How to get the best remote job?

I was in charge of many projects and managed thousands of people in my professional life and of course received thousands of resumes for a job. And you know what? I prefer to receive recommendations from my own people, then digging and analyzing through huge piles of resumes.

The world has changed! With the Corona and the advancement of the technologies and communications, remote work is becoming the thing of the moment. They say (the so called ‘researches’) that remote work is more productive, and I agree with that. It’s also cheaper for the employer and lesser for the employee. That’s true. But that doesn’t mean that employers need new remote workers and that means receiving mountains of resumes. Or maybe some recommendations of the existing employees might be more suitable. The last one is really my preference if I get any.

And this article is about those who are looking for a remote  job with good salary and conditions. Here we go.

Find the right employer, make a list for your preferred job

Use the internet and trade magazines to make a list of companies you would like to work for, best remote work or use the online work database here on the site. You can get anonymous feedback from existing employees on social media or like in the UK, the Best Companies Guide.

We have already so much social media and use it. Take your Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking sites. Those sites are a good way to find people who already work in your target companies. Reach out and ask for information, advice and help. And be aware, when you talk to those people, that’s also the beginning of your job interview. Make a good impression to those people, because they might be the way into the company you prefer.

The job pages of newspapers and trade magazines may be a good source of vacancies or candidates for your short list, but the best jobs and the best leads come from personal contact.

Make an excellent cover letter

A cover letter is your chance to personalize your application. Be brief but be specific. For me, a cover letter was a good chance to see if the candidate knew anything about my company and to gauge their enthusiasm. It was a treat to find someone mention something about our work and having looked at our website.

Spelling mistakes alienate 77 per cent of business people, according to research by Hertfordshire University. Use a spell checker. Get someone you trust to proofread it. Hire a proofreader on this site to check it for you and don’t forget the style and grammar.

  • Prepare an email version. Emails must be shorter and more focused than letters. Use short, descriptive sentences. Don’t change. But do still include the recipient’s name and something that personalizes it.
  • Apply direct. Remember that agencies don’t include cover letters, and general fax CVs, so a direct application with a good cover letter can make you look like a better candidate simply through better presentation.  Even if you think you are certain to get any job you apply for, it is worth using every opportunity to make a good impression, as it will help your case when negotiating a salary and people’s perceptions of you once you start.

Write a good resume

  • Get good advice. Ask your friends. Ask your current employer’s HR department (but only if they already know you’re leaving!). Find mentors. Read advice online.
  • Professional presentation. Programmers used to apply with CVs that were riddled with typos. Not a good sign in a profession that rewards attention to detail. Graphic designers’ CVs used to look like they were DTP’d by a five-year old. Crazy. As with the cover letter, CVs should be neat, grammatical and properly spelled.
  • Be brief. Unless you have had a very illustrious career, there is no need to use more than one page for a CV – second pages are rarely read.
  • Get a second opinion. It is well worth getting an honest friend to review your CV so that you can avoid saying something that does not say what you meant it to say.  A classic example of this was one candidate who claimed “I have a close and loving relationship with my two sisters.”
  • Don’t be glib or scary. People don’t always share the same tastes or humor, so keep it straight – don’t include a picture of yourself in Star Trek costume, for example. In one case, I read: “I am interested in the triumph of justice.” I’ve seen a few candidates who claimed to have worked for Mossad, MI5 or MI6. Trust me, the applicants in question definitely did not work for these agencies. In general, try not to amuse, scare or bullshit your prospective employers.
  • Don’t exaggerate. Some of the more extreme claims I have seen include “top secret research work for NASA,” “testing elasticity on unrestrained knickers,” and one candidate who claimed to have written an entire hit game for a well-known developer on their own in a two month summer internship. Another claimed that “I am a world class Rubik’s Cube champion as well as winning the world mathematics championship in Hungary 1993.”
  • Don’t job-hop. I was always very, very wary of candidates who seemed to be ‘job-hopping’.  More than a couple of jobs of less than 12-18 months looks pretty bad.  It indicates some serious problem with their work or their attitude.  The worst example I have seen was eight jobs in less than seven years.  Needless to say, we didn’t hire him. If you have a lot of jobs on your CV, have a very convincing reason.
  • Use references wisely. Opinion on naming referees is divided.  Generally, we didn’t take up references until after we make an offer but before someone started – mainly, we wanted to make sure that the candidate was who they said they were.  If an employer wants a reference, they can always ask.  If you do give references, it is better if they are people who can claim some sort of independent judgement – for example, previous employers, tutors, lawyers – and not “my mother” as one hapless candidate offered.
  • Get yourself referred. There’s a big difference between a reference on a CV and someone who actively champions your cause. If you can find a mentor, rabbi or champion who can get you in front of the right people, do it. And be very grateful.
  • Clarify your name. If, like me, you are blessed with a memorable but unpronounceable name, it is a good idea to say how you pronounce it somewhere in your CV or cover letter.  Also, if it isn’t clear which is your first name and which is your surname, it is helpful to underline the latter.
  • Don’t make stuff up that we can check. I’ve seen extraordinary claims of Olympic victory, Rubik’s Cube championships, hit games written in a weekend, implausible job titles at friends’ companies. In the immortal words of Sir Humphrey Appleby from Yes, Minister, “never conceal something that the press can discover for themselves.”
  • Check your application before you send it. I saw many applications with the names of competitors in the covering letter. Mail Merge failure is a sign that you lack attention to detail.
  • If you want a reference, don’t punch your boss. Luckily this didn’t happen to me. In general, however, threats of litigation, sabotage and violence by departing employees are likely to result in a less than favourable reference.

Get an interview, if they need someone or not

If you’ve done your research, you should have a list of target companies and individuals within those companies. You could spam them with your CV but there’s another way – the 15 minute chat and introductory email. This is modelled on a sales technique in “Sales on a Beermat” by Mike Southron and Chris West.

What you are trying to do is get a brief face-to-face meeting with someone at your target company. It isn’t a job interview but it is a good step towards one. Remember – the best jobs are the ones that aren’t advertised and the best way to get them is with personal relationships.

So, what you do is this:

  1. Find the right opportunity. Monitor your target companies using Google News or other media so you can spot a good hook for your email.
  2. Find the right person. Ideally, you’d like to get an introduction or referral from someone in your network to someone in your target company.
  3. Send an introductory email. Short and sweet. Like this:
    Subject: Referral from Ann Other Dear Mr. Smith, Good news about the acquisition of Megacorp. I guess this means you’ll be needing more programmers at SuperSizers. Ann suggested that I contact you because I have been working as a programmer at WidgetCo. and now I’m looking for a new challenge. Ann would be happy to give me a reference: Ann.Other@Megacorp.com. I’d like arrange a short meeting so I can learn a bit more about SuperSizers and ask for your advice about how I could become part of the team there. Can you spare 15 minutes sometime next week? Best wishes, John Doe
  4. Introduce yourself, be liked, ask for help. And leave after the allotted time. This isn’t a job interview. It’s about finding a friend in your target company, learning more about it and showing that you have some initiative. If you pull it off, you’ll have an insider helping you out. This has got to be a better investment of time than spamming a hundred companies with a me-too CV.

Give a real good job interview

Remote Job interview
Remote Job interview

At many companies, you get two or three rounds of interviews.  The first would be a short interview to make sure that you would fit in and to see if you are the person you say you are on the resume (in part through a programming test and discussion or portfolio review.

In the remote world, job interviews are not changed, they are still the same. You might be invited in the first round of the interviews with a remote interview or not, it’s still the same. Remotely, you are very likely invited to make the test online, answering technical questions online.

A second interview would be more specific and lengthy.  It would focus on your suitability for a particular project or position and you would get to meet prospective team members.

I always liked to meet anyone we were considering making a job offer to, so a final interview with senior management would indicate that you were on the home straight. The whole process might take two or three weeks, and occasionally longer if there were changes in the project schedule.

  • Dress conservatively. Different jobs have different dress standards. If in doubt, call ahead and check. A good suit and tie is going to work for almost all interviews as a default. And even when it’s remote work, dress accordingly.
  • Don’t bring your mother to the interview. One candidate did this.
  • Be punctual. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the interview. If you have a remote interview, check out everything possible, like your internet, your computer and/or smartphone, take care that you everything needed with you or around you.
  • Prepare. Call ahead and ask what might be involved. For example, we usually gave programmers a C# programming test. Anyone who knew this in advance would have an advantage. Unlike one candidate who asked “what’s C#?” despite having it on her resume.
  • Be friendly (but don’t overdo it). Be enthusiastic, good-natured but not pushy or try to gain advantage. Pay attention but don’t treat an interview like the boardroom in The Apprentice.
  • Always shake hands. If you suffer from nerves and sweaty palms, discreetly wipe you hand on your clothes before the handshake is required. There’s nothing worse than a wet fish handshake.
  • Hygiene matters. Candidates have created very bad impressions on me and my colleagues by not attending to basic hygiene, like bathing, brushing teeth or wearing clean clothes.  Such people are not nice to share a room with. With a remote interview, they might not be able to smell you, but for sure they notice shabby dress, not or bad shaven, your hair not brushed, etc.
  • Be respectful. Slagging off previous employers is also a no-no. This is entertaining gossip but it is very easy to imagine that they would do the same about you.
  • Write a thank you letter. After an interview a short, polite letter to the main person who interviewed you can be a good idea.  You should say ‘thank you’ and highlight anything you felt you might have missed in the interview (e.g. ‘I think that I may have forgotten to mention that although I dropped out of Harvard without graduating, I do run the world’s largest software corporation’) or anything you want to emphasise (e.g. ‘I feel my experience with 3D graphics in my last job would be very relevant to your project’).  Very, very few people do this and it is a good way to make a strong, positive impression.
  • Call if you’re going to be late. If you can’t get to an interview or change your mind about going, please let the company know in good time.  There is nothing more irritating that waiting around for someone to show up and not know whether they are coming or not.
  • Ask your own questions. You should come prepared with questions. Here are some of the good questions I have been asked over the years: How do you organise training? How will my work be assessed? (this is better than saying how often do I get a pay rise) How do you ensure projects come in on time? How are games designed?  Who does the design? Describe a typical team?
  • Show some interest. As with the cover letter, an interview a good opportunity for you to show some interest in the company.  Look at their website before the interview and think of a couple of company-specific questions.  In the first interview you may not get a lot of time for questions, but you should make sure that all your questions are answered before you accept a job offer. You are interviewing them at this stage.
  • Get a hobby. I asked one woman ‘what do you do in your spare time.’ The answer was “I smoke a lot.” It wasn’t meant as a joke and she didn’t get the job. You need to look like you have life so if you don’t have any hobbies, get some.

 

Good luck.

Books about remote work

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