7 Tips to Level Up Your Remote Job Interview Prep

So, you have a job interview coming up… dun dun dun. Worst of all, it’s a remote job interview, which you’ve never done before. Even if you have experience with remote job interviews, it’s essential that you prepare beforehand. You’ll need to get your video call environment ready, research the remote company, prepare for tech questions, make sure your PC is distraction-free, give a good virtual impression, talk about your remote-friendly qualities and use tech to your advantage.

The key to a remote job interview is to think remote first and orient your experiences towards the remote work model. Today, we’ll go into detail about how to better prepare and nail a remote job interview. If you’re already sweating just thinking about it, we’ve put together a list of hacks to help you level up your remote job interview skills.

  1. Clean Up Your Tech

First thing’s first: check your username. Whatever video conferencing tool your interviewer chooses – Skype, Zoom, Hangouts, Appear.in, etc. – make sure that your username is simple and professional. Go on and delete lazyguy123… Also, if your username is too long, shorten it to just your first initial and last name.

While you’re at it, log into the tool and prep your interview space while checking how it looks in the app. The background that appears on screen should be clean and clear of any personal items. Turn on the lights to make sure your space doesn’t look too dark; otherwise, add a desk lamp to the mix. What’s more, it’s essential that you’re close to the wi-fi router, or at least have checked that there are no connection issues from your chosen interview spot.

As a final check, test call a friend or family member. Be sure that the space looks good and the camera angle doesn’t widen to include more of the room than you had anticipated. During this test, you can also get a sense of the sound and wifi connection.

  1. Dig Into the Company’s Digital Footprint

A remote job interview isn’t much different from an in-person interview. One big difference? How you research the company. A remote company will often have a strong online presence, with a blog, social media channels and online client reviews. Dig into their digital footprint to get a realistic idea of the remote company.

The blog is especially important to check out. A remote company will often showcase their company culture, remote challenges, success stories, remote advice and client approach on their blog. Go straight to the gold and scan it to get a more complete idea of the company. These findings will help you field questions about the company and give you a sense of whether this company is a “fit.” You can glean their blog for things to ask the interviewer, too.

Don’t forget to do your research on what type of remote company it is as well (fully remote, distributed, part-time remote, etc.). Check their company website, GitHub’s list of remote companies, the company’s remote tips on Remote.co and whether the company is women-friendly on RemoteWoman. Not all remote companies are alike and you’ll want to know yours inside-and-out before your interview.

  1. Prepare for the Zingers

Your remote job interview won’t necessarily be easy. After all, remote companies are looking for top talent within a global pool. You’ll need to stand out during the interview, which means preparing for the tough questions. Cover your bases by going through common interview questions. If you’re interviewing in the tech industry, you should also brush up on interview questions for your programming language(s) – for example, Node.js interview questions.

Many remote tech companies will also ask questions to test your knowledge in certain specializations, or in English. Depending on the company, you may also have to take a written test for your programming language and/or English. Prepare for these questions and tests, as they may come out of nowhere and catch you off guard. The more you prepare, the better you’ll respond to these zingers.

  1. Go Distraction-Free on Your PC

The remote job interview isn’t just a way to meet you as a candidate – it’s also to see how you would potentially interact with global clients. Be sure to model good video conference behavior during your interview. That means shutting down background apps and turning off notifications for any programs you commonly use. There’s nothing worse than having a Facebook notification pop up in the corner and take your gaze away from the interviewer. It’s really obvious and, well, a bit impolite.

If you’re tuning in from your home office, you should also communicate with your family and/or roommates about your interview. You don’t want interruptions in the middle of your interview – even adorably hilarious interruptions like this dad faced during a BBC interview. Make sure everybody at home is aware of your interview. Another pro tip is to use headphones so that any unexpected noise – inside or outside of the house – doesn’t distract you.

  1. Give a Great First (Virtual) Impression

Video call etiquette can be tricky to master, but it’s important to get right. You should treat your interviewer with the same attentive body language as you would in person. That means you should maintain eye contact during the video interview and avoid any distractions on screen. Also make sure that you’re not constantly checking yourself out. If your image is distracting to you, hide it so that you don’t see your own preview image. In addition, don’t make the faux pas of using your keyboard while interviewing. The interviewer will definitely be able to hear the typing sound and think you’re not paying attention. If you want to take notes, put a notepad next to you to jot down handwritten notes.

A big part of your virtual impression is also how you handle the introduction to the video call. This “digital handshake” of meeting somebody for the first time online should have all the warmth and attention that in-person greetings do. Make small talk, smile and keep eye contact with the interviewer, just as you normally would.

You’ll also want to prepare for any potential problems during the video call. For example, double check that you have the right time zone (World Time Buddy is helpful here). You should also think of how to handle issues with lag time or sound distortion. Stay professional and demonstrate how you would treat a client when facing this issue. If you didn’t hear something the interviewer said, ask him/her to repeat it. If lag time or sound issues persist, you can politely request to reschedule the interview, too. Whenever possible, use the chat feature in the video conference tool to manage sound problems so you’re not screaming “can you hear me now?” at the interviewer.

Lastly, make sure you’re ready for dead air during your interview. While dead air on a video call can sometimes feel awkward, take it easy. Relax and wait for the interviewer to continue. If the silence gets too long, you can also ask the interviewer a question about the company. In any case, prepare yourself to stay calm.

  1. Highlight Your Remote-Friendly Qualities

Because you’re interviewing for a remote job, you’ll want to make sure that you’re demonstrating a remote-friendly mindset during the interview. For example, try to orient your work experiences towards the remote model. It’s fine to talk about your past experiences at the office, but be sure to connect how your qualities and examples make you a good remote candidate.

Some of the top qualities that interviewers look for in remote candidates include:

  • Communication Skills: Remote candidates will do the majority of their work and collaboration over email, project management tools and video chats. Companies want to be sure that you have solid written and oral communication skills, focusing on clarity, positivity and responsiveness. Your interviewer is checking your written and oral skills during the interview and scheduling process, so consider every email and interview minute as an audition! The interview might also ask for a direct test by having you present a past project over the video call. Be ready!
  • Results-Oriented: Your future remote manager won’t care if you took a two hour lunch break; rather, he/she will be focused on whether projects are completed or not. During your interview, think of examples where you’ve been results-oriented in the past and use them to show that you’ll be able to excel as a remote worker. If you have previous remote experience, even better! Mention how you were results-oriented in your last remote role.
  • Tech Know-How: If dealing with new tech makes you break down in tears, remote work might not be for you. A remote worker needs to adapt to new tech all the time – from project management tools to file sharing protocols and beyond. Make sure you highlight your tech-savvy qualities during the interview.
  • Adaptable & Collaborative: Remote work oftens involves dynamic teams that change according to the project needs. As a remote worker, you’ll need to shift gears often and be open to working with new people. It’s important to show that you’re good at adapting to this kind of agile team model.
  • Proactive Problem-Solver: It’s important for remote workers to be proactive. Instead of letting an email question fade away, companies are looking for those who will take charge and find a solution. This quality is even more important in the remote model, where messages are often the main line of communication. Being proactive is #1 on many interviewers’ lists. Bringing up an example of when you were proactive is a big plus during a remote job interview.
  • Outside Interests: While a relatively recent development, interviewers are now asking about candidates’ after-work interests. Why? Since loneliness is one of the top challenges that remote workers face, companies are trying to see whether the remote worker will be able to balance between personal and professional life under the same roof. Remote worker burnout is real and can negatively affect teams. Instead, remote companies want to make sure you’re capable of striking a good balance between outside interests and work life. 

You’ll definitely want to highlight these remote-friendly qualities during the interview as much as possible. In addition, try to stick to a remote-oriented mindset when you ask the interviewer questions. For example, ask what kind of project management tools the company uses to stay connected, or ask what type of remote team building activities the company facilitates. By following up with remote-friendly questions, you’ll show how successful you would be as a remote worker.

  1. Leverage Tech to Showcase Your Remote Abilities

Since this is a video interview, make the most of the tech to show off your remote-focused qualities. This interview demonstrates how you would interact with clients. So, you’ll want to show your communication skills at their finest. One idea for impressing your interviewer would be to answer certain questions by sharing your screen and presenting relevant parts of your portfolio. For example, for a question about how you overcame a tech challenge, you could share your screen and go through the details of a recent project and how you solved the issue.

You can use tech for your own benefit, too. When you go for your interview, split your screen: the top half for the video call, the bottom half for your notes on your resume and/or questions for the company. If positioned correctly, your interviewer won’t notice that you’re glancing at a digital document, which can help you sound more fluid and professional. Leverage the tech for maximum impact!

It’s impossible to 100% prepare for any interview. However, with these seven tips, you’ll put yourself in a good position to nail the remote interview. With them, you’ll have a video call that’s professional and distraction-free; feel prepared to answer and ask questions about the remote company; ace any tech or English tests; make a good virtual impression; talk about your skills in a remote-friendly way and show off your tech prowess. No matter what happens, remember to think remote first. We hope you get the job!