Category Archives: Hiring

How to Prepare for a Remote Job Interview

How to Prepare for a Remote Job Interview

You’ve got an interview for a sweet remote working position. Congratulations. Now it’s time to prepare. Of course, you should follow the advice that any candidate should adhere to, like researching the company and your interviewer, appear enthusiastic and so on. There’s also prep work that’s unique to a telecommuting interview that you must not overlook.

There are questions you should ask, others you should expect, as well as things you ought to do before and during the interview to demonstrate that you are the very person to join a remote team. Here are the best practices we suggest for anyone preparing to interview for a telecommuting gig.

Do your Homework

Whenever you interview for a job, you’ve got to do your homework. There’s the usual stuff, like learning about the company and the people you’ll be talking with, understanding the field and so on. There are also a few key things you should do before interviewing for a telecommuting position. These things will help identify you as a person who can work from home successfully.

First, demonstrate that you’re comfortable using the tools that of a self-reliant home worker. If your would-be employer suggests a time that won’t work with your schedule, suggest alternatives. This seems obvious, but it demonstrates the flexibility that a remote worker just has. A tool like Doodle is great here, as it’s just the kind of communication tool that those managing remote workers love.

Also, send a calendar invite, and provide times for your location as well as your interviewers. In doing so, you demonstrate an awareness of the time zone dance and accommodate for it. Finally, suggest several options for speaking, such as Skype, Google Hangouts, UberConference, etc. With that done, it’s on to the interview itself.

Interview Logistics & Preparation

Understand that the interview for a remote job will likely be conducted remotely. You’ll probably have an audio call (phone, Skype, etc.) and a video component. Each has unique preparation steps.

If you’ll be interviewed by phone or other audio call (Skype, etc.):

  1. Don’t “check out” during the conversation. It’s easy to be distracted or otherwise let your attention drift when the interviewer can’t see you. No looking out the window or letting your gaze drift to Twitter for a second. Act as if you’re in the same room as your interviewer.
  2. Be aware that you can’t rely on facial expressions or body language to convey information. If you’re smiling, they don’t know it. Therefore…
  3. Your voice takes on increased importance. Since you can’t rely on visuals to convey enthusiasm or interest, speak clearly and with energy. They can’t see the spark in your eyes, so let them hear it in your voice. I’m not saying to be artificially animated, but be aware that of how you sound.

If you make it past the phone- interview, you may have to participate in a video interview via Skype or Google Hangout. Additionally, I once had to record a video of myself answering questions I received via email. Both are common practices when interviewing for a remote job. Here’s how to prepare for this bit and do well.

  1. Look presentable. Again, this goes without saying. Yes, you’re home, but this is not a casual affair. Get dressed.
  2. Be aware of your background. That epic Led Zeppelin poster is awesome, but an interviewer doesn’t want to see it. Ditto the pile of laundry. Make sure your environment looks professional.
  3. Be aware of lighting. Is your face visible and easy to see? Sit aside a window for nice, natural light.  
  4. Be aware of audio. No, you don’t need a professional mic but if you’re in an echo-y room, move. Even the mic on your ear buds will often be better than the one that’s built in on your computer.

Remember, a part of a video interview is to test that you can work with the tools you’ll need to communicate with your employers. If you struggle with a simple video call, the probably won’t want to have regular remote meetings with you.

Lastly, just before you get started, kill bandwidth-hogging apps like Dropbox, etc., turn off any unnecessary noise in the area like the TV or a noisy air conditioner and finally, wear headphones and a mic, even a cheap one.

Questions to expect

First off, you’ll hear the questions that pop up in most interviews, like “What do you know about the company?” and “Why should we hire you?” Prepare for these remote-specific inquiries as well:

“Have you worked remotely before?”

An interviewer will want evidence of your ability to work independently. Past remote experience will be good here. If you don’t have any experience with remote work (or very little), emphasize the experience you do have. Did a snow day force you to work from home on a wintry day? If so, how did you cope? Does your current brick-and-mortar job require a lot of independent, self-directed work (for example, photo editing at your desk)? Explain how this demonstrates your ability to be self-directed without a lot of interaction/supervision from others.

“Do you have a home office?”

While an employer may be happy with having you work from home, they might not want you at the coffee shop where prying eyes can look over your shoulder and see something that ought to be confidential. Additionally, they may require that you have certain basic equipment in place, like a certain internet speed or a scanner. If you’re on an audio interview, do your best to paint a picture of your workspace.

“How do you handle distractions?”

You know this question is coming. Have an answer ready.

Questions to ask

The questions you ask can be just as important as the answers you provide. As someone interviewing for a remote position, these three should be on your list:

  1. How do remote workers communicate with each other and people back at the office?
  2. How long has remote work been offered at the organization?
  3. How many employees work remotely?

By and large, interviewing for a work-from-home position is much like any interview you’ll take. With the tweaks and preparations mentioned above, you’ll greatly enhance your chances of nailing it. Good luck.

 

Want a great hire? Start with a great job listing.

Want a great hire? Start with a great job listing.

One of the most frequently asked questions in the Authentic Jobs support inbox is “How do I get people to apply?”

While individual motivations are tough to pin down, here are a few things we’ve observed about applicant behavior.

First, remote jobs receive exponentially more views, clicks, and applications. People want to work from anywhere, apparently. Second, jobs with disclosed salary ranges receive more applications than those that don’t.. Unfortunately, not all work can be done remotely, nor are all employers set up for remote work, and salary disclosures are tricky.

Regardless of your team set up, the universal tool for boosting applicant quality and quantity is a well-crafted job listing. The humble listing is an overlooked art form. At its best, a listing reaches out and grabs the perfect candidate(s), and there is much rejoicing. Because it is an art form, there’s not a perfect formula for writing a listing, but there are some characteristics.

In this post, we’ll cover some of the components of a compelling job listing, and tell you why they work.

TL;DR:

Frequently, candidates are skimming employment sites for posts that fit their interests and skill level. But they’re evaluating a lot of possibilities, and frankly, they don’t have the time to read a job listing rivaling the length of War & Peace.

Keep your paragraphs short, and use concise language. Use bulleted lists for required skills, responsibilities, and experience. If you can make it a list instead of a paragraph, do so.

Tell them what they’ll be doing

Candidates want to know if the job is work that they want to do, in an industry segment in which they have interest. Give them specifics. What are their concrete responsibilities? What is the specific product?

Of equal importance is telling people what your company does. Your ideal candidate may have no idea who you are, and just like meeting anyone for the first time, a clear introduction is best. Without using hyperbole, exaggeration, or buzzwords, explain what it is you do. If you build a product, explain what your product does.

While saying “We build life-changing synergistic applications for direct to consumer medical use” is an accurate description, it means very little to those outside of your organization.   

“We build software to help people monitor their diabetes at home” is the same statement, but no one fell asleep while reading it.

Blackbox explains their business concept at the very beginning of their job listing. It’s short, sweet, and to the point.

A short description that leaves no doubts as to the company's purpose.

A short description that leaves no doubts as to the company’s purpose.

 

What do you expect?

Along with letting people know what they’ll be expected to do, let candidates to know what skills you expect them to have on day one.  It can be tempting to ask for an alphabet soup of programming languages, libraries, and tools, but how many of those are critical to the daily work of the new hire?

It’s important to remember that languages, frameworks, and tools are learnable, teachable things that are in a constant state of flux. It’s impossible for a candidate to have each and every one of them to an expert degree.

Be mindful of the timelines of your requirements. Requiring a degree and ten years experience in a programming language that has only been around for 5, will land you swiftly in an applicant’s “Nope” bin because it implies that you’re unfamiliar with the tools and the community.

To that point, highlight the opportunities and tools you offer to help your employees to grow their skills, such as conference stipends, book allowances, tuition reimbursement, and other education partnerships. It indicates that your company understands that new and different skills may be needed to keep up, and you’re interested in growing employees, rather than trudging forward with the same tools.

Talk about people

This job posting from Help Scout stood out for its clear description of the people who would be working with the new hire.

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HelpScout introduces the people their new hire will be working with in their listing.

Not only did they name them, they explained how each person’s work would interact with the work of the new hire. Clearly explaining team roles in this manner lays out the new hire’s day-to-day, and it illustrates how different departments intersect.

Set yourself apart

While many postings highlight amenities like free beer and ping pong tables, applicants pay more attention to amenities like parental and family leave policies, paid time off, healthcare coverage, and retirement plans. Job seekers are looking for numbers, too.

How many weeks parental leave do they receive? How much PTO? Is the policy unlimited, or have you opted for a minimum vacation policy? Do you offer employer matching on retirement? 

This post from MeetEdgar explains some of their perks, and also links to an external document that explains their full benefits package. 

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MeetEdgar’s perk of monthly cleaning services for your home office is definitely a notable.

Show them the money

Being upfront about compensation helps applicants set expectations, and can prevent an abrupt end to an otherwise smooth recruitment process.

Authentic Jobs offers a “tiers” system that displays a range of compensation, and we find that postings that list compensation receive more applicants. Applicants know how much money they need to be comfortable, and these salary tiers are also a search filter, so adding pay to your listing will help your listing match with a candidate’s expectations.

Not every employer can give numbers in their job posting, but if you’ve got other forms of compensation, that’s certainly something to share. Much like perks, the more details you can give, the better.

Where?

Where do you want your candidates to be? If you’re a fully distributed company where people can work from anywhere, shout that from the rooftops.  If you’re running a time sensitive project that requires lots of face to face interaction with clients in a particular city, you’ll want to be upfront about that geographic restriction.

Further, be clear about your ability to hire workers internationally, and to sponsor visas for applicants. Authentic Jobs draws candidates from across the globe, and this information is very important for them.

Give directions

So now that a candidate is enamored with your company and ready to apply, what do you want from them? Do you want a cover letter or no? How should candidates submit portfolios? How many samples do you want in those portfolios?

Portfolio submission instructions from Atlantic Media: https://www.authenticjobs.com/jobs/28814/junior-product-designer

Portfolio submission instructions from Atlantic Media’s post for a Junior Product Designer.

Keep in mind, applicants who are actively job hunting may be submitting 10 or more applications a day, and a complex or overly burdensome application process is just another reason to skip your job. Make sure that you’re requesting only the information you’ll use and need, and make it easy for applicants to get it to you.

Remember that your job posting is essentially your application to the candidate, and so it warrants putting a few sets of eyes on your posting. Have your technologists evaluate the skills section. Have you HR rep make sure you’ve included important perks. Have everyone check for spelling!

By combining a solid job listing with a great pool of candidates (what can we say, Authentic Jobs users are pretty fantastic), the perfect match is just a few clicks away.