Remote work seems firmly entrenched in the corporate consciousness; for many companies, the chance of reverting to the old way of doing things (i.e., in the office five days per week) seems slim. That means your next career move could easily involve an all-remote position.
But if the past few years have made anything clear, it’s that successfully landing a remote position necessitates changing how you approach the job-hunting process. From questions about time zones and expected availability to the particulars of remote interviewing, here are some practical tips for moving forward in your search for the ideal remote role.
Make Sure the ‘Remote’ Part is Permanent
For Jim Johnson, senior vice president and field practice director at Robert Half Technology, you need to determine whether a particular role will remain permanently remote, or if the company expects you to eventually transition to full-time office work.
“Do some research to see if the company has extended their remote period for six months, but that may become an onsite job down the road,” he cautioned. “Will they require travel to a corporate office? Make sure that you're comfortable with what that remote definition means for each organization—some may require you to travel to the office occasionally.”
Truly Flexible Schedules
Samantha Lawrence, senior vice president of people strategy at Hired, noted that applicants for remote positions should consider the usual things like compensation, benefits, and work/life balance—but also make sure the remote-work schedule aligns with their needs.
“For example, if you live in New York but the job you are applying for is part of a team in San Francisco, could you work EST hours if you wanted?” she said.
Whether the work is remote or in-office, employers expect job candidates who are technically competent, reliable, and align with the organization’s culture. “With that said, candidates should be prepared to talk about how they’ve transitioned from working in-person to remotely—if applicable—what some of the challenges and opportunities were that this change caused in their work processes, and how they overcame them,” she added.
Candidates should be prepared to give examples of their ability to work autonomously and asynchronously; an employer might be willing to talk about ultra-flexible schedules, but they’ll want to know you can deliver on-time.
Prepare for a Remote Interview
During the interview process, it’s important to talk about how you adjusted to previous remote-work stints, and how you overcame any challenges related to all-remote work. “They're going to ask you how many remote roles you've had and what you did to be successful, so that's a key thing people need to be prepared to answer,” he said.
The interview process for a remote job will likely be fully remote as well; if this is the case, applicants should prepare for the virtual interview by ensuring they are somewhere quiet with a strong WiFi connection. Your background should be interview-appropriate and not distracting.
Johnson added that, in many ways, a remote interview is more personal than the traditional type of office-based interview. “I’m letting you into my home, so to speak, so you're going to see what my office looks like,” he said. “It’s important as the employee as well as the employer to be aware of what shows when you turn your camera on, not just make sure that you're dressed appropriately, but you know, what are the things that you have hanging on the wall? What are the things behind you?”
It’s also key to make sure that your interview app (whether Zoom, Teams, or some other product) is downloaded, installed, updated, compatible, and otherwise ready to go. “If I'm a tech interview and the tech manager can't figure out how to get on the call and as an employee or a candidate, I can't, that might create a bit of discouragement,” Johnson said. “Find a quiet place, ideally your home office that you're going to be working in, so they get an idea of what it's going to be like to work with you.”
Express Your Needs
Lawrence said applicants shouldn’t be afraid to ask about a company’s work/life balance or schedule flexibility, and they also shouldn’t be afraid to express their own needs and requirements in a new job.
“Remember that jobs must be a fit for the candidate, too, and getting insight into a company’s culture and way of working is an important step in determining fit,” Lawrence said. “I recommend bringing this up in the earlier stages of the interview process to set expectations accordingly.”
It’s also incumbent on job hunters to make sure they’re asking potential employers about expectations for remote employees. For example: Do they have to work specific hours or time zones? they eligible for all company benefits as remote employees? If they relocate to a different area, will their compensation change with the new locale?
Johnson also pointed out that in the world of IT, there may not necessarily be that five-day, eight-to-five or nine-to-five job—remote or otherwise. “It's important to ask what those expectations are and even ask your interviewer how they themselves manage that work-life balance in this new world,” he said. “It's a matter of asking the manager you're interviewing with what their expectations are as far as availability and off hours, and how they've managed that with their team and personally.”
Like Lawrence, Johnson also brought up the issue of time zones. “If I'm in New Jersey and I'm interviewing for a job in Austin or Las Vegas, what will those expectations be for those folks who aren't on that same time zone?” he said. “From a candidate perspective, you have to be honest about what your availability is and set those realistic expectations.”