Estimated reading time: 7 mins

By the spring of 2020 most of us were working remotely, whether we wanted to or not! We kept all of our office forged friendships alive via endless video calls and remote drinks. It is daunting leaving behind our last colleagues we’ve known face to face and taking the leap into a new role, even though we might want the change.

I’ve recently gone through the process of getting a new remote job and I’m here to combat new job fears that I’ve experienced myself. The antidote? A mixture of interview questions to help you make informed decisions and actions to take after starting a new role to set you up for a successful onboarding and probation experience once you take the plunge.

Have no fear, Adelina is here!

First day
On my first day of my new job wearing my good glasses!

Fear 1: They know each other, I won’t fit in!

It’s difficult enough learning new technologies and contributing to a new codebase, but now you will be stepping into a well established team that already know each other from the office and potentially be the odd one out.

Interview questions

  • How do the team work together in the remote world? - it’s important to get a good idea about what your day to day work on the team might look like: will you be pairing? will be working closely with other people or can you expect to work mostly alone? Make sure that what they are describing will suit you
  • What do you think I could help with? - this will give you a good idea of where the team might expect you to start contributing and whether this is work you might find interesting. While this answer is subject to change, it will be good to hear how the team envision the project roadmap going forward
  • What is the onboarding process? - this will show you how the team plan to support you when you join. If there is no formalised onboarding/new joiner process, try to gauge if the team are excited to be welcoming a new joiner
  • If you haven’t had the opportunity already, request to chat to some members of your prospective team/group if an offer is made to you. This will ensure that you can put some names and faces to others you might be working with. You can also use this opportunity to ask more detailed questions

After starting

  • If not already done, request an onboarding buddy/mentor from your team be assigned and allocated the time/resources to help you get set up. It’s important to have a default person that you can reach out when you are getting set up now the team won’t be able to tell that you are stuck/feeling frustrated
  • Get a detailed system design explained by someone that really understands it. It’s important to get things right from the very start to avoid painful confusion later. Documentation can be out of date, so reaching out to someone will help avoid any inconsistencies/mistakes
  • If you plan to learn new technologies/upskill, get a mentor and make a specific plan of how you can achieve your upskill goals, alongside onboarding and your regular work. Setting specific goals will ensure that the team understand the efforts you are making beyond the daily deliverables, which might not be obvious from tickets/boards. You can then go study/research by yourself with the support of your team

Fear 2: The work vibe might be awful!

Traditionally, you would have been invited into the office for the full loop interview before receiving an offer. At this point you’d be able to see the daily working atmosphere and see the perks, coffee machines and what not. Without the office visit, it might be hard to get an idea of what working there might be like.

Interview questions

  • What would a typical week/sprint look like for me? - this interesting question will give you an idea of what the day to day work will be like and whether it suits you. You’d want to find out what the working schedule will be like, how much flex time they offer and what regular meetings would be part of your schedule
  • What are your long term plans regarding remote work? - you should make sure that their long term plans will suit you - whether you wish to be permanently remote or not, your prospective employer should be aligned to what you’re looking for
  • What is your Learning&Development(L&D) culture like? - the L&D culture is a good indicator of how dedicated the company is to investing into the growth of their employees and whether they might be a good fit for you longer term

After starting

  • Take your time getting used to their culture and ways of working. Just like getting used to a new codebase, it takes time getting used your new team’s way of working. This can be even longer in the muddled waters of remote working
  • Being new offers you a fresh perspective on the team and company as a whole so make sure that you put this fresh perspective to good use and be vocal and constructive on how they can improve during retros, 1-1s etc. In my experience, tech organizations are often open to change if it is well argumented. Don’t be scared to suggest improvements just because you are new

Fear 3: I won’t be able to make friends!

Going into the new dawn of remote working, we all had the shared history of working together at the office and countless adventures at lunch and after work. The stakes are high, as we are faced with leaving behind our last real forged relationships.

Interview questions

  • What remote social events have you organized? - having worked remotely for some time, most teams will have organized social events/catchups, if there was any interest. Make sure that your prospective employer will give you as much or as little socialization as you want, so make sure you ask about events that are important to you
  • What clubs/groups/guilds are there are at the company? - if you are a social butterfly, you might be used to being involved in hobby clubs or book clubs. If you are more interested in learning and coding dojos (like yours truly), then ask about this too. These initiatives are important to getting a sense of belonging at the company
  • What are some D&I initiatives/practices you have implemented? - a bit of a hot topic, but I definitely think this should be a question that everyone should ask. No matter who you are, ensure that there is space for everyone

After starting

  • Take the time to have a catchup with everyone you are working directly with. This can be a virtual coffee/informal chat or a more formal chat about your background and your career. This will help people get to know you on a more personal level
  • If you are missing one, start a new club/group/guild that you are interested in. If you don’t get anyone on board, then at least you will have tried to make a positive impact and hopefully made some friends at the company in the mean time
  • As I said before, take advantage of your unique perspective and be vocal and constructive on how the team and company as a whole can improve

Parting words

No matter how diligent you are in the interview phase, starting a new job will always be a leap of faith, but I want to give you the confidence that you can get good signals of what working there will be like, despite all these remote uncertainties.

Once you start, you should not shy away from proposing changes despite being “the new one”. Make the most out of your probation period and use it wisely to ensure your new team/company are a good fit for you.

Stay critical, ask lots of questions and make educated decisions.

Happy interviewing & job hunting!

Comments or Burning Questions?