Career Advice, Interviews

How to Interview for a Remote or Telecommute Job

Working remotely, from the comfort of your home office—or even your couch—is a dream for many job seekers. But finding companies open to telecommute jobs isn’t always easy—and even when you do, navigating the waters of remote work can be tricky. That’s why we spoke with Marie Romero, director of talent acquisition for Blue Shield of California, a company committed to work flexibility for its employees. Here, she reveals everything from how you can approach asking for remote work on your resume, to what questions you can expect to be asked in an interview and how you can climb the corporate ladder from home. (If you’d like to one day work for Blue Shield of California, this Q&A is packed with helpful info, too.)

Glassdoor: Why has Blue Shield of California (BSC) prioritized hiring telecommute and remote workers? How do they factor into the larger company’s success?  

Marie Romero: Blue Shield of California’s mission is to transform health care and ensure access to high-quality health care at an affordable price. This means transforming a dysfunctional health care system that is bankrupting us as a society into one that is worthy of our family and friends and sustainably affordable. We want employees who can be whole-heartedly dedicated to our mission to transform healthcare and that also enjoy family, friends, and passions outside of work. We offer full or partial remote working arrangement options for many roles because we want to enable employees to bring their best selves to work. Sometimes, that is best accomplished working remotely.

Benefits like remote working arrangements are part of Blue Shield’s larger strategy to be a great place to work for everyone. At Blue Shield, we embrace the whole person. We understand that great talent wants—and needs—flexibility to integrate work and life. We want our employees to embrace their whole life—and be fully human—which means having strong personal passions and a career with deeply meaningful work. If a remote working arrangement enables you to balance a happy, healthy life, and the business needs are still met, then we support it. What the company stands for is just as important as [its] pay and other benefits.

Glassdoor: How can job seekers highlight their willingness or ability to work remotely on their resume? Do you have any advice?

Marie Romero: Job seekers should highlight their preference or ability to work remotely by adding that at the top of their resume in the location section or in the objective area. Noting “open to remote work arrangements” is helpful. Mentioning this in the phone screening area or on your LinkedIn profile is also important. It’s best to spend time thinking about what your ideal remote arrangement could be—[either] partial or full remote— before you start a job search.

Glassdoor: Are the soft skills you look for in a remote [or] telecommute worker different from those who come in office? Why or how?

Marie Romero: The soft skills for a successful remote working arrangement are generally the same as those who come to into the office, but they are significantly amplified. For example, strong communication skills, which are necessary for all employees, are even more essential for remote arrangements. A remote employee will need to function fluidly without any of the body language clues you gather in face-to-face meetings. You need to be able to express yourself well—in both tone and content—through phone, email, instant message, screen sharing and video.

Relationship building skills are also key for successful remote arrangements. You will need to strive to build productive relationships with colleagues who you may never meet face-to-face. Blue Shield has invested a lot into training for managers and employees on how to create inclusive environments, no matter where the team is located. But the remote employee must ensure their physical remoteness from a location does not limit his or her effectiveness.

Taking initiative is another important soft skill. Every employee must independently structure their work day, determine priorities, work through barriers, and drive for results. However, the remote employee does this without any passive queues from colleagues dropping by to follow-up on a project or bumping into partners in the breakroom. When working remotely, you must motivate yourself and know when to ask for help. It takes honesty and courage to be a great remote employee. You must be confident enough to raise your hand and ask the awkward question if you can’t follow the conversation or have lost track of the project. Sometimes, you need to be vulnerable. Without that courage, it can be easy to fall behind and not deliver the results expected. Only you can guard against that!

Glassdoor: What are two or three interview questions you ask candidates for remote work?

Marie Romero: In interviewing remote employees, Blue Shield focuses on topics like the ability to collaborate, drive for results, and self-motivation. We may ask questions like: How have you established and maintained collaborative relationships with colleagues despite geographic differences? How did you keep the momentum of the project going? Tell me about a time that you handled a difficult interaction or conflict in a remote setting?

For remote employees, it’s important to be able to identify and resolve challenges, especially among team members and peers. Being out of sight doesn’t mean that struggles don’t happen. During the interview process, Blue Shield will try to identify how successful a remote candidate is at addressing issues quickly and openly. If necessary, we want to know that a remote employee can resolve interpersonal or business issues as easily as in the office.

Glassdoor: When your team is interviewing candidates, what are some of the traits or experiences that you’re looking for in an excellent telecommuting candidate?

Marie Romero: The traits that we look for in remote arrangement candidates are excellent communication skills and personal courage. It’s so important to have every employee know that it’s essential that they speak up, ask questions, request help when needed, and raise the flag when something is going wrong. Every employee is empowered to speak up. That’s personal courage and it is highly valued at Blue Shield of California. We expect this from employees every day.

Glassdoor: Telecommuting is popular among the disabled community. Why should they consider working for Blue Shield of California? What makes BSC a great place to work for all abilities?

Marie Romero: Blue Shield of California prides itself on diversity and inclusion. We have [had] seven vibrant employee resource groups emerge, including one for disability inclusion. These groups help make Blue Shield a great place to work for everyone by enhancing our collective understanding and empathy about challenges faced by our colleagues and their families. The Disability Inclusion Employee Resource Group provides programming, support, and community for people of all abilities and their allies. We encourage everyone to bring their authentic selves to work and contribute their best ideas and efforts to our inspiring mission of transforming healthcare. Knowing that you can be “entirely yourself” at work and that you will be accepted and appreciated because of who you are is fantastic feeling. You don’t have to hide or change parts of yourself at Blue Shield to fit in. This makes us proud to be Blue.

Glassdoor: Often for job seekers, it can feel like remote work doesn’t provide room for career growth or promotion. How would you suggest candidates for remote work approach the conversation of learning, development, and growth when speaking to BSC recruiters and hiring managers?

Marie Romero: At Blue Shield, we believe that you own your career trajectory. That doesn’t change whether you are in an office or remote. Blue Shield encourages people to inquire about our host of growth and development programs and opportunities for learning across the enterprise—there are many. But it is also important for a remote employee to be self-aware and reflective about what your career goals are and what are the realistic paths for development. A remote employee may have a very different career path than some others, but everyone can develop a meaningful work experience. The bottom line is that employees should strive to be recognized for the value that you bring to the organization, regardless of your location.

You may also need to be flexible and attend some meetings and events in person. Be willing to do that and recognize that the flexibility of working remotely goes both ways. Work ebbs and flows based on business needs, so the working arrangement needs to be flexible too.

Working remotely eliminates wasted commute time. Be smart and use that time for self-development, like building new skills, enhancing your working relationships, and learning more about the healthcare industry. At Blue Shield, we believe in growing leaders at all levels and providing growth and opportunity for all employees. Remote employees can participate in several company-offered leadership development and training opportunities, because we believe in investing in our talent and providing everyone with the tools and encouragement to take charge of their own career growth. It’s about finding the right balance between being remote, going into the office sometimes, saying “yes” to special assignments, and keeping hold of the reins on our career.

Candidates can talk with recruiters and hiring managers about what some of their expectations are for next steps and their career during the interview. This should be part of determining if the company is a fit for your needs. Think about your expectations before you get into those interviews.

Glassdoor: Is it still important for remote candidates to ask about BSC’s total rewards like wellness, tuition reimbursement, and how BSC builds community, even if they are working remotely or from home?

Marie Romero: Absolutely! All our benefit plans are available to employees whether they are in a building or work remotely. We have an award-winning program called Wellvolution that provides lifestyle coaching and support to our employees. With gym memberships, tuition reimbursement, and online learning and development programs, Blue Shield offers great total rewards programs. We have a robust community life with volunteering, resource and affinity groups, and corporate and personal continuous learning opportunities—as well as three paid days per year to engage in community service of your choice. Every employee can take advantage of these programs regardless of their location.

Glassdoor: Lastly, what are your top two pieces of job search advice for candidates considering applying to a role at BSC?

Marie Romero: First, candidates should get to know Blue Shield by checking us out at [our career page] and following us on Glassdoor, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. We are mission-driven and leading a transformation in healthcare. We want people who are ready—and excited—to step up to that challenge. What we stand for sets us apart. We get to impact people’s lives in a very meaningful way, every day. If that sounds exciting to you, we’d love to talk to you!

Second, every job candidate should spend time in self-reflection about what kind of work is going to fulfill you. Beyond pay and benefits, what would make work meaningful to you? Spending time on career “self-care” and trying to better understand what interests and inspires you is very important. No one can do this work for you, and there are no shortcuts. Clarifying your personal aspirations will help you target roles where you can bring the greatest value. Sharing that insight with recruiters and hiring managers sets you apart!

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