Spotting a professional in an online interview. Life hacks for insightful online interviews

EasyStaff CMO Julia Bataltseva shares her tips on how to properly assess a candidate’s qualifications and experience in an online interview.

Three years ago, as COVID-19 hit, the entire business world collectively signed up for an unexpected experiment. So much so that even traditionally office-only ‘punch the clock’ people worked from home. After the pandemic ceased and lockdowns ended, organizations from all over the world have emerged with a new work normal. Once a temporary course of action, remote work is a widely used practice today.

Different factors contributed to the growing popularity of remote work. On the one hand, the Internet and communication tools have become ever more accessible. On the other hand, a natural desire to balance life and work has increased in people in the past years. As a consequence, at least two or three days of work from home are one of the most desired workplace perks employers should offer to their prospective hires today. The remote work model has gotten so popular over the recent years that US digital nomads almost doubled in number from 2019 to 2021. The amount of Americans working primarily from home grew from 9 million in 2019 to 27.6 million in 2021.

Working remotely means no time spent on traffic and commutes. It also makes employees more flexible and adaptable both for their families and their personal ambition of moving overseas. In turn, for employers, remote workers are a chance to hire anyone from anywhere in the world.

Nonetheless, remote work continues to be regarded critically by some employers. The argument is that the format entails lower quality of work processes, including hiring and interviewing. Consider these strategies to truly know a person behind the screen and to discover what they are capable of.

Who wants to work remotely and why

According to McKinsey research, 87% of employees work remotely or with partial office presence when an opportunity is given. The dynamic is seen across different demographics, professions and locations. A flexible work format has grown to be a norm in the COVID era and has been positively accepted in the labor market.

In the USA, 58% of respondents (i.e. 92 million surveyed) shared that they welcome remote work and jump at an opportunity when provided. Many Americans explain that they would work remotely for the better part of the week if given a chance.

As seen in statistics provided by SmallBizGenius, 67% of surveyed Americans believe that the greatest advantage of remote work is the opportunity to spend their free time as they like. 62% feel more productive when working from home. 31% of employers in the USA hire exclusively remote employees, and some companies accept a hybrid format. Either way, companies that allow remote work see 25% less personnel turnover than in office-only companies.

Whether an opportunity to work remotely is given depends on industry and a role occupied in a company. This is especially important in areas where talent hunt is at its highest. For instance, an overwhelming majority of computer science and math professionals have an opportunity to work from home, and 77% of people working in the areas believe they are able to work exclusively from home.

Contrary to the stereotype, remote work is at least partially present in many professions. Half of teachers and librarians and about 45% of medical and tech staff in the USA say that they can complete some of their work from home. Partially, the reason for that is the rising trend in online education and telemedicine. Even chefs and drivers shared that they take home some part of their work.

Pros and cons of remote work

The Western companies still show skepticism towards working from home (or elsewhere but not office). It is especially true for remote interviews. We summarized the reasons behind this mindset and advantages and disadvantages of remote work.

Remote work downsides for employers

Control decreases

One of the major arguments against remote work from an employer’s standpoint is losing control over work processes. They worry employees may get carried away with home chores or personal stuff to do, find themselves scrolling feed far too often or even lose professional responsibility altogether.

Communication and creativity are lacking

An office is a unique environment for cooperation and idea development. It is only natural that working in a shared environment promotes fast feedback and more effective communication which remote teams often lack.

Motivation goes down

Some employees cannot work remotely for too long as longer periods of remote work turn into a real challenge to their motivation. Staying alone in your home office, without managers and colleagues, may result in losing interest in work.

Interviewing and choosing becomes tricky

Not all HR-managers and recruiters have enough skills to properly assess a candidate remotely. Some lack experience hiring through Zoom calls, and others simply prefer meeting with people personally.

Remote work upsides for employers

Considerably more candidates

Interviewing and hiring remotely means tapping into the talent pool of multiple cities and even foreign countries at once. In addition, if a team member moves to a different place, in a remote work setting that won’t change anything. Employers will not have to look for a new person.

Saving on office maintenance

Remote employees do not need an office space which frees up a considerable chunk of the company’s budget. Coffee, tea, office gadgets, office supplies and electricity bills do not need to be paid for.

Flexibility and increased productivity

For those having gotten used to working remotely, the format helps boost their output thanks to less stress, flexible hours and comfortable environment.

When hiring remotely, follow this checklist

Regardless of how controversial the format is, more and more teams become remote every year. To successfully integrate a new hire into a remote-first company, special attention must be paid to the aspects below.
A leading fear of every hiring manager that hires remotely is misjudging real experience and quality of a candidate. Beyond hard skills in the field, it is also crucial to understand if the person is a fit to the team personality-wise. This brings in a whole range of factors that weigh more in remote settings than they do in a traditional office.

Skills and experience

Professional skills and experience are traditionally tested in any interview with any candidate. However, with remote positions, it is particularly important to view them as applied to remote work. Is the candidate capable of organizing their own time and managing tasks individually? Remote work experience in the past may be a key factor in this regard.

Specialized skills

If a position requires specific tech skills and/or a particular software, the candidate’s knowledge of these should be paid attention to in the interview. For example, using Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets instead of Microsoft Office or chatting on Telegram instead of emails simplify working processes. If the candidate has never used any of these and does not want to learn, then interacting with them remotely may be problematic.


One of the most important aspects of remote work is the ability to communicate efficiently and stay online. When speaking to a candidate via email and in an interview, observe how fast they respond. If a message or an email remains unread for a few hours, then the candidate either is not invested in the job position or is not used to remote work at all.


Remote work has long been considered a privilege of creative industry professionals. And office workers finding themselves quite at ease with a regular 5/2 do not even consider remote positions a real job. However, the stereotype is totally wrong. Working remotely from home or elsewhere requires a high level of self-discipline and ability to manage oneself. As a rule, the more experience a person has in remote work for different roles and tasks, the more organized they are.

Ask the candidate to share their experience of individual work. Individual work is not limited to a work-from-home position. It also includes a leading role in an office-based job and experience of organizing events, running interviews, scouting for new clients and even taking online courses.

Time management

Effective time management is especially important for remote workers. If their time management skills are poor, a working day runs on forever and a desired work-life balance becomes unattainable. In the interview, walk through a candidate’s time management techniques and touch upon the hours they are online and offline.

Result evaluation

Remote work is most commonly evaluated in terms of the amount of hours spent in front of a computer, rather than the amount and quality of tasks completed. Explain to your candidates what KPIs will be used to evaluate their output. It could be completed projects, timely met deadlines, reaching KPIs, customer satisfaction, and positive peer reviews.

Technology aspects

Make sure that the candidate has access to the necessary equipment and a fast internet connection. Technical issues may bring all their other abilities to nothing if during phone calls, the mic keeps turning off and the video staggers.

Flexibility and Adaptability

Remote work environment changes fast due to rapid innovation of people involved, software used and ethical norms followed. So a perfect candidate must be flexible and ready to evolve along with the environment.

Cultural match

Internalizing and matching the corporate culture in the company play an important role in any employee’s career path. To truly understand whether the candidate is what you need, ask them how comfortable they are with working in a remote team. Discussion of the company’s mission and values is also welcome. Last but not least, you may ask if the candidate really is ready to support internal events and guidelines, even informal ones.

Feedback processes

During an interview, pay attention to how the candidate reacts to feedback. Try to understand whether they are ready to learn from their mistakes and agree to compromise in controversial situations.

Remote work remains a controversy across employers and employees. Research and polls show that HR-managers and hired workers have different opinions on remote work. While the former overall agree that remote work hurts productivity, the former are sure that working from home boosts one’s output. The key to these polar views is the commute time. HR-managers do not take this time into account when discussing productivity, but employees do. A compromise, therefore, is a hybrid work schedule that requires two-three days of office presence.

Understanding advantages and disadvantages of remote work helps manage remote teams and hire more efficiently. Many remote work companies are on the constant quest for a golden middle between flexibility and control. The goal is to find an optimal work framework where employees feel freedom, yet are held accountable for their work and KPIs.
Finding the right remote employee may have a considerable impact on the company’s project completion and business success. We are sure that finding a perfect teammate for remote teams is easy with the guidelines discussed in the article.

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