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Ask The Interviewer: Work From Home Edition

Written By Rachelle Enns on December 18th, 2020
INTERVIEW COACH
Rachelle Enns
Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter who helps everyone from students to fortune 500 executives find success in their career.

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In our previously published guide, Ask the Interviewer - Questions That Are Sure to Impress, we discussed the importance of asking thoughtful questions in a job interview. We walked you through the most impactful questions to ask and which topics to avoid. We also explained what to look for, as a discerning job seeker, when an interviewer responds. Now, with an incredible increase of work-from-home opportunities, we decided to create a guide focused on questions to ask when you’re interviewing for a remote position.



RESEARCH IS CRITICAL & SUPPORT IS KEY


Today, more than 50% of the worlds’ companies claim to offer work-from-home positions. This number is consistently on the rise, with many companies joining the remote workforce trend every day.


With that said, not every organization comes entirely prepared to support work-from-home employees. If you find yourself interviewing for a remote position, it’s essential to perform due diligence on the company, the job, and the overall expectations.


There are many advantages to working from home; however, joining an organization that isn’t the proper fit for your personality, your goals, and your lifestyle can end up feeling like a big career misstep. This is why you must do your research before accepting a work-from-home opportunity.



ADVANTAGES & DISADVANTAGES OF REMOTE WORK


Many job seekers romanticize the idea of remote work. I was 100% guilty of this mindset when I accepted my first work-from-home position with a global recruitment firm many years back. I pictured myself enjoying a hot coffee in peace after I packed my child a gourmet lunch and sent him off to school. In reality, I was fielding 6 AM client calls due to time zone differences. My office was literally 4 feet from my kitchen, making it very easy to forget about that gourmet lunch and reply to emails instead.


The fact is - there are a lot of perks to working from home. However, you have to advocate for yourself to reap the benefits of those perks.



POTENTIAL ADVANTAGES TO WORKING FROM HOME



ADVANTAGE #1: Flexible Schedule.


One of the most talked-about perks of working from home is enjoying a flexible schedule vs. grinding out a typical 8-5 in-office workday. This flexibility can be a game-changer for some and a nightmare for others depending on discipline levels and personality. Ask the interviewer about the hours' expectations for the position so that you can gauge the potential work/life balance present in this role.



QUESTION TO ASK: Are there set hours for this position, or is the workday flexible?



WHAT TO LOOK FOR:


If you are a person who needs structure and direction, you will want to understand that your future employer has systems and clear expectations. The more precise the hours and expectations are, the better you will perform from a remote location where immediate supervision may be limited.
Maybe you come alive when given flexibility! Some people thrive when they aren’t told to have their butt in their seat from 8 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday.
You understand your habits and tendencies best, so use your discretion when it comes to deciding whether you will flourish with set hours or a more flexible schedule.
Keep in mind, you will want to know if various time zones are at play among your leaders, teammates, clients, and other stakeholders.



ADVANTAGE #2: Less Travel Time.


Commuting can be an absolute headache, especially if you live in a metropolitan area where driving, parking, and taking transit can be expensive, time-consuming, and frustrating. When interviewing for a work-from-home position, consider asking if there are any travel requirements or expectations for you to be present in the office at any point during the workweek. For instance, some companies may ask you to be in-office a couple of days per week even though the job is technically a work-from-home opportunity.


QUESTION TO ASK: Are there any in-office expectations, such as face-to-face meetings? Are there any travel expectations for this position?



WHAT TO LOOK FOR:


Many work-from-home job opportunities are 100% remote, where others offer a split. If you are unclear on the role's expectations, directly ask if there are any in-office or travel expectations. If the interviewer is unsure or gives a 'wishy-washy' answer, this could indicate that the company is new to supporting remote workers and still has kinks to work out.



ADVANTAGE #3: Comforts of Home.


When imagining working from home, many job seekers think about staying in sweatpants, working on their laptop from the couch with the TV playing in the background. Hey - it sounds fun! However, many companies will require you to have a dedicated office where you dial into their systems every day, attend hours of video calls, and make yourself available, without distraction, to clients and your leadership team. You’ll want to be crystal clear on these expectations before accepting a work-from-home position.



QUESTION TO ASK: What percentage of my day will entail video calls and client interaction?



WHAT TO LOOK FOR:


Lights, camera, action! Even famous actors cannot perform hour after hour, day after day. Zoom fatigue is a real thing, and it's essential to understand what the hiring company's expectations are regarding your 'live' availability.


If you need to be suited up and present at 8 AM daily, this is an essential factor to consider when approaching a job offer. Don't enjoy wearing pants? A position where you have to be 'on' all day may not be the best fit for you. Ensure that the hiring company gives you a crystal clear picture of what your average day will look like in this role.



POTENTIAL DISADVANTAGES TO WORKING FROM HOME



DISADVANTAGE #1: Minimal Onboarding & Lack of Continued Support.


When you enter a new position, you will have questions about systems, processes, and expectations. Lack of answers and support can make you feel like you aren't succeeding in your new role, and it can be very frustrating.


Be prepared to ask the interviewer for an overview of their new-hire training and onboarding experience. A great employer will have systems in place for proper remote onboarding and new hire support.



QUESTION TO ASK: What supports do you have in place for remote employees?



WHAT TO LOOK FOR:


Support for remote employees should span past a solid onboarding and initial training period. Look for a precise answer that includes support related to learning your role, growing in your position, and developing healthy work habits and relationships. Proper supports should also come in the form of the tech and tools you will need to succeed.



If your team members and leaders live far away from you, it must be clear that you can still access them when you need assistance. Look for evidence that the hiring company has invested in genuine efforts to ensure everyone's success.



Supports could include regular group meetings, pre-scheduled 1:1 meetings, consistent company updates, full access to cloud-based databases, and tools such as Salesforce, Zoom, Slack, and other productivity platforms.



DISADVANTAGE #2: Isolation or Co-worker Relationships Lacking Depth.


As social creatures, it's entirely normal to feel the need for socialization and workplace relationships with depth. Many work-from-home employees report feeling isolated at times. There is less engagement throughout the day, and after-work social events are often non-existent.



Whether you consider yourself an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in between, it's a proven fact that humans need social interaction to thrive. A potential disadvantage to working from home is that your daily interactions could be limited, depending on your role's nature. Depending on your personality type, you may want to experience a lot of interoffice interaction and inclusion, or you may need very little.



QUESTION TO ASK: How does the company encourage team building and connection across a remote workforce?



WHAT TO LOOK FOR:


The interviewer should provide you with specific examples of the efforts they have put into practice to encourage contact and communication. Look for evidence that their teams stay connected to one another as well as the company's goals. For instance, many companies offer daily huddles on Zoom or Friday afternoon virtual happy hour to combat potential loneliness.



Perhaps the company offers social events and other activities to bring their team together. If the company employs a blend of remote and in-office workers, ask what events occur and if they include remote employees in these events.



Does the interviewer mention primarily in-person interactions such as team lunches, or do they talk about remote-based activities? You'll want to see that the company and your future leaders put effort into inclusion across the board.



DISADVANTAGE #3: Reduced Visibility & Slower Pace of Growth.


As the adage goes, 'Out of sight, out of mind.' For many remote employees, the absence of physical presence is a genuine concern when it comes to considerations for promotions, raises, and more significant opportunities. If you are approaching a work from home situation, show the interviewer that you envision yourself growing with the organization by asking questions about future opportunities.



QUESTION TO ASK: What type of growth opportunities are available for remote employees?



WHAT TO LOOK FOR:


The way a hiring manager answers this question could tell you a lot about the company's viewpoint regarding remote employees and what level they will value your work.



If you get the indication that leadership roles, promotions, and even more subtle perks are not as readily available to work-from-home employees, you will want to ask more questions such as:



  • In what ways had the company invested in its remote employees' growth over the past 12 months?

  • What are your retention rates for off-site employees compared to in-office workers?

  • How many of your remote employees received growth opportunities in the last 12 months, compared to in-office employees?

  • What percentage of your leadership team works remotely on a full-time basis?

  • Will I have the chance to win significant projects/bigger clients/more generous budgets while working off-site?


Give these factors a lot of thought, especially if you have significant goals around an upward career trajectory.



ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS & THE ANSWERS YOU NEED



If you feel that the interviewer has no idea how to answer your work-from-home queries, this could indicate that the company is still in its infancy as far as supporting remote workers. At that point, it is up to you to assess whether or not you possess a strong enough foundation to help yourself when your employer falls short.



When a company has already worked out the details around supporting a work-from-home position, it shows that they value your contributions just as much as an in-office team member. When a hiring company has the right support in place, you know they aren't treating this work-from-home position as a 'trial,' making you the test subject.



SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS


Some organizations have been supporting remote employees for many years. In light of the 2020 pandemic, other companies are just learning how to operate with a remote workforce. Suppose you are interviewing with a company more experienced in managing work-from-home teams. In that case, your expectations might be higher when it comes to streamlined processes, available technology, and other critical supports.


However, if you are interviewing with a company somewhat new to remote offerings, it's realistic to expect hiccups along the way. The work environment, the tools you receive, and the communication may not be perfect. Still, it's important to see evidence when you ask the above questions that the company puts in a genuine effort to embrace the remote work landscape. If the interviewer acknowledges challenges, check for evidence that they are working to overcome those roadblocks.



IN CONCLUSION



Going into your interview armed with insightful remote-based questions will help you make an informed career move. A well-researched approach will also show the hiring company that you have put thought and care into the interview process and have a realistic view of what it means to work from a home-based environment.


Are you approaching a work-from-home job interview? We have more in-depth resources to help you prepare: