Contractors — 20 min
You submitted a killer application and snagged an interview for an exciting new job. You’re excited to have your first conversation over Zoom, but you may feel a little intimidated about presenting yourself well in a virtual interview.
Remote interviews have become the norm, even in situations where the job itself is on-site or hybrid. Many employers and hiring managers prefer to conduct first interviews virtually to save time and hassle. If you are applying for fully remote roles, you need to be able to communicate effectively during a remote interview to demonstrate that you can work effectively with your remote team members in the same context.
It’s more important than ever to know how to ace a remote interview. Remote’s internal recruitment team has prepared five practical tactics to give you the best odds and help you land your dream remote job.
While many aspects of the interview process are the same whether in-person or virtual, there are some key differences to keep in mind as you prepare. Anastasia Pshegodskaya, senior recruiting manager at Remote, explains why candidates sometimes falter, as remote interviewing can sometimes be a more stressful experience:
“When interviewing over Zoom, you’re not only worried about your responses to the questions but potentially instability when it comes to technology. You need to connect on time, you might be worried that your internet bandwidth won’t be enough, and sometimes you may need to use tools that you may not have used before.”
To combat this, get comfortable with all the tools you’ll need for the interview ahead of time. Scott Entwistle, a recruiter at Remote, suggests you work through a dry run at least ten minutes before your call to make sure you have time to sort through any tech hiccups:
“I always recommend doing a test before an interview. Video platforms like Zoom, Whereby, Teams, and Google Meet all have their quirks, so the best way to test them is to invite a friend (or even yourself on a different device) to make sure you can successfully join a meeting. Don’t just check your connection. Make sure that your camera and microphone work to avoid further stress on call.”
Your interviewer might ask you to use other things, like whiteboarding tools for assignments or sharing a presentation you’ve prepared for the role. Read the interview instructions carefully and ask questions if needed so you can practice and be ready for whatever is required technically.
If you’re concerned about your internet connection, do a trial video call with a friend or family member in the exact room where you will be taking the interview. You can also seek out quiet public places with good Wi-Fi, like a library, cafe, or a hotel lobby.
Remember, there’s still a chance you could run into a problem during the interview. But with proper preparation, you’ll feel much more confident and assured in the moment. Take stock, stay calm, and try to triage the problem on the run.
If you run into issues, offer to continue with your video off and to save bandwidth. You might even need to try and reconnect.
No matter what, stay calm and composed — remember, you’ll need to manage these types of instances on a semi-regular basis in a fully remote role anyway. You should be able to reschedule the interview for a different time without too much hassle if the tech just won’t cooperate.
Before your interview, put some thought into your attire and setting. It might feel a bit ridiculous to show up to a Zoom interview from your living room in a suit jacket, but it’s still important to convey professionalism in your interview attire while remote.
A button-up shirt can send a message that you mean business. A top with an interesting print might help to convey your creativity or dynamism. A tidy knit pullover or a nice cotton shirt will demonstrate that you have considered your appearance during a remote interview. Remember that your interviewer is expecting professionalism even though you are not in a physical office.
Jobs in more traditional industries like finance or law might require more thoughtful planning. If you’re not sure how far you need to go with your attire, it won’t hurt to ask. Check with your recruitment contact via email before the call. A question like this shows that you are committed with a strong attention to detail.
You also shouldn’t neglect your background. A clean background like a wall behind you and good natural light usually works best. As Scott says, interviewers don’t expect you to have a full office in your home, but they do want to see that you can switch from living-at-home mode to working-from-home mode.
“Check your surroundings — if they're not quite desirable, you can always use an artificial background to make things easier!”
One of the most important things you can do before any job interview is to prepare your own background research. Start with the following and zero in on more specific areas of knowledge that will help you answer questions related to the job description:
New terminology in the job description
Background information on the company
Brand values, mission, and vision
The competitive landscape
How do you fast-track this research? Yasmine Gray, a talent sourcer at Remote, gives some helpful advice:
“Look for the company’s website and make sure you understand what they do and why they feel it’s important work. Find relevant content from their careers page or handbook if it’s public. Make notes for yourself on how well you align with their values and things you think you can add to the team.”
Gaby Suarez, a senior technical recruiter at Remote, recommends candidates look for everything they can find about the company, both on its website and on external sources.
“Research your interviewer, the company culture, the founders, and funding rounds. Find out about the investors. Make sure you understand the size of the company. Learn how quickly they are growing.”
These findings can lead to valuable insights that will help you demonstrate the value you can add in the specific context of the organization. The benefit is twofold. Your answers (and the questions you pose) will seem more relevant, demonstrating your understanding. But you’ll also stand out in the process by demonstrating your dedication and foresight. Your interviewer will be able to tell that you’ve put in the time to research.
You can also look the company up on sites like Crunchbase, Glassdoor, Comparably, and similar review sites to get more insights into how the company works and what the employee experience is like. This is important for you as a candidate to get a feel for whether it’s a good culture fit.
Although a video interview isn’t a traditional way to introduce yourself, that doesn’t mean you can’t form a connection with the person on the other side of the screen. Gaby is a huge advocate for trying to build a connection with your communication skills:
“From my experience, soft skills and body language can be assessed pretty much the same way as in a traditional interview.”
It’s important to stay friendly, open, and authentically communicate your interest throughout the conversation. This can make a bigger impression on the hiring manager than many candidates realize. Scott relies on these cues to assess the cultural fit of remote candidates:
“At Remote, our number one value is kindness. So the thing that makes me really excited about a candidate is seeing someone who loves our mission, has the right skill sets to do well in the role, and is ultimately a kind and open person.”
If you’re feeling nervous, remember that’s normal, especially if you’re not used to interviewing remotely. Even if you are, a remote job interview is still an experience very few candidates will have mastered. Default to positivity and assume things are going well, even if you think you’ve made a mistake or said something you weren’t happy with.
Allow yourself to have a genuine conversation. Listen, respond, engage with your interviewer, and be yourself. If possible, find a way to build a personal connection. You might want to try to begin the conversation by talking about personal things like where you live, hobbies, or interests, and even ask the interviewer about their day, their weekend, or their remote work journey.
You may be the one being interviewed, but it’s also an opportunity for you to ask questions of the interviewer. Asking the right questions can really demonstrate your interest in the role.
Anastasia pinpoints the questions candidates ask as a critical window into their analytical skills and their intelligence in relation to the role.
“It’s good to prepare your questions in advance. When I’m interviewing candidates, one of the most important parts for me is seeing what kind of questions they’re asking, as it shows how much preparation they put into the interview. Interesting questions that are specifically related to the company will help candidates stand out from the crowd.”
Don’t feel like you can’t take notes, refer to your notes, or jot down other talking points as you go. Yasmine encourages candidates to bring notes to the interview and sees this as a sign of good preparation and an indication of solid organizational skills:
“Don’t read off your lap, but glancing at notes is noticed and loved by recruiters,” she shares. “And be mindful about the questions you ask — the easier the answer is to find online, the more time you waste and the less prepared you look.”
Once you’re done with the interview, what’s next?
Decompress and treat yourself to some relaxation time. Yasmine advises this for any candidate to help deal with the mental stresses of the interview experience.
“Breathe a sigh of relief and do something that brings you joy. Grab a coffee, crack out your favorite video game, go for a stroll in the park, take a hot bath, anything for some post-interview self-care. Remember that any reasonable team won’t expect perfection: they’ll expect a real human being who could add value to their team, and they’ll be able to overlook any hiccups you perceive. So don’t panic about those things and try to put the interview out of your mind.”
If you haven’t heard back within a few days, consider sending a follow-up message to keep yourself top-of-mind for the hiring manager. Scott says this is totally acceptable and indicates your eagerness:
“You can't go wrong with a follow up email to thank someone for their time. A good strategy is a simple LinkedIn connection request after the interview and a follow-up email three to four days later to convey your enthusiasm to move forward.”
Ultimately, remember that job searching and interviewing is a numbers game. There are more high-quality remote opportunities available on the job market than ever before, and if you continue to apply and interview, you will eventually find the perfect fit for your values and skill sets!
If you’re looking for a remote, hybrid, or flexible job, Remote can help. Check out our Choose Remote Toolkit now for a list of remote job boards, companies hiring remotely, and tips to advocate for yourself to stay remote in your current job.
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