virtual interviews

Virtual Interviews: 9 Questions Candidates May Ask and How to Respond

Whether you are the Talent Acquisition Manager, the employee’s direct supervisor, or the CEO of the company, it is always good to think about how you will respond to your candidates’ questions during virtual interviews. With the cost of hiring new talent on the rise and the fierce competition for highly qualified workers in today’s candidate’s market, you don’t want to lose a good candidate to another company because you weren’t prepared to answer their questions.  

Nearly one out of every three current employees are actively seeking new employment opportunities, and an additional 7 million people are unemployed and looking for work. All of these jobseekers are trying to figure out how to stand out from the crowd and land their dream job.

While the advice from experts varies by industry and experience, there is one important piece of advice jobseekers are being told about relating to job interview preparation: the interview is a two-way street, and if they want to be considered for a role they must prepare at least two thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer.

Are you prepared to answer those questions?

9 Questions Candidates May Ask and How to Respond

Hiring for a virtual position adds a layer of complexity to the interview process, as not only are you looking for a candidate who has the right skills for the job, you need a candidate who has the right characteristics to be a successful virtual employee.

Just as some of the questions you ask in virtual interviews are different than in traditional interviews, the questions you may get from good candidates for your virtual position will be different than for traditional roles. Here we have compiled nine questions that potential candidates may ask in virtual interviews and how best to answer them to keep your candidate interested in your company.

1. “How (and how often) will I interact with my supervisor and team?”

People who seek virtual opportunities are typically independent self-starters, but employees also need to feel like part of the team in order to do really great work. US companies are losing $450 billion a year due to employees who aren’t engaged with their company. Keeping employees actively engaged in a virtual environment is more challenging than traditional roles, as there are no team lunches, impromptu meetings over coffee, or in-person brainstorming sessions.

This question is at the heart of employee engagement, as open communication is the cornerstone for keeping employees motivated and invested. When prospective candidates ask this question in virtual interviews, they are really interested in learning how they will work with their team and supervisor to not only get their job done efficiently and effectively, but also build relationships even though they aren’t in the office every day.

Address this question by letting interviewees know if you require weekly check-in meetings with their supervisor or team members so they see the importance you place on regular interaction. It is also extremely important to inform candidates if you require regular, in-person meetings. If the team participates in virtual brainstorming sessions at the start of a project, explain how that works.

One company I’ve worked with held virtual toasts at the completion of big projects. If you offer virtual team events, share this information with prospective candidates, as it shows them you value team camaraderie and know how to make it work in a virtual environment.

If your virtual position is more independent and communication occurs primarily through email with remote teams, candidates need to know this as well. They may be seeking this type of working environment, therefore they would be a great fit for your company culture. Providing this information in virtual interviews fully prepares candidates for what to expect if they are offered the position.

2. “What is the career path for this position?”

It is great that your candidate is thinking ahead about how long their relationship with you could potentially last. This question may be tricky for virtual employers though, as some positions may be project-based, short-term contract positions. But, every job offers the employee a learning experience, which can translate to future advancement in their career.

The best way to address this question is to first think about the potential you could offer. If an entry-level customer service representative could rise to become a supervisor, then let them know that (and even explain how they can do it!). If you are a start-up, explain how they are part of a core team that could potentially learn all parts of the business in your lean environment. If this is a project-based position, let them know if there is a potential for future work if they are successful. If you don’t see any future advancement opportunities, let them know what skills they will be mastering during the length of the project. Candidates like to hear that they can grow professionally in any environment.

3. “If I get this job, how will I be trained?”

“How will I be trained?” shows the candidate is thinking about how they will learn to be successful in their position. In traditional jobs, most employees understand how they will be trained. Training for virtual roles could happen in any number of ways.

Be upfront if you require a two week in-person training session at your headquarters. While it might turn some people away, at least they made an informed decision prior to you extending an offer. Do you offer virtual training webinars? Are there online digital training manuals they can review? Will the hired candidate be assigned a mentor who can help them?

The more information you give interviewees about how they will be trained to do their jobs, the more comfortable they will be in taking on this new opportunities.

4. “If I am offered the position, how will I be assessed?”

Here’s a question standard for both traditional and virtual interviews. Explaining your company’s procedures on performance assessment will help the candidate understand your expectations of them so they know what it will take to be successful.

If you are hiring for a sales position, be transparent about your required sales targets and the impact they have on their performance assessment. If you require a traditional performance management plan, explain what that is. If you are offering a short-term contract role that ends at the successful completion of the project, then the milestones for success should be explained.

This is also great time to share if you offer bonuses tied to formal assessment benchmarks. Transparency about your policies is the best way to answer these questions so there is no confusion or uncertainty if the candidate takes the position.

5. “What are my expected working hours?”

This is a question you will rarely hear in an interview for a traditional position, but one that absolutely should be asked in virtual interviews. Telecommuting roles offer flexibility, which is a primary reason why 80% of the US workforce say they would like to telework, at least part-time, according to a study done by Global Workplace Analytics.

If the supervisor is located in New York, but the candidate lives in Seattle, what are the expected working hours (and in what time zone)? Do you have core hours that you expect the employee to be working? Do you require a time-sheet to be submitted each week? Virtual employees need to understand your expectations regarding work hours and how those hours are tracked so they can make an informed decision on whether the role is the best fit for their lifestyle.

6. “What technology will I be required to have (and do you supply it)?”

In traditional in-office roles, employees are handed a company computer that has been set-up by the IT department with all the required software. This can be completely different for virtual roles.

Technology requirements should be discussed in virtual interviews so the candidate understands your expectations. Be upfront with what type of computer you require and if you will supply it. Also let them know what programs you use. Make your expectations clear about connectivity requirements.

I worked in a virtual role that required international calls, so the company sent me a cell phone with an international calling plan. It was nice to know during the interview stage that I would have that technology supplied to me so that I could do my job effectively without having to deal with adding the plan to my personal cell phone.

Tell the candidate what you will give them and what you would expect them to have in their home office so they aren’t surprised by unexpected expenses when they are hired to meet your technology requirements.

7. “Will I be required to travel?”

Again, this is a question that probably wouldn’t come up in a first interview for traditional roles, but it absolutely needs to be discussed in virtual interviews. The candidate is interested in knowing if they will be required to travel for any percentage of time, even if it is to a corporate office right up the street once a month. Let the candidate know about any required travel expectations and who is responsible for travel expenses.

8. “What do you like best about working for this company?”

With this question, the candidate wants to know what makes your company so special (and therefore why should they want to work there too). While they should be doing research about the organization, hearing personal stories from people who actually work there will give them great insight into the company’s culture. It can help them decide if this is the type of organization where they would want to work.

Before conducting virtual interviews, think about this question so you can quickly tell them what keeps you in your position (and what you love about it!) This is where you can make your company shine.

9. “What do you feel are the most important qualities for a virtual employee in this role?”

Here the candidate wants to know if they fit your vision for the ideal employee for the position. Clearly it is important to note the qualities directly related to the role. It is also good to think about the qualities that fit into your company’s culture. But don’t forget to tell them you are looking for qualities that make an ideal virtual employee. Virtual interviews should put an emphasis on these qualities as not everyone is fit for telecommuting.

By explaining what you are looking for, it helps the candidate think about how they will not only fit into your position, but how they will perform in a virtual role, especially if they are new to telecommuting.

Additional Ways to Prepare for Virtual Interviews

Open communication with your candidates is crucial for successful virtual interviews. Be sure to let them know how the interview will be conducted (phone, Skype, Hangout, etc.). If you are doing a WebEx or other program that requires a download, it is helpful to remind them to test their technology prior to the interview. Virtual interviews should include a mix of questions that are related to the role and to working in a virtual environment. The prospective employee could be completely qualified for the position, but be a horrible candidate for telecommuting. Asking the right questions and being transparent about your expectations in the interview will help you find good people. Answering their questions openly will help you land that perfect candidate!

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