Virtual workers should interview themselves first…

Sara’s post at Pajama Professional about asking yourself tough questions before starting a home business (here) made me think about the challenges of telecommuting and virtual work.  I had been tagged for an interview about the topic — I didn’t make the cut — and my team is almost entirely virtual.  The topic is always on my mind when considering current and future staffing decisions.

Anyhow, Sara’s list inspired some riffs of my own, which highlight some pitfalls of virtual employment.  One should ask these when considering remote work arrangements.  These may even make their way into my own annoying open-ended interview questions!

  • Many colleagues find virtual work challenging, why will you be successful where other candidate would not be?  Sure, this is a chance to to highlight strengths and experience, but it should also ask prompt these questions: What most attracts you to this position? What sounds least attractive?
  • Why do you want to work in an environment where your won’t be able to socialize with many your colleagues and stakeholders?  This question is one I haven’t asked, but will going forward.  Stakeholder management and communications are paramount, at least in my firm, so how will a colleague how doesn’t apparently value work relationships fare?
  • How would you rate your managerial skills? Why?  Sara’s comments below are spot on (a few bracketed mods by me):

Even without any official [headcount], a virtual colleague will still be doing a lot of managing…. There are some people who really need someone else to direct their activities and there is nothing wrong with that, it just means that [being remotely located] probably isn’t the best fit for you.

  • Where do you see yourself professionally in five years?  I like this question because it makes one consider the career consequences of going virtual.  Rarely is it the road to the top.  When I went global I made a career trade-off — or at least ran a risk — that put me outside of the mainstream of a typical SAP North American executive’s path. 

My decision was made consciously; how about yours?


One Response

  1. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for the mention. I really liked your question about the inability to socialize. I have had coworkers in the past whose only motivation to get out of bed and off to work was knowing that they would see their friends and well-liked clients.

    There are some folks who aren’t very naturally extroverted and working from home can be mentally harmful to them. I read somewhere that this is especially true for women, who tend to need more social interaction than men to maintain a healthy level of self-esteem and happiness.

    Great addition!


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