5 Questions to Ask When Screening Candidates for Remote Jobs

By Robert Half on July 11, 2022 at 4:00pm

When screening for remote positions, what is one new question you’ve started asking candidates?

To secure great hires for remote jobs, you need to get a good sense from the outset of how professionals would work remotely. With that in mind, we posed the question above to some of the leading recruiters at Robert Half. We wanted to gather their insights on what to ask job applicants during the screening process to determine whether they would be strong contenders for remote roles.

Here are five questions they suggested, based on their experience helping employers recruit talent for remote jobs:

  1. Can you work set hours?
  2. What communication cadence are you comfortable with?
  3. Would you prefer to work on-site, in a hybrid arrangement or remote only?
  4. Do you anticipate working in the same time zone all year?
  5. Which time zone(s) are you most productive in?

1. Can you work set hours?

In this remote landscape, I’ve found that asking candidates if they can work set hours as opposed to working on their own time is crucial. Knowing this information upfront can help candidates communicate their job preferences and inform employers about what it might be like to work with a candidate.

Many companies assume candidates can work a standard 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. But many candidates are increasingly looking to make their own hours. So, knowing when someone is able to work is super important.

Also, it’s a great idea to ask candidates if they have worked remotely before, what time zones they are able to work in, and if they can use their own equipment.

Kara McKevitt, practice director, New York, N.Y.

2. What communication cadence are you comfortable with?

With the labor force adopting remote work faster than ever before, employers must shift their traditional screening questions to help ensure job seekers and companies are set up for success while working remotely.

We have found it beneficial to ask questions like, “What type of meeting or communication cadence would you be comfortable with when working in a remote position?”

Managers can have varying expectations around a remote employee’s availability and response time. Some expect these workers to be available for the entirety of the 9-5 workday, while others are more concerned about deliverables and meeting deadlines and allow the work to get done when it best suits the candidate.

It’s always wise for hiring managers to make sure they have an idea of what the job seeker is used to and comfortable with while discussing an open position.

Blake Schuster, recruiting practice director, Minneapolis, Minn.

3. Would you prefer to work on-site, in a hybrid arrangement or remote only?

One new question I ask job seekers today is whether they are willing to work on-site, hybrid or remotely. While it’s an obvious question, it’s also a loaded question we never asked before the pandemic.

Many companies in our territory are looking to go back to the on-site model; however, I find that most candidates I meet are only looking for remote work. The more candidates we interview who feel this way gives us helpful intel to pass on to employers to inform them that the workforce trend of 100% remote is still inflexible for most.

My recommendation to employers is to look for job seekers beyond your local borders, which will greatly expand your talent pool and choices.

Mika Melamed, lead recruiter, New York, N.Y.

4. Do you anticipate working in the same time zone all year?

In the remote-first world that we live in today, it’s important to get an understanding of where a job seeker will be based for the majority of the year — and specifically, what time zones they are comfortable operating in.

Some professionals may be a bit more nomadic and spend weeks or months in a location outside of their primary home address. One question to ask candidates could be, “Keeping in mind that you are located in XYZ location, tell me about which time zones you would be comfortable working in.” You might also ask, “Do you anticipate being in this location for the majority of the year?”

If the job seeker says they’re flexible, discuss the topic with them further, and let them know about any standing meetings or distributed teams they would need to make themselves available for and in what time zones.

Charlotte Henry, senior digital recruiter, New Orleans, La.

This is such an important question to ask because some companies base their salaries on an area’s cost of living. And candidates could live in one state, accept a new 100% remote opportunity, and then move to a new state where the cost of living has changed. Or you might learn that the candidate has plans to move to a new time zone in the near future, which could affect their work hours and availability.

Alexis Utter, lead recruiter, Minneapolis, Minn.

5. Which time zone(s) are you most productive in?

Being able to maximize someone’s productivity is important in a virtual world — and finding out their times of peak performance can set them up for maximum effectiveness in a new role. Since a flexible schedule is important to achieving work-life balance, this has been a great way to help candidates perform from an area of strength.

Shirley Crowley, practice director, Fort Worth, Texas


Headshots of Robert Half Recruiters

Robert Half recruiters (top row, from left): Kara McKevitt, Charlotte Henry and Shirley Crowley; (bottom row, from left): Blake Schuster, Mika Melamed and Alexis Utter.

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