information in the resume before the interview begins. But keep in mind that you mustn’t keep your reference in the dark about it. Contact them beforehand and seek permission to share their contact or profile information for your interview. 

And while you’re at it, do let them know why you're sharing the information and what you expect from them. Tell them about the role and be specific about what you want them to talk about from your time together. It’s also not unethical to remind them about your accomplishments. Of course, you have to be extremely polite and gentle while you’re doing all of this. Ask them politely if they can spare time to share a brief anecdote about your nature of work, accomplishments, contributions, work ethic, and teamwork.

13. Something more than just work

For remote employees, being disconnected from the team and working alone can have a serious impact on productivity. It’s often those who work from home that don’t realize work hours infringing personal space and time. And before they know it, there is always the chance of a burnout or reduced motivation. 

If you look up the evils of working remotely on the internet, you’ll find that people do overwork themselves into eventual burnouts. Recruiters know this fact as well and want to know what you do in your spare time to relax and recharge. Let the interviewer know that you have hobbies. It can be anything such as playing any musical instrument or engaging in creative work like painting, drawing, writing and so on. The trick is to send a clear message out to the recruiter that you do everything in your power to motivate and recharge yourself for the work that lies ahead.

Additional Tips

14. Demonstrate your eagerness and excitement

Treat your remote interview as completely different from whatever you’ve experienced before. What we mean here is that you have to show that you really want the job and you have all these out-of-the-box ideas and pent up energy inside of you that can really work wonders for the employer. 

You need to display your enthusiasm. And they need someone with loads of it; someone who can actually contribute towards the company's growth. But subtle about how you’re going to show your excitement. During the interview, you should start with something like a formal and polite greeting and always ensure that your energy and personality shines through all the time.

15. Stay professional till the very end

The only drawback of a remote interview is that you and the recruiter will not be able to meet in person. Even during the video interview, the recruiter will be honed in assessing your professionalism, body language, personality, and character at all times. Your engagement has to be on the same level as that of an in-person interview. 

You do not want to slack off and take it easy. Sit straight, and look directly into the camera to maintain eye contact with the recruiter. If the recruiter asks you something tricky, take your time organizing your thoughts and then speak. In-person interviews always have greetings and handshakes. But this is being done remotely, you should be the one to lead with a polite greeting whilst smiling. The intention here is to build a good rapport with the interviewer, which we talk about in the next tip.

16. Establish a personal connection 

You need to build a rapport, not just with the interviewer but with everyone at work. But in the case of the former, establishing a personal connection for a stable relationship with the interviewer is all the more important as it can result in you edging out your competition. 

Your body language, professionalism, display of enthusiasm, greeting is all it takes to build a good rapport with your potential employer.

17. Show your gratitude for the opportunity

Regardless of what happens after the interview, you must always be quick to send out a follow-up email thanking the employer for the opportunity provided to you. As mentioned in a few of the points above, your eagerness and excitement must shine through. You could even briefly mention noteworthy topics from your discussion or your plans for the job role and what your contributions are likely to be.

You see, it’s about the effort that you put in even after the interview that can make all the difference in your selection. The interviewer will be impressed by your professional attitude and will know how serious you are about the position. 

To sum up...

If you must know, some interviews can be recorded by the recruiter for further assessment. Or some may even ask you to record a session (with you answering their questions) and publish it on a video platform like YouTube. Here’s what you should keep in mind when the live interview takes place. 

  • For remote positions, it’s always easier and faster for recruiters to watch recordings when considering candidates than going through resumes. They’ll get to the point right away and ask specific questions to which your answer should be based on what they want to hear.

  • Your responses should be able to demonstrate your creativity and flair. Give as many examples as you can to provide clarity and talk about your past contributions. 

  • Again, you have to be professional and dress your part. Groom yourself properly and dress up in something formal for the session. It’s actually a good idea to have a few dry runs of you answering their questions before finalising and uploading the draft.

  • Ensure that the information in your resume matches what you have to say in the video. And speaking of a resume, keep it ready and updated at all times as you may never know when you need it.

Even though it is a remote interview, there can be no room for error. Preparation is key even if you might be experiencing it for the first time. You need to plan from scratch and try to remove any inconsistencies that exist.

Don’t worry about it too much and give yourself a pat on the back for reaching this far. Keep in mind that you wouldn’t be here at this stage if it weren’t for your skills, experience, and qualifications. The interview is only a means for the recruiter to know you on a deeper level and to find out if you are the right cultural fit. Be thoroughly prepared and give it your best. And if you’re not selected despite your best efforts, find out what you are doing wrong so that you can prepare for the next one.