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7 key remote working skills & how to interview for them 1

7 key remote working skills & how to interview for them

When interviewing potential candidates for your global team, there are some essential qualities that all recruiters must look for. Here are some questions to help you recruit for a highly efficient remote team.

When interviewing potential team members, we often depend on a number of verbal and non-verbal cues to judge whether the candidate would be a good fit. We look at their body language and facial expressions, and ask questions to judge their analytical and decision making skills. 

However, in the absence of a face to face interaction, you might have to redesign the interview experience so as to extract the maximum potential of that remote interview. More importantly, picking the right member for your distributed team requires you to dive deeper and look for certain qualities that are essential for the success of all remote teams, like effective communication and collaboration. 

In this article, we discuss what these qualities are, and what are the most effective ways to interview for them. Read on, as moving forward, these qualities will determine the overall productivity of your team.

Self motivation

An effective remote worker is adept at working independently, without the need for constant check-ins. Candidates who are highly motivated and self-starters work wonders within remote teams. We recommend looking for signs of self discipline, motivation, and planning. A good way to do this is by asking the candidate about their daily work routine, and how they approach a new project. 

Some questions that can help you check their level of motivation are: 

  1. What goals, including career goals, have you set for the next 5 years?
  2. What techniques have you learned or discovered that make your job easier, or make you more productive?
  3. Tell me about a time where you went above and beyond your role and expectations. Why did you do this? What exactly did you do?

Digital literacy

Consider this: you find a person who is an expert in your required field, but is unable to use the team’s shared tools for collaboration and knowledge sharing. In the age of virtual workspaces, digital literacy is a non-negotiable basic skill. Every member of your distributed team will be required to use multiple tools for communication, collaboration, and project management, among others on a daily basis.  General awareness of how technology functions enables team members to work efficiently throughout the day, and makes it easier for them to adopt new tools and products. Whether you’re hiring for a DevOps role, or for the role of a copywriter, it is imperative that the person you hire is comfortable with the tools and technology used by your team.

While the tools and technology used by every team will be different, here are a few questions that work universally: 

  1. Are you comfortable using everyday communication tools like Slack, Zoom, GoogleMeet, and MS Teams?
  2. What social media websites have you used in a professional setting?
  3.  Tell me about a time you had to figure out a computer-related issue

Effective communication skills

While effective communication is an important skill for every employee, its importance cannot be over-emphasized when it comes to working remotely. A remote worker must be direct, clear, and professional in their communication. They must be able to understand the difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication, and the right usage of both. They must be comfortable asking for help when they are unsure of how to proceed with work. In customer facing roles, it is often your team member’s communication skills that play a huge role in the success of your company. The goal is to check for how they deal with challenging situations and stressful conversations, and whether they are able to put their point across without being aggressive.

Thankfully, you no longer have to depend on the regular “tell me about yourself” to gain an insight into an interviewee’s communication skills. These questions can help you gauge whether the candidate has effective communication skills:

1) Describe a time when you faced conflict and how you addressed it.

2) Why are you a good fit for this position?

3) How would your co-workers describe your personality?


Ever wondered how important collaboration as a skill really is? 97% of employees and executives believe that the lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project. 

While many interviewers often club communication and collaboration together, the two are fairly distinct skills. How well a person might be able to collaborate depends on their ability to deal with conflict, and understand another  person’s point of view. Being a team player requires being sensitive to the needs of other people in the team, without being overbearing. The need for collaboration becomes all the more important in a remote work environment, as team members do not have the opportunity to co-exist physically. 

Here are some questions to help you check the collaboration skills of  a potential team member:

  1. How do you provide feedback to a colleague who is struggling or performing poorly?
  2. Describe a situation where you had to work with a colleague you didn’t get along with. How did you solve this problem?
  3. Tell us about a situation where you created a productive relationship with someone on another team/department.

Problem solving

Does this person view a challenge as an opportunity or a barrier? All remote workers are required to exercise their discretion multiple times during the day, and take autonomy over their projects. This requires a considerable amount of problem solving and prioritisation, skills that interviewers must check for. Asking hypothetical situation-based questions is a great way to check for problem solving and analytical skills. 

Even better, by asking the candidate to solve a problem that occurs regularly as a part of the role, you get an insight into their problem solving skills, as well as their actual experience. 

Here are a few questions that can help you gauge a candidate’s problem solving skills:

1) Describe a time when you used a creative solution to tackle a job-related problem.

2)What are the steps you take while making a crucial decision?

3) Describe the biggest work-related problem you have faced. How did you deal with it?

Time Management

When you can’t physically keep track of the progress that your team members are making, how do you ensure that they stick to timelines? Time management is an essential skill for every employee, as it has a direct impact on the success of projects. Asking the right questions can also give you valuable insights into the candidate’s work ethic and planning process. More importantly, it helps you understand how they will prioritise their goals in times of conflict between deadlines. 

Here are some questions that can help:

1) Describe a time when you recognized you weren’t going to be able to meet multiple deadlines. What did you do about it? What was the outcome?

2) You’ve been on leave for a week and find your email swamped with work mails. Which ones do you respond to first, and why?

3) Multiple people in the organisation approach you with different tasks and overlapping deadlines. How do you prioritise which one to take up first?

Empathy and emotional intelligence

The productivity of every team is closely linked to the amount of trust and comfort that its members experience with each other. Members in distributed teams are often more successful at bonding with each other as they make a conscious effort to do so, instead of merely relying on situational triggers. However, this calls for a certain level of emotional intelligence and empathy. When recruiting for remote positions, it is always a good idea to look for signs of social intelligence and empathy. Tailor your questions to scenarios that they will face as a part of their role.
Here are a few questions to help you choose the right culture fit for your team:

1) Tell me about a time you had a conflict with your supervisor. How did you resolve it?

2) Tell me about a time when you had to neutralize a stressful situation in a professional environment.

3) What’s something you’ve achieved that you’re most proud of and why?

Research predicts that 73% of all departments will have remote workers by 2028. Today, more than ever, the war for talent has made it imperative for hiring to be efficient. As recruiters and employers, one of the best ways to ensure successful recruitment is by asking the right questions. 

Recruiting for multiple remote roles? Take the first step towards building your distributed workforce with Talent500. Our team of experts and network of highly skilled professionals help you build your global team in over 50 countries. Ready to take the first step? Set up a consultation with our team here.

Harsha Satyakam

Harsha Satyakam

Harsha is a brand content specialist with Talent500. Working to create written content on the enterprise side, she enjoys writing about flexibility at the workplace, distributed teams, and the future of work.

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