As companies pivot towards working remotely, you’re likely to find yourself interviewing for more jobs that require you to work from home. Employers are often looking for individuals with specific skills for these roles. That means that if you can show that you have those abilities, you’ll have a much better chance of getting hired. Here are six skills to emphasise in interviews for remote work.
Imagine you’re hiring for a remote role, and the person you’re interviewing can’t work out how to respond to an online meeting invite, answer a video call, or figure out how to use their microphone. You’d know straight away that they’d make your job of managing remote teams even harder. Yet, you’d be surprised just how often these problems can come up and how much time they waste.
If you can format your CV well, respond promptly to any invitations, and hold a video call with ease then you’re already putting yourself ahead of many people. Working from home requires a familiarity with technology, and making the online interview easy for the interviewer is a good starting point to show this off.
Try to talk about how you use appropriate software in everyday life - the more specific the examples, the better. Even if it’s just discussing how you spoke with your teachers through email and an online portal shows you’re used to communicating online. That’s something which is vital for any remote role. It’s also worth showing an interest in the technology that the company uses. For instance, if they have a live chat function on their website, do a bit of research on these and show your understanding.
Working from home requires a lot of self-motivation, which is why it doesn’t suit everyone. There’ll be no-one at home with you to check-in, and there’ll be a lot more distractions. It’s important to show that you can work independently and stay on track without a lot of direction. Of course, it’s fine to ask questions of your colleagues when needed, but they’ll expect a certain level of independence.
A good way to show this off within the first few minutes of an interview is to ensure your backdrop looks professional. If you’ve never had to set your room up this way before, it’s worth figuring out how to set up a home office. This will have the added benefit of being a good working space when you do get hired! You’re far more likely to appear self-motivated in what appears to be a dedicated workspace than a bedroom with a bunch of laundry in view.
You can also emphasise this skill by talking about projects you’ve completed with little outside input. If you’ve written a dissertation, talking about how you had to motivate yourself to do this can often be a good start.
You might think that this one is the same as being self-motivated, but it’s a skill in its own right. You can be incredibly motivated, but still fall into the trap of failing to stay on top of everything. Knowing how to schedule your own day while taking into account other’s plans is vital for working remotely. You might be very motivated, but if you haven’t planned ahead you may find yourself needing urgent information from someone who’s in a meeting.
When talking about a project you’ve completed with little outside input, you can also bring in the finer details of how you managed it. Talking about things like setting your own deadlines, working around others’ schedules, and balancing multiple tasks alongside one another can show how you turned your motivation into organised, effective work.
This is similar to being self-motivated but goes one step further. In an office, it’s often easy to find someone to help you figure out something new, but that’s much harder to do remotely. Showing a willingness to learn will help employers trust that you’ll be able to pick up the job easily. That’s even when it involves software you might not have used before, like a cloud phone system, a project management platform, or analytics reports.
If you have time, learning how to use some common tools in advance will give you an edge in job applications. Being able to show some familiarity - even just at a basic level - with certain programs will encourage employers to be more confident in your ability to pick up a new role.
It can be harder to tell what people mean over text, audio, or video calls, so employers will be looking for someone who can communicate clearly.
This is particularly important when it comes to written communication. You’ll need to be able to write emails that are concise, have a friendly tone, and won’t get misunderstood. This is especially important if you’re applying for jobs that involve unified communications and remote working, as you may be responsible for talking to customers over multiple platforms at once.
When it comes to audio or video calls, it’s a little bit easier due to the fact that you can hear someone’s tone of voice. Such channels, though, still miss a lot of cues you would have in normal conversation. There’s also new problems, like talking over one another more easily. Familiarising yourself with these platforms in advance (even with friends) is a good way to ensure you come across as a great communicator.
‘Being a team player’ is often listed as something employers look for, and this is even more important for remote work. Being a team player in an office can be much easier - you can chat on breaks and get to know those around you. Working from home adds an extra barrier, removing the easily accessible social layer around a job.
Employers will therefore be looking for people who are confident working collaboratively, even at great distance. Understanding the challenges of remote collaboration and having ideas of solutions or work-arounds can go a long way to showing that you’re prepared for this sort of situation.
Of course, you need to make sure your potential employer has everything you need to succeed, too! Ask some questions about whether they have the virtual office essentials in place, if they provide equipment, and how they support their remote employees. You might have the skills they want - but do they have the opportunities you need?
Sam O'Brien is the Senior Website Optimisation & User Experience Manager for EMEA at RingCentral, a global UCaaS systems provider. Sam has a passion for innovation and loves exploring ways to collaborate more with dispersed teams. He has written for websites such as FreshDesk and Vault. Here is his LinkedIn.
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