During an interview, how do you discuss your work-at-home preference without getting personal? In this article, we offer insight on how to address this common interview conundrum in an honest, professional manner.
Interview Question: Why Do You Want to Work from Home?
Few remote workers look forward to the interview process, yet it’s a necessary stepping stone along a telecommuting career path. During an interview, you may encounter questions that start with something like:
- Have you ever experienced a situation where…
- How many years of experience you do have with…
- Do you regularly use software applications such as…
You might even get some open-ended requests that begin with:
- Tell me about a time when…
- I’d like to hear more details about…
- Can you share some of your accomplishments when you work at…
Depending on the company and your occupation, you can usually anticipate the types of questions that you will receive. However, you’ll likely get a few that catch you off guard. For example, have you ever had to answer the question:
Why do you want to work from home?
You may think this one is a slam dunk, regardless if you’re new to telecommuting or a seasoned remote worker. Though the answer seems obvious, it takes some thought to get it right. Why? Because the interviewer wants to understand your motivation for telecommuting and whether you’re reliable and trustworthy enough to work from home.
Therefore, before you start oversharing your love for staying in your pajamas all day, consider how your answer represents you as a professional and a candidate for a remote job opportunity. Read on for tips on how to tackle this subject truthfully and strategically.
Before the Interview
Do some prep work before the interview so that you have a clear understanding of your motivation for working from home. When you’re fully aware of what drives you, your response will be authentic and sound less scripted. Set aside at least 30 minutes to reflect and follow these simple steps.
1. Make a List
First, do some brainstorming and soul-searching. Ask yourself, “Why do I want to work from home?” and make a list of everything that comes to mind. Don’t worry about crafting perfect sentences at first. Just get all your thoughts out of your head so that you can dig deep into your purpose.
2. Organize Your List by Topic
When you feel satisfied with your list, group your list items into related topics. For example, you may have thought of benefits related to:
- Eliminating the daily commute
- Optimizing your time
- Reducing environmental impacts
- Working whenever you want or can
- Reducing workplace distractions
- Working in a comfortable environment where you thrive
Tally up related items and lump them together to uncover which perks hold the most value. Pick the top three to five reasons as your primary discussion points.
3. Be More Specific
Now that you know which general perks are most important to you, create some specific statements for each. For example, you probably included better work-life balance as a primary motivation for working from home, as did 89% of registered Virtual Vocations members who participated our 2016 National Work & Family Month (NWFM) survey.
But what does “work-life balance” really mean? For some, it may mean being able to work during peak brain hours or around the kids’ schedules. For others, it may mean being able to take work on the road without sacrificing pay. Write out a few sentences about what you gain from working from home and how it solves both personal and career challenges.
Repeat this exercise for all the top reasons you uncovered in step 2.
4. Research Business Benefits
Did you know that employers can save money, decrease turnover, and increase productivity by letting their employees work remotely? Though employers who offer a telecommuting option already understand the perks, it’s nice to show them you care about the company’s future. Therefore, research articles, surveys, and interviews about business owners who successfully operate remote teams. Make a list of general topics, but also include statistics and references for credibility.
5. Map Your Motivations to Business Benefits
Now, compare your two lists and map each item in your list of work-at-home perks to a specific business benefit. For example, you can link “flexible schedule” on your list to “increased productivity,” “fewer sick days,” or “increased employee retention” in the business benefits list. The goal is to directly relate your personal and professional motivations to company advantages to prove that a work-from-home option is mutually beneficial.
6. Prepare and Practice a Few Scripts
If you’re the type of person who can speak eloquently off the cuff, then consider yourself prepared. However, if you prefer to practice your speech ahead of time, craft a few scripts using the sentences and mappings in previous steps. Here are a few samples for inspiration.
On increasing efficiency by eliminating the daily commute:
Preparing for work and commuting to and from the office consumes about two hours each day. By working from home, I hit the ground running sooner and get more done in less time. Plus, there are no delays due to traffic or weather conditions, so I work consistently come rain, sleet, or snow. Therefore, you can always count on me regardless of external factors.
On increasing productivity by reducing workplace distractions:
Though I value my professional relationships, I do my best work when I’m alone in my home office. I have more control over my environment and can actively prevent distractions and stay focused on my tasks. I’m still responsive to emails and other messages, of course, and value frequent communication with my remote teammates.
On reducing environmental impacts:
I recognize how my daily actions impact the environment, so I strive to minimize such impacts at home and work. By working at home, I not only complete my tasks more efficiently, but I also significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption, carbon emissions, and other greenhouse gases. Plus, I help the company achieve its environmental stewardship goals by reducing energy use and overall waste.
Notice that each of the example scripts start with an employee benefit, then focus on work tasks, and end with an employer benefit. Try constructing your scripts in the same manner so that you explain how everyone wins in the telecommuting workplace.
During the Interview
Most likely, you will conduct your first interview over the phone. Thus, you can keep your list and scripts handy for guidance whenever you blank out or stumble over your words.
When the interviewer asks specific questions, be sure to answer them directly. If you get more open-ended questions, take the reins and speak on the topics that matter most to you and demonstrate your best qualities. At some point during the conversation, you should touch on the following:
- Productivity (e.g., how working from home boosts your efficiency and work output)
- Communication (e.g., tools or methods you typically use for reporting and discussion)
- Consistency (e.g., reliable adherence to deadlines, work hours, or response times)
Feel free to “name drop” and provide statistics about the benefits of remote work. For example, you might mention Nicholas Bloom’s famous Ted Talk about how working from home boosts productivity and saves companies a couple thousand dollars each year. By discussing studies and researchers, you show that you’re current on industry knowledge, and you may even enlighten the interviewer with new, useful facts.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to say the “right” thing, however. The best you can do is speak honestly and professionally, answer each question clearly, then let the interviewer guide you to the next topic.
What Not to Say During the Interview
Due to equal employment opportunity laws and other factors, there are definitely things you don’t want to say during an interview – even if they are true and legit reasons you want to work from home. Employers and recruiters generally know that they aren’t allowed to ask you specific questions to prevent hiring discrimination, but you don’t want to corner yourself or put interviewers in an uncomfortable situation.
For example, avoid saying that you want to work from home because you:
- Have young kids at home and want to provide childcare while working.
- Are a caregiver for an ill family member and can’t commit to sitting at a desk all day.
- Don’t like people or don’t work well in groups.
- Need a job that pays the bills so that you can focus on other interests, side gigs, or projects.
- Have a physical disability that prevents you from working in or traveling to and from an office.
Instead of focusing on the personal aspect (e.g., kids, ill family member, social preference, unrelated interest, or disability), address how working from home solves common workplace problems and helps alleviate challenges. As alternatives to the previous examples, you can say that you want to work from home because you:
- Find that remote environments help you balance your personal and professional priorities, which leads to better time-management and increased work efficiency.
- Appreciate the freedoms that a flexible schedule provides and, as a result, are more motivated to work productively each day.
- Enjoy independent work and can self-manage your tasks effectively.
- Prefer to maintain a well-rounded professional experience to apply knowledge and skills from other aspects of your life and work history.
- Thrive in a self-made workspace tailored to your preferences and workflow.
Above all, keep the job requirements, your workplace qualifications, and the employer benefits as the focal point of discussion. Whenever the conversation gets a little too personal or unrelated to the job, reel it back in with hardcore facts about how telecommuting is a win-win workplace solution.
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