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Tips for landing the job you want

Remote jobs are very hard to land. Most of our delivery team is remote. Currently, our team is 85 people strong. And we hail from:

  • Countries: Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Egypt, England, Germany, Guatemala, India, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Nepal, Romania, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, Ukraine, Uruguay
  • States: Virginia, New York, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Texas, Missouri, Rhode Island, Maryland, & Wyoming

While the majority of our team is remote, the volume of job openings posted is somewhat limited and very sporadic. That being said, each remote job post gets hundreds and hundreds of applicants from every corner of the globe.

Remote Work is Highly Desired

As recently reported by Quartz:

In 2015, an estimated 300,000 full-time employees in computer science jobs worked from home in the US. (This figure also includes related professions such as actuaries and statisticians, but the vast majority are programmers.) Although not the largest group of remote employees in absolute numbers, that’s about 8% of all programmers, which is a significantly larger share than in any other job category, and well above the average for all jobs of just under 3%.

So how do you compete for a remote job? The remote market is much different and needs to be approached differently than when applying for a local brick and mortar position. Here are some tips I’d like to share to help people looking for remote positions.

Keep your resume short and to the point

The majority of resumes are way too long. When a recruiter has 200+ resumes to review, they are looking for resumes that are precise, explain applicable skills and responsibilities, and provide timelines for past positions.

The majority of resumes are way too long.

Do not use the same, generic resume for all jobs you apply for; fine tune it to each specific job. Make the time to revise your resume to match the language used in the target company’s job description. Often times the person screening the resume has a list of things they need to see from a candidate. If the reviewer is overtasked, they are likely to pass over your resume if your experience does not specifically match their need. In addition, make sure that your resume reflects all of the skills in your tool kit that are relevant to the job.

5 pages about your past QA experience is overkill.

If you are a QA Automation Engineer who uses Ruby or Python for your job, but you actively contribute to a JavaScript based open source project on the side, mention it! That extra skill might not be asked for in the job description, but it may put you at the top of the list of incoming candidates. If past skills or training are not relevant, trim them down or remove them entirely. While it is valuable knowing about your past, if you are applying for a front-end developer position, 5 pages about your past QA experience is overkill.

Resume formats can make or break you

While applying using your LinkedIn profile is convenient, many times your resume does not stand out. It’s a giant blob of plain text that matches everyone else. In addition, it seems most people do not provide as much relevant information on LinkedIn as they would on a handcrafted resume. Ensure your resume does not contain spelling and grammatical errors. While a small spelling mistake will not remove you from the hiring process, multiple mistakes point to a lack of due diligence and proper review.

If you plan to upload your own resume, make sure it is saved in a widely recognized format like PDF or doc. These two formats are likely to be accepted by the employer’s applicant tracking system. Many times cool/ supporting graphics are lost. When this happens, the recruiter may miss valuable information.

Plain text files are light weight and may upload just fine, but the readability is often very hard. A recruiter who is skimming through hundreds of resumes may be unable to pick out key phrases in a text dump of a difficult to read font.

Cover letters matter

A cover letter is your chance to explain to a company what makes you special in a conversational way. While resumes lay out your experiences, cover letters provide context. Let your personality come through and explain why you want the position and to work for the company.

Answer questionnaires thoroughly

Many remote job postings include role specific questionnaires. Take some time and answer them. If you can’t be bothered to answer a few questions to help me understand your skills and approach to the work at hand, I do not see a need to continue the interview process. Same goes for basic questions that are asked such as whether you are ok with a contracting position and salary requirements.

Know your salary requirement

It is important to know your value. However, it is also important to be flexible. A company may be looking for remote hires to maintain high standards but without the high cost of overhead for maintaining a co-located workforce. When asked about your salary requirement, saying “negotiable” is acceptable but know that this question will not go away. Of course, you do not want to be thrown out of the running but if the company has hard requirements, it is best to know right away.

Be truthful with yourself on compensation. Start with your current base salary. If you get a remote job, how much as you willing to go down in order to rid yourself of the commute and other expenses that come with an on-site job? Is staying at the same compensation and working remotely the same to you as receiving a raise?

Expect to be compensated for your skill level at the cost of living of your current location. If you live in a zip code with a moderate cost of living and the company is located in one of the most expensive zip codes in the US, do not expect to be compensated at the higher rate.

Leave your cockiness at the door

Confidence is great, but arrogance is not. Telling us

“I are overqualified for the role due to all my success, but just want some extra money”

will eliminate you immediately.

Realize that as a remote worker, being a collaborative and effective team player is more important than ever, as we do not have the visual cues that often accompany being in a shared physical workspace. Make sure that your communications reflect someone whom other people would like to work with day in and day out.

When asked what makes you unique, tell them!

You know what answer is not unique? “I am a very driven project manager with a great track record of delivering projects on time and on budget.” Believe it or not, that is the answer received (or something similar) for about 90% of applicants. Nothing stands out with that answer nor makes us remember you.

Research the company

Take some time to understand the company’s values and offerings before applying. Read their blog, understand what makes them tick and what the team makeup is. Nothing kills a good interview like a candidate not being familiar with the products or services the company offers. Kudos when someone references their favorite blog post, experiences using the product, or other specifics showing they have spent time wanting to know more.

Ensure social media represents you

While most companies are not in the business of logging into people’s personal social media accounts, etc., many do check links you provide them with, such as your twitter feeds, GitHub repos, personal blogs, and applications submitted to the App store and Google Play. I would like to say this has never eliminated someone from the hiring process, but it wouldn’t be listed if that were the case. 😉 While everyone’s opinions are valued and respected, use your best judgement when posting.

Turn on your video!

For remote hires, it’s also really important to show that you can interact well with team members remotely. Don’t be shy about getting on your webcam! The majority of our meetings are on video, including our interviews. It allows participants the ability to fully express their personal and meeting skills. It is the closest remote teams can get to face to face and it adds significant value to your projects, team, and culture.

Don’t be shy about getting on your webcam!

In closing, it is important to remember that remote jobs are extremely hard to get. You are competing with a global market of highly skilled people, the global economy, and recruiting teams with limited time. Making yourself stand out quickly by providing relevant information and doing proper research are keys to helping you succeed in the screening and interviewing process and becoming a potential hire.

While these are just a few things used when screening, interviewing, and on-boarding, I would love to know how others approach remote hiring!