COVID-19 likely changed the workforce forever. While some changes may be permanent and some are likely temporary, the new normal means that, for right now, many things are going remote. Yes, this means jobs and networking events, but it also includes the hiring process for job seekers.
One of the unique aspects of looking for a job right now is that employers have moved most of their hiring process online. From interviewing to onboarding to your first day, you’re probably doing all of it remotely.
If you’ve never worked remotely, or this is your first job, you may not be sure what to expect. Are remote interviews any different than in-person ones? Are they the exact opposite? And, if it’s a remote video interview, do you really have to wear pants?
Spoiler alert! Yes, you should wear pants. But, more importantly, while the remote hiring process for job seekers is in some ways the same as in-person hiring, you need to be prepared for the unique experience that is remote hiring.
Target Your Search
In your quest to find a remote job, you’ve got to start your search in the right place. Generally, that means searching job boards that specialize in remote work. While we humbly suggest the FlexJobs job board, there are, of course, other sites that post remote jobs.
However, it’s not enough to search the right job boards. You’ve also got to search with the right keywords. Not every job that says “remote” is going to be a good match for you. For example, many remote jobs have residency requirements.
To make the most of your job search, target your search with the right keywords. “Remote” is a good place to start, but consider some of the following options:
- Remote + your state
- Remote work (or partially remote or remote during pandemic)
- Work from home
- Remote + your desired role
As you conduct your remote search, though, be aware of scams. Unfortunately, the common keywords to help you find remote work are also common scam targets. While there are plenty of tips to help you search safely, if you remember only one thing about remote work job scams, remember this: if it seems like a scam, it probably is.
Do Your Homework
Before you apply for any job, you should always do your homework on the company. And though you may think it’s harder to research a remote company or learn about its culture, that’s not the case.
Check out your intended employer on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, or even social media. See what current and former employees say about the company and post online. While not every review will be glowing (it happens!), a majority of the reviews should be positive.
Also, pay attention to how the company is responding to the pandemic. While their client response may be one thing, see what you can find out about how they are treating staff. How the company manages staff during these unprecedented times can tell you a lot about how you might be treated as an employee in good and bad times.
Getting the Interview
Once you’ve found a job you’re interested in, you’ve got to convince the hiring manager that they should interview you. This is where writing a customized cover letter and resume becomes important.
Of course, you’ll highlight the skills and experiences that demonstrate you’re a perfect match for the job, including your direct and transferable skills. However, you’ll also want to demonstrate that you’re a perfect match for this remote position.
If you’ve worked for a remote company before, make sure you spotlight it. However, it may not be enough to say “worked for a remote company.” Consider using the STAR method to demonstrate to employers how you’re able to get results no matter where you work.
If you’ve never worked for a remote company before, that doesn’t mean you don’t have remote work experience. Think creatively about what you’ve done in past roles. For example, if you’ve worked with clients or colleagues in different time zones, you’ve got remote work experience, even if you’ve always worked in an office!
What to Expect Before the Interview
You’ll know your hard work creating a custom resume has paid off when you get the call scheduling you for an interview.
But, during the pandemic, even if you’re going after a 100% in-person job, you may end up interviewing and even onboarding remotely. Ace that remote interview by preparing for the experience in advance.
Where Will Your Interview Be?
While it may seem like a remote interview can happen anywhere, that’s not necessarily the case. Make sure that wherever you have your remote interview, your space is quiet and disruption-free.
Also, be prepared for a video interview, and that doesn’t mean dress your best (although you should). Make sure you check out your background. Is it neat and clean or messy and disorganized? Take some time to move things out of your background, so it isn’t distracting.
On the flip side, the employer may want to bring you into their virtual office or give you a video tour. Keep a sharp eye out and see what you can learn from your “sneak peek” into the office.
How Will Your Interview Happen?
You may be surprised to learn that remote interviews can take place in a variety of ways.
- Over the phone. While fairly common for an initial screening interview, some remote interviews take place entirely over the phone.
- Video call. Especially now, video interviews are becoming more common. This can help you and the interviewer pick up on visual cues you might miss without video.
- Virtual calls without video. You can have an interview via the internet but without video. While less common, some distributed companies never use video, so part of their remote hiring process means assessing how you handle what is essentially a “blind” interview. Pro tip: it’s an excellent opportunity to engage and demonstrate your active listening skills.
Before and during the interview, you’ll likely have to provide the employer with work samples. These can be items from your portfolio or an original project. Requesting samples and original work assignments are very common practices with remote and in-person employers. It helps them get a fuller idea of not only how you work but how you work remotely.
For example, the employer may assign you a project but doesn’t set a deadline for it. Conversely, they may assign you a project with a quick turnaround time. The employer isn’t just assessing what you can do but how you do it. Being self-directed and able to speak up for yourself are essential skills in any position, so the interviewer is trying to see how you approach the project as a measure of how you will likely approach your job.
The Right Fit
Don’t be surprised if you’re asked to take a pre-employment test for a remote position. When your team is fully distributed, supervisors and coworkers may miss some of the subtle cues that help them understand and assist you.
For example, if your performance is lagging, is it because you’re having a bad day, or is it because you’re not a good fit for the role? Pre-employment tests can help the employer objectively determine if you’re going to not only succeed at the job, but be happy in it, too.
What to Expect in the Remote Interview
In many respects, a remote interview is the same as an in-person interview. You may have a panel interview, or have a one-on-one interview with several people back-to-back. You can expect the “regular” interview questions and perhaps some curveballs or brain teasers.
If this is an interview for a remote-specific position or even for a position that’s only remote during the pandemic, you should also prepare for remote-specific interview questions like:
- How do you stay motivated and on task throughout the day?
- Why do you want to work remotely? Or, why do you like working remotely?
- Do you prefer a more or less structured position?
When It’s Your Turn
Most interviews will turn the tables at the end, giving you the chance to ask the questions. Beyond any of the “usual” questions you might want to ask, make sure you ask some remote-specific questions, too.
- Are there any core hours I’m expected to work? (You may have to schedule your day to overlap with certain team members or time zones.)
- How do you measure success for remote workers?
- How do you create/encourage a remote culture that thrives?
Don’t be surprised if part of your remote hiring process includes questions specifically about the pandemic and how you’re handling it. They may ask what you’ve been doing professionally or how you’ve handled suddenly working from home.
You may also want to ask the employer some pandemic-specific questions.
- Are you staying remote after the pandemic ends?
- What is the onboarding program like now? Is it remote or in-person?
- What kind of support do you offer new staff who are starting out remotely?
For more helpful tips and tricks on mastering remote interviews, check out:
How to Follow Up Post Interview
No matter what style of interview you experience, always send a thank-you note within 48 hours of the interview. It might seem very old school and perhaps unnecessary, but it’s something most employers still expect and notice.
Once the thank you note is sent, everything is out of your hands. Now comes the hardest part: waiting to hear back! But, waiting doesn’t mean sitting idly at home. In addition to continuing your job search, you may have to follow-up with the employer, too.
Before you start your follow-up, keep in mind that you’ll need to exercise extra patience while you wait for a decision. In some cases, hiring managers have to wait until they can extend offers to multiple people at the same time due to financial constraints. Sometimes it’s so they can onboard multiple new hires at once, and other times it’s because they have to wait and see what happens with cash flow.
That said, it’s still acceptable to follow-up with the hiring manager (or whoever your contact is) to see what the status is. If you don’t hear anything after a second week, you can follow up again.
After that, consider your follow-up strategy carefully. If you get encouraging responses, continue following up but delicately. If all you get is radio silence, consider that it may be taking the employer extra-long to make a decision (and just know that, on average, it can take over 20 days to decide if a candidate is right for the role!).
But, if you never hear back, consider that a sign that the company is likely going in a different direction. Besides, if that’s how they treat applicants, it’s a bad sign that they may treat employees that way also—and maybe you wouldn’t have been happy there anyway.
Get Ready to Shine
It’s a safe bet that nearly all of the hiring process will be remote these days. Even if it’s not, your job may still be remote for the foreseeable future. Taking the time to prepare for whatever the remote hiring process is will ensure you’re relaxed and ready to shine!
If you’re ready to connect with a remote job, check out our job listings. Or, if you want some more advice on personalizing your resume or preparing for a remote interview, meet with one of our career coaches. Members get access and discounts on these services and more every day. Not a member? Take the tour and learn more!
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