How to make a case for remote work during an interview
Apr 13, 2022
You’ve done it. You landed an interview with your dream company. Unfortunately, a quick Google search yields some disappointing news. The company’s remote work policy doesn’t really match what you want. Don’t worry. All is not lost.
Many companies are reconsidering their insistence on attendance at an office now that remote working seems to be more than a passing fad. According to a report from PWC, in the US “remote work has been an overwhelming success for both employers and employees.” In the study, 83% of employers deemed the shift to remote work a success in late 2020, up from 73% in June of that year. Companies are also contending with the effects of the Great Resignation and a growing number of professionals are shifting to freelance employment. What does that mean for you? It points to a competitive recruitment landscape in which you can and should ask for what you want.
To better understand how to convince prospective employers to let you work remotely, we spoke to Tuhina Das, a senior recruiter at Doctolib, a tech wellness company. With eight years of experience in talent acquisition at such companies as Airbnb and Dropbox, she knows how to help you get what you want.
When to have the conversation
Most recruiters will give you an idea of a company’s setup during the first conversation. But, if they don’t, then you can bring it up. “Let the recruiter know what your goals are so you don’t end up wasting your time,” says Das. Creating this kind of transparency early on in the process will ensure that you don’t end up with a job offer that doesn’t align with where and how you want to work.
“Let the recruiter know what your goals are so you don’t end up wasting your time.”
Even if you’re sure that the role is tied to a specific location or in-office setup, it’s worth applying for the job and having that conversation during the interview. “Just apply everywhere that you think you would be a fit because you never know if what’s on the website has been updated [recently] or not,” she says. The pandemic has drastically changed the way many companies view working from home. So there may be more flexibility around this than is indicated in the job description or on the company’s website.
How to convince a company to let you work remotely
Before going into the interview, take some time to build your argument. The company might require some convincing before agreeing to let you work remotely.
Here are some ways to make your case.
1. Have a good reason
One candidate that Das interviewed was unwilling to relocate because a family member was undergoing medical treatment at a local hospital. After explaining the situation to the hiring manager, Das was able to negotiate a more flexible setup for the candidate. So everyone got what they wanted. She advises being upfront about your situation too. “Be honest, give us the information we need to advocate for your ideal remote setup to the hiring manager,” she says.
“Be honest, give us the information we need to advocate for your ideal remote setup to the hiring manager.”
She has also seen companies re-evaluate remote policies based on seniority levels and niche skill sets. “If someone has a great, hard-to-find profile, but they don’t want to come into the office for whatever reason, we will be flexible because we need that person,” she says. In other words, don’t sell yourself short. Let your experience and background shine during the interview — this could be reason enough for the recruiter to have a conversation with the hiring manager about rethinking the policy on remote working for the role.
Whether your reasons for working from home have to do with relocating, a long commute time, childcare responsibilities, family ties, or increased productivity, make sure to share this with the recruiter. If it’s the right company for you, they may offer the ideal hybrid or remote setup that fits your needs.
2. Mention your experience working remotely
Another powerful justification for remote work is previous experience. Das advises that you bring up how you’ve successfully functioned in other remote-friendly companies. Were you able to manage people who were working from home? How did you stay productive? What were you able to achieve? Build a case for yourself and make it clear that you have the background to succeed — even when you’re not in the office. This could alleviate any concerns the company has about remote work and is another piece of information that the recruiter can use to advocate for you.
“Bring up how you’ve successfully functioned in other remote-friendly companies.”
Aside from productivity, some organizations fear that allowing employees to work remotely could affect company culture. So be prepared to explain how you contributed to the culture of a previous employer remotely. What did you do to help the team feel connected despite the virtual setup? Come up with some ideas on how you’ll champion your new company’s culture and values, even when that does not involve spending a lot of time in the office.
3. Come up with a plan
French author Antoine de Saint Exupéry once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Turn your remote work ambitions into a reality by having a game plan. “Proactively explain how you’ll function in a remote environment,” says Das. Will you go into the office once a month? Do you have a space in your home dedicated to work? How will you meet people outside of your team? What will you achieve in the first 90 days?
Going into the first interview with a detailed plan shows the recruiter that you’re prepared to succeed in a remote setup.
The future of (remote) work
Now that pandemic restrictions are easing, many companies have asked employees to come back to the office, though a lot of people just don’t want to do that. “In Silicon Valley, I have a lot of friends whose offices are now reopening and requiring people to be in two to three times a week — and I’ve heard that people are leaving in droves,” she says. A poll conducted by Bloomberg in 2021 shows that 39% of US employees would consider leaving their job if not given the flexibility to work remotely and a PWC survey shows that only 8% of employees don’t want to work remotely at all.
Das advises companies to be flexible. “We [as recruiters] don’t really have the luxury of strict in-office policies anymore. We saw during the pandemic that productive remote work is possible,” she says. “Frankly, If you don’t consider remote candidates, you’re severely limiting your candidate pool and that’s going to be detrimental to your bottom line.”
“Frankly, If you don’t consider remote candidates, you’re severely limiting your candidate pool and that’s going to be detrimental to your bottom line.”
In other words, the future of work is here. Flexibility isn’t just nice-to-have anymore, it’s essential. Remote work has empowered people to pursue their ideal work-life balance, spend more time with family, save on commuting costs, and choose where they want to live. In the ongoing War for Talent, companies that don’t take this into account can expect to lose the fight for the best candidates.
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