Avoid These 10 Questions in Any Remote Interview

By Cam Velasco

CEO & Co-Founder
Published: Feb 21, 2024
Landing a remote position brings unique challenges when interviewing. By avoiding these 10 common remote interview pitfalls, you can showcase your skills, align with company culture, and land the remote job.
Person waving during a video call interview, with the interviewer holding a resume in the foreground.

Landing a remote position brings unique challenges when interviewing.

By avoiding these 10 common remote interview pitfalls, you can showcase your skills, align with company culture, and land the remote job.

In this post, we’ll cover crucial areas to finesse in your remote interviews – from thoughtful thank-you notes to optimizing your home office backdrop. You’ll get actionable tips to highlight your qualifications while avoiding problematic questions that can undermine your candidacy.

Introduction to Remote Interview Pitfalls

Interviewing for a remote position comes with its own unique challenges. Without the ability to meet face-to-face, it can be harder to convey important qualities about your work ethic, communication style, and cultural fit. However, with some preparation and forethought, you can avoid common pitfalls and set yourself up for success.

The Importance of Proactively Communicating Your Remote Work Readiness

When interviewing for a remote role, it’s crucial to demonstrate your ability to work independently and manage a flexible schedule. Proactively communicate examples of times you have successfully collaborated across locations or worked with minimal supervision. Highlight any experience adapting to fluid work situations while still meeting deadlines and expectations. Conveying your remote work readiness upfront builds trust in your capabilities.

Understanding the Remote Position: Company Values and Cultural Fit

Do your homework beforehand to understand the company’s culture and values. Come prepared with thoughtful questions that show your alignment with and passion for their mission. Avoid asking questions easily found on their website. Demonstrating cultural fit and shared values is vital for remote roles where face-to-face interactions are limited.

Remote Worker Insights: Showcasing Your Home Office Setup

While a tour of your home office may not always be possible, be prepared to describe your workspace setup. Convey how you organize materials and tools to maximize productivity. Your ability to create structure shows dedication and time management skills essential for remote work. A quiet, professional environment also makes a strong impression.

The Balance of Work Flexibility and Productive Career Growth

Emphasize how you balance work flexibility with strong productivity and career ambition. Discuss how you set measurable goals and communicate transparently to managers. Conveying your dedication to personal growth and company success is key, while noting the value you also place on work-life balance. Finding this equilibrium makes you an asset as a remote team member.

The image displays a person holding a printed CV while having a video call with a professional who appears to be discussing the CV or conducting an interview. The candidate is focused on the paper, and the interviewer is gesturing, likely explaining or asking a question. The setting suggests a remote job interview or consultation process.

What type of questions should you avoid when conducting a remote interview?

When interviewing candidates for remote positions, it’s important to avoid certain types of inappropriate or irrelevant questions. Here are some types of questions you should avoid:

Discriminatory Questions

You should avoid any questions about protected characteristics like race, religion, age, disability, marital status, etc. These types of discriminatory questions are illegal and unethical. For example:

  • Are you married/single?
  • What is your religious affiliation?
  • How old are you?
  • Do you have any disabilities?

Asking about these protected characteristics could open you up to claims of discrimination later on.

Questions About Family Plans

It’s best not to ask candidates about their family plans or future families. These types of questions could be seen as discriminatory against certain groups. For example:

  • Are you planning to have children soon?
  • How will you balance work and family responsibilities?
  • Who will take care of your kids if you have to work late?

Instead, you can discuss things like schedule flexibility and work-life balance more generally.

Requests for Salary History

In some places, it’s illegal for employers to ask about an applicant’s salary history. This is to prevent perpetuating unfair pay differences. Avoid questions like:

  • What was your salary at your last job?
  • Why did you leave your previous job? Was it because of pay?

Stick to discussing the details of the role itself and the salary you are offering.

Following anti-discrimination laws and best practices for interviews will help you find the best candidates based on their qualifications alone. Focus questions on the candidate’s skills, experience, work style and fit for the role.

The image shows a cheerful woman sitting on a gray chair at home, greeting someone during a video call on her laptop. She's wearing glasses, a white shirt, and a blue shirt on top. The room is well-lit and has a modern, minimalistic design, with a green plant and a neat bookshelf in the background, indicating a clean and organized living space.

Which of the following questions should be avoided during a remote interview?

When interviewing for a remote position, it’s important to avoid certain questions that could come across as presumptuous or signal you’re more interested in the perks than the actual work. Here are 10 questions to avoid in a remote job interview:

Salary and Benefits

Avoid leading with questions about salary, benefits, vacation time, etc. Wait for the interviewer to bring these topics up first. If not, you can ask about overall compensation packages once a job offer is extended.

Office Expectations

Don’t ask if you need to come into a physical office location or how often. Wait for the hiring manager to explain any office expectations upfront.

Personal Life Details

Refrain from overly personal questions about the interviewer’s personal life, family, relationships, etc. Keep questions focused on the company, culture, and role.

Lengthy Qualifications

Don’t ask multi-part questions on what qualifications they’re looking for. Let them guide the conversation on critical skills needed.

Company Financials

It’s best not to directly ask about the company’s funding, revenue, losses, etc. This comes across as prying into sensitive financial details.

Managerial Inquiries

Avoid questions like “How closely will you monitor my work?” Focus questions instead on communication styles and productivity expectations.

Judgmental Questions

Don’t ask questions that cast judgment or aspersions about policies. For example, “Why do you still require business formal attire?”

Peer Performance

Never ask about the productivity of existing team members or staff performance issues. Keep questions focused just on the role itself.

Special Favors

Do not ask for special favors or exceptions to standard company policies around things like equipment, software, etc.

Irrelevant Company History

It’s best to avoid overly detailed questions about the company’s origins, pivots, lawsuits, etc. that don’t relate directly to the role.

Overhead view of a person in a video call interview, with a resume in hand, and a notepad with sticky notes beside a laptop on a wooden desk.

What are 5 things employers can not ask about in an remote interview?

Employers should be careful not to ask discriminatory or illegal questions during a job interview. Here are 5 topics that are off-limits according to U.S. labor laws:

Age

Questions about an applicant’s age, birthdate, or age range are prohibited. Employers cannot require applicants to submit this information on job applications either. Age should not factor into hiring decisions.

Marital/Family Status

Asking applicants about their marital status, spouse’s name, childcare arrangements, pregnancy plans, or other family matters is illegal. These topics are not relevant to one’s ability to perform job duties.

Disabilities

It is illegal to ask applicants about the existence, nature, or severity of any disabilities unless questions relate to bona fide job requirements. Employers also cannot ask about or require access to medical records.

National Origin/Citizenship Status

Employers should avoid questions about an applicant’s lineage, ancestry, national origin, descent, parentage or nationality. They also cannot require applicants to submit birth certificates, naturalization papers, passports or proof of citizenship before hiring.

Religion

Questions about an applicant’s religious denomination, religious affiliations, church membership, parish, pastor, or religious holidays observed are off-limits. Requirements to provide this type of information on a job application are also prohibited.

In summary, U.S. labor laws protect applicants from discrimination. Employers should focus interviews on an applicant’s qualifications, skills and ability to perform job duties. Personal questions unrelated to work performance should be avoided.

What are the dos and donts of a remote interview?

When preparing for a remote job interview, there are some key dos and don’ts to keep in mind. Here are 10 tips:

Do your research

Make sure to thoroughly research both the role and the company. Understand the required skills, responsibilities, and cultural fit. Review the company’s website, mission, and values. This will help you demonstrate your fit.

Prepare questions

Have at least 5 thoughtful questions ready that show your interest in the role and company. Ask about things like typical workflows, challenges, and remote culture.

Choose an appropriate environment

Pick a quiet, distraction-free space with a neutral background for your video interview. Make sure there is sufficient lighting so you are visible.

Dress professionally

Even for a remote interview, dress as you would for an in-person meeting. This demonstrates professionalism and respect.

Practice and test technology

Do at least one practice video call with a friend to test your internet connection, camera, and audio. Resolve any technical issues beforehand.

Be on time

Log into the video call 5-10 minutes early to ensure everything is working properly. Use this time to relax and review your notes one last time.

Make eye contact

Look directly at your webcam when speaking to mimic natural eye contact. Avoid looking down at notes or your screen.

Be aware of body language

Sit up straight and avoid fidgeting or gestures that could be distracting on camera. Convey energy and enthusiasm through your facial expressions.

Speak slowly and clearly

It can be harder to have a smooth conversation remotely, so consciously watch your pace and enunciation. Repeat or rephrase anything that gets misinterpreted.

Send a thank you

Email each person who interviewed you thanking them for their time. Mention something specific you appreciated learning from them.

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Crafting a Thoughtful Thank-You Letter Post Remote Interview

Properly following up after an interview can make a strong impression and show your genuine interest in the role. Here are some tips for crafting a thoughtful thank-you letter in the context of remote work:

The Art of the Thank-You Letter in a Remote Work Context

Always send a thank-you email within 24 hours of finishing a remote interview. This shows appreciation for the hiring manager’s time and consideration.

In a remote setting, a thank-you letter is especially meaningful for making a connection on a more personal level. Since you likely haven’t met the interviewer in person, it’s a chance to reiterate your qualifications and fit for the position.

Keep the letter concise at 3-4 paragraphs. Restate your interest and highlight one or two key discussion points from the interview. This shows you were engaged and remembered the conversations.

Personalizing Your Follow-Up to Reflect Company Culture

Do some research beforehand on the company’s culture and values. Reference specific elements that align with your own work style and personality. Show that your priorities and approach would mesh well on a remote team.

For example, if collaboration is a big focus for them, note how you would communicate proactively to connect with team members.

Avoid generic language. Personalize each letter to show how you specifically match the company’s needs for this remote role.

Following up respectfully goes a long way in leaving a positive final impression after an interview for a remote position. A tailored, thoughtful thank-you letter could be the extra effort that makes you stand out from other applicants.

Optimizing Your Work from Home Office for the Remote Interview

Presenting a professional remote workspace helps ease company concerns.

Creating a Professional Backdrop for Video Interviews

Stage your workspace background to appear tidy and office-appropriate. When interviewing for a remote position, it’s important to convey professionalism through your video setup. Make sure there is adequate lighting so the interviewers can see you clearly. Minimize clutter and distractions in the background. A blank wall, houseplant, or simple home office decor can make suitable backdrops.

Minimizing Distractions to Demonstrate Focus During Remote Job Interviews

Reduce ambient sounds like pets, music, etc. to avoid interruptions and convey professionalism. With remote interviews, interviewers can’t see everything going on around you. Minimizing distractions demonstrates you can focus effectively even when working from home. Inform housemates you are interviewing and may need quiet. Turn off electronics and close doors to keep pets separated. Use headphones rather than speakers to maximize audio quality. By proactively managing distractions, you show discipline and professionalism key for remote roles.

Demonstrating Effective Communication in Remote Job Interviews

Strong communication makes up for the lack of in-person interactions when interviewing for remote positions. Candidates should focus on clear and responsive communication to showcase their reliability and enthusiasm.

Responsiveness: A Key Trait for Remote Positions

When interviewing for a remote role, promptly responding to the interviewer’s emails and requests demonstrates dependability even without being in the office. Being responsive shows that you can communicate effectively despite the distance.

Here are some tips:

  • Check emails frequently and respond within 24 hours whenever possible. This shows you are on top of communications.
  • If you need more time to follow up on a question or request, politely ask for an extension. Then meet the new deadline.
  • Before interviews, provide multiple methods to contact you (email, phone, video chat).

Following up quickly and keeping interviewers updated prevents miscommunications that can happen with remote work. It shows you have the discipline to stay connected while working independently.

Engaging with Interview Questions to Show Enthusiasm for the Role

Asking thoughtful questions about the company culture and details of the open position also allows you to stand out as an enthusiastic candidate. Here are some dos and don’ts when coming up with questions:

Do:

  • Ask how the company maintains strong relationships between remote team members
  • Inquire about training and on-boarding plans for remote workers
  • Request a walkthrough of a typical day in the role and team meetings

Don’t:

  • Ask superficial questions easily found the company website FAQs
  • Neglect to prepare questions ahead of time
  • Forget to send a thank you letter after the interview reiterating your interest

Proactively learning more about the company and role during interviews is key. It demonstrates genuine excitement for the opportunity to become part of the team.

A cozy home office setup with natural sunlight casting shadows on a wooden desk, featuring an open laptop, a potted plant, a digital tablet, and a mug.

Aligning with Company Culture and Telecommuting Norms

Understanding company values and work styles helps assess mutual fit.

Clarifying Remote Meeting Expectations

Asking clarifying questions about communication norms during the interview process can help set clear standards if hired for the remote position. For example, inquire about the typical meeting cadences and formats utilized by the team. This includes asking:

  • How often are remote team meetings held? Are there daily standups, weekly syncs, or monthly reviews?
  • What platforms do you use for remote meetings? Zoom, Google Meet, Slack, etc.
  • What is the average meeting length? 30 mins, 60 mins, etc.
  • Do you record meetings for later review?
  • Outside of meetings, what is the preferred way to communicate? Email, chat, phone calls?

By proactively gathering this information, you can determine if the communication cadence and style aligns with your preferences as a remote employee. It also helps set transparent expectations between you and the hiring manager to avoid misalignments down the road.

Discussing Work Hours and Telecommuting Flexibility

Inquiring about general working hours and policy flexibility is another important part of assessing company culture fit. For example, you may ask:

  • What are the standard working hours for this role and team?
  • Is there flexibility in the hours or do you expect set schedules?
  • If flexibility is allowed, what do the boundaries look like? Core overlap hours?

Understanding the norms and boundaries around things like work hours, schedules, and flexibility indicates whether the company culture enables success as a telecommuting employee. It empowers you to determine if the flexibility meets your needs before accepting an offer. Lack of transparency into these topics is a red flag that company policies may not align with supporting remote workers.

Conclusion: Standing Out in Remote Job Interviews

Remote interviews require preparation and thoughtful responses just like any other job interview. However, there are some additional areas that candidates should pay special attention to when interviewing for remote positions.

Recap: Avoiding Common Pitfalls in Remote Job Interview Questions

As discussed, it’s important not to ask questions that imply you haven’t done your research or aren’t prepared for the realities of remote work. For example, asking basic questions about the company culture or work schedule suggests a lack of preparation on your part. Do your homework beforehand so you can ask more thoughtful questions.

Additionally, avoid questions that indicate a misalignment with the flexibility or communication needs of a remote role. This will cast doubt on your ability to thrive working autonomously.

Final Thoughts: Building a Productive Career While Working Remotely

Focus your interview questions and responses on conveying your professionalism, self-discipline, communication abilities, and cultural fit. Highlight how your skills and experience translate well to remote work. This will help demonstrate you are a strong candidate for not only the position, but also the remote environment.

Securing the right remote job sets you up for career success and satisfaction. Find an opportunity that offers work flexibility while allowing you to collaborate with a team and continue growing professionally. With preparation and putting your best foot forward, you can land a remote position that supports productivity and work-life balance.

Cam Velasco

CEO & Co-Founder

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