How to Act & Negotiate on a Remote Job Interview

Approximate Reading Time: 7 minutes

If you are reading this article, congratulations! It probably means that you have landed an interview for a remote job (or, ideally, a couple of them).

Unlike with regular job interviews, it is usually harder to get your foot in the door and land the interview rather than to pass it.

Whether you have achieved it by following my advice on how to get a remote job or any other way, at least half of the battle is won, especially if you learned to get the interviews consistently and have several of them lined up.

In this article, I will not spend too much time on regular stuff, i.e. that you should be confident and be able to answer the typical interview questions, as these apply to on-site jobs as well and have been covered in other resources too many times already.

Instead, I will cover the aspects that apply specifically to remote job interviews, as there are quite some and being aware of them will put you another step ahead of your competition.

The Fundamentals

Before we get to the really interesting stuff, let’s cover some fundamentals that may seem obvious, but I’ve seen them done wrong too many times, usually unsurprisingly resulting in no offer.

Make Sure that Your Internet Connection is Reliable

Although there may be exceptions to this, I am assuming that your interview is going to take place online, usually in the form of a video conference.

You can be the best communicator in the world, however, if your connectivity is spotty during the interview and you keep breaking off, then that’s pretty much the only impression that the interviewer(s) will remember.

So make sure to be in a spot where the internet connection is reliable, preferably having another backup option, because as we all know, shit happens.

Mind the Timezone

During an online interview, often, your interviewers will be in another timezone than you.

Mind that when scheduling the interview, make sure you have the necessary video conference contact information – and, of course, do not be late.

Know Who You’ll Be Talking To

When scheduling the interview, it is also important to know who you will be talking to, so that you can prepare for the interview accordingly.

If you know the names of the people you will be talking to, don’t hesitate to look them up and see what their role in the company is, or even ask when scheduling the interview (if the situation permits it).

Will you be talking to your potential collegues, to your potential boss, to the owner of the company, or all of the above?

Knowing this will give you a significant advantage when preparing for the interview.

How to Present Yourself

Do Your Homework

Now that your interview is scheduled properly, it’s time to do your homework.

This is something somewhat specific to remote jobs, as many times, when people go to regular on-site job interviews, they just go there and take the shot, with not much preparation.

With remote jobs though, it is important to realize that they are still somewhat scarce and the competition is tough, so I strongly recommend doing as much preparation as you can.

An example how doing this step dilligently can make a huge difference is my current remote job that I have now.

It was a life-changing job when I got it for several reasons, mainly for almost unlimited flexibility (I will cover how remote jobs vary in flexibility later).

This is a computer programming job and because I knew I would be talking to one of the best programmers in the company and I also looked up what technology they use, I spent the day before the interview going through the whole documentation of the given technology.

Although it didn’t really help me understand the technology itself better (as I already did understand it very well), it surely did make the difference on the interview – because I had it all fresh in my mind, I looked really confident when answering all the theoretical questions in detail and I got hired on the spot, leaving the interviewer impressed.

I know it would’ve been a different story if I didn’t do this the day before, so make sure that you find as much information about the company, the role and the interviewers as possible and spend enough time preparing for the interview, even if it should take a couple of days – it will pay off eventually.

The Bad Vibe & The Good Vibe

Now that we have covered the hard skills, it is important to point out that in potential remote employees, smart companies often place more emphasis on certain personality qualities than they do on the same qualities in regular on-site employees.

Let’s face something that everybody knows, but nobody talks about – the truth is that if remote employees are not passionate about their job and at the same time are not being properly managed and held accountable, they will slack, procrastinate and not deliver enough.

Smart interviewers know that and the biggest red flag that you can give to your employer about your future performance is to hint (directly or indirectly) that you are interested in the job because it’s remote.

While that may be true (otherwise you probably wouldn’t be reading this article) and while I’m sure that your intentions are not to exploit the fact that the opportunity is remote, I can assure you that the company already has their share of bad experiences.

I would compare this to any other benefit – you may love the opportunity to get unlimited vacation, a fancy company car for you to use or any other fancy perk, but of course, you would be shooting yourself in the foot by hinting that that’s the reason why you want to work for the company, so I suggest that you avoid this vibe at all costs.

An example of a vibe that you do want to the interviewer to have about you is that you are an effective person whose priority is to make sure that the given tasks and projects are always finished properly and in time and that you enjoy doing whatever it is you’re gonna be doing.

Combine this with demonstrating the skills that you have and with being properly prepared for the interview and I guarantee you that on most interviews, you will leave your interviewer(s) impressed and throwing offers your way!

How to Negotiate as High Salary as Possible

Now that you have convinced your interviewers that you really are an exceptional candidate, it’s time to negotiate your compensation. When it comes to remote jobs, this has its specifics too.

Again… Do Your Homework!

You should go to the interview already knowing how much the company is paying other people on the same positions in order to avoid selling yourself short or not getting an offer due to asking for too much.

Nowadays, even smaller companies have their employees anonymously reporting their salaries at Glassdoor, so I highly recommend looking up the company there.

It is also ideal that you have several interviews lined up – in that case, if the interviewer is trying to negotiate you down, you can just have a “take it or leave it” attitude, rather than accepting an offer that you don’t really fancy.

Your Location vs. Theirs

Often, you will find yourself in a situation where your employer is located in an area with significantly higher salaries than in your area, or vice-versa.

And often, the employer will try and use the average salary in their or your location (whichever is lower) as a reason to pay you lower.

You should never fall for this – I suggest just confidently stating that once the job is remote, the location becomes pretty much irrelevant and that even though you like the company (if you do), you have other offers (or had previous jobs and clients) with the compensation closer to what you’re asking for.

Works like magic.

The Downside of Being Overpaid

Sooner or later, if you don’t get stuck in one job for a decade, you will get so good at presenting your value and negotiating, that you can take it too far.

There is however such a thing as being overpaid and especially in case of remote jobs, it’s often surprisingly not a pleasant situation to be in.

The reason is that many remote-based companies assume and agree that it’s fine if you don’t work full 8 hours a day as long as you keep delivering results at least in the same quality and quantity that you would deliver on-site.

(Needless to say that it is not OK to assume that working less hours is fine just because the opportunity is remote – it should never happen unless the irrelevance of hours worked is explicitly agreed on and there is no amount of minimum hours set in your contract!)

This is a pretty common scenario, mainly due to increased result-oriented motivation in these type of jobs.

However, if you end up in a position where your manager (leave alone collegues) know that your salary is not in line with others, prepare for way higher expectations that are often not worth trying to meet; and sometimes, it gets to such an extreme that it’s not only not worth it, but at the borderline with impossible to meet (I’ve been there).

Again, the best way to avoid that is to use Glassdoor to make sure that what you’re asking for is within the company’s standard range and not (too much) out of line of what others are earning and rather than trying to convince a company to pay you more (which is far from impossible), find one that pays everybody well.

Other Important Aspects to Find Out

Although the first two of the three following factors may be negotiable, they are usually unified across the given organization and negotiating an exception could put you in a similar situation as if you were being clearly overpaid.

I do however recommend finding out about the following conditions, especially if you have more interviews lined up and are probably going to end up with several offers to choose from.

Flexibility of Working Hours

In various remote jobs, the flexibility of working hours varies greatly.

The most flexible companies will for example agree with you on the deliverables Monday morning and as long as you hand the agreed results by Friday afternoon, they don’t really care when you have done it and how long it took.

The other extreme is a company that will require you to take part in several calls a week (or even daily), will require you to be available on their instant messanger all the time and fill out detailed timesheets.

There really is a huge difference between these two extremes as well as between companies anywhere else on the spectrum.

You should choose what you think (or know) will fit you best.

Choosing something too flexible if you are not the most disciplined person in the world will result in procrastination and eventually rushed and stressful work.

Choosing something too managed will start to feel almost as captive as a regular job eventually.

The Amount of Paid Days Off

Often, remote contracts are not regular employment contracts and therefore do not include any paid days off.

Keep this in mind when negotiating your salary, as taking 25 days off a year will result in about 10% decrease of your income if that is the case, so this factor should already be reflected in the amount that you ask for.

Decentralized Company, or Just a Company Allowing Remote Work?

Last but not least, you should know whether all other employees (or at least the ones in the team you would be in) are working remotely or whether you would be an exception. The latter could put you in a similar or worse situation as being overpaid, as described above.

Good luck with your interviews and let me know about your experiences in the comment section below!

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