How to Make Remote Job Hunting Easier: A Practical Guide

Photo by Anthony Martino on Unsplash

Hiring is an imperfect process and for job seekers, it can be downright agonising. Despite that, it’s a necessary game that you have to play to land a remote job.

While there are six days from Sunday to go about it, getting in by the front door can be the simplest path. If that’s your cup of tea, here’s a good framework to think by.

Before you start

Assess your state. If you’ve just recently entered the job market, and still have feelings of pain on the whole process, try to take some time off before jumping in. Job hunting is a long and arduous process. Finding remote work, even so. If you are in an unhappy disposition to begin, your interviewer would definitely feel it and you would be in the back foot. This temporary blip in your career may be life pushing you to take a breather. So slow down and just get back when you are ready.

Know your stuff. At the very least, you must be able to do the job you are applying for. Remote work is assessed by the results, so walking the talk should be second nature to you. Having deficient skills would be a different problem altogether and following the advice in this piece would not help you there in anyway. If you are not on this stage yet, bookmark this article, then go ahead and practice, practice, practice your craft. You can always come back to this stage later.

Once you have gotten the prerequisites down. It’s time to start the game.

Think like a headhunter

Chances are you are probably a creator. You are confident about your skills as a maker and you know that you can accomplish the job you are applying for decently at worst and excellently at best. And it annoys you that while you know you can do a great job, you still don’t have one and it’s taking a while.

At this moment, you do actually have a job, just not that of a maker. At this moment, you are a headhunter. And your goal (as a headhunter) is to give you (the maker) a job.

Why do this tweak in mentality? In the job hunting process, people will say no to you for whatever reason. Worse, people will ignore you. That’s okay because they are not ignoring you (M) but you (HH). Separating the two roles can remove a great deal of anxiety in the process since it removes your confidence as a maker out of the equation. It means that you (HH) can separately improve your process without putting your (M) belief in yourself (M) at stake.

And what should you (HH) do? Record data and optimise your next steps. Have a spreadsheet that records all your interactions with interviewers, your resume, cover letters, responses, etc. This will allow you (HH) draw better decisions and give you (HH) a sense of direction, which in turn, would shorten your (M) time between jobs.

Optimise your resume

In all of these potential actions, what better way to start than to optimise your resume.

Tell a story. Oftentimes, you create a resume without any much thought to just get it out of the door. In that default setting, the goal of a resume is to summarise your work history so your potential employer can review whether you have the skills they want. Well, on a technical level, sure it does that. Though, the real goal of a resume is to get your foot in the door. And you do that by making your resume tell a story. Your story.

See, your work life may be a mumble jumble of things (I know mine is), and your resume is there to make sense of that mumble jumble. You don’t have to put everything you’ve done on your resume. Actually doing so makes it easier for the interviewer to throw it out of the window. Just selectively choose the points that support the claim in your own story.

For example, if your resume states that you are a life-long learner, highlight the parts of your previous works that showcase just that. Perhaps you’ve read 100 documentations, put that down. Or you’ve taught younger co-workers (teaching is one of the best learning tools). Put that down. Did you pick up a new language while completing a work related task? Put that down. Writing that you are an avid soccer fan, unless your interviewer is also one, would probably not be a good idea to put in. Skip it.

Custom fit to the role. Ideally, you should custom fit your resume to fit the company that you are applying for. In reality though, custom fitting takes quite a lot of time. A more time-sensitive approach would be customising for the role(s) you are looking toward. Say if you are applying for Senior Developer, you might be flexible to accept roles for Full Stack Developer, Backend Engineer, Software Engineer, as well. Create a variation of your resume for those titles and send the correct one whenever the company looks for that role.

Make an intro that gets you noticed

Apart from a resume, an introduction/cover letter is great way to set you apart. In the remote world, this is the difference from you, the cold emailer, to you, the potential teammate, so make it memorable!

The result of a good intro is a resume read. From experience, a good intro can increase responses by around 20% and answers briefly two questions on the interviewer’s mind:

  • Can this person be qualified for the role?
  • Will I like working with this person?

Interviewers are human beings too (surprise!) and they would always prefer to work with human beings that they like. Cover letters that feel like it’s written by a robot and are copy-pasted to oblivion tend to be frowned upon. You can customise it just enough to be relevant to the position you are applying for, while also having a template to act as a base.

When unsure, you can always experiment with a witty intro.

Send out the good stuff

Once you nail these two parts down, start sending out your resume.

Be consistent. While your natural reaction would be to send out as much as you can from the start, opt for consistency by spreading it out across multiple days. Doing maximum effort on day one, without much results, would lead to fatigue easily. Pacing yourself would allow you to work in a habit, and condition your mind to do this for the long haul. Chances are, you might still feel fatigue, but not so much in one spike that would make you immediately take the job that presents itself first.

Interview, Interview, Interview

When you get at this stage, you should give yourself a nifty reward since you (HH) have been doing your job well. When that’s done, here’s a couple of things to note.

Stalk your interviewer. For the lack of a better term, you should stalk your interviewer. You can be sure that they would do the same for you. In this day and age, information is the currency and finding a common interest just might be the little nudge you need to get to the next step. If you ever feel uncomfortable with this, just remember that you are a headhunter and this is just part of your job description.

Schedule a time that you are at your peak. Interviews are a nerve-wracking experience in and of itself, but doing it in the wee hours of the morning tends to make it gut-wrenching. Find a time where your wit is at its peak. Admittedly, remote work does need a lot of compromise in timezones especially if you don’t work live in the western hemisphere. Though, schedule is one of the things you have a direct control over in the whole process so make sure to choose a time where you are at your best.

Find a habit of preparation. Interviewing is one of those activities that you’ll do a lot in the whole process, and it helps when you create a ritual that puts you in the right mood before meeting that potential teammate. Take a bath. Or sing a song (If I Aint Got You by Alicia Keys seem to work well here). Or dress properly as if your going to a physical location (even if half of your body is not shown). As long as it makes you feel confident in the interview, do your thing.

Ask questions about the company. A good bulk of the time, the interviewer is evaluating you not just on the quality of your answers but also on the quality of your questions. A good way to have quality questions is to prepare them ahead of time. You can ask questions about your interviewer’s experience in the company (you’ve stalked them, remember?). Or perhaps what a great employee in their company looks like. This will also help you optimise your process because good questions tend to make interviewers say “That’s a good question”.

Ask questions for your learning, not just for the job. Since you don’t know whether a company you are interviewing for will move you towards the next step, learn as much as you can from them for your own sake. Perhaps you have questions that are generic towards employment (What are the traits of good developers to you?) or towards the interview process (What’s the effectivity of your interview process? How many turned out to be good hires/fit?), that you’d like to ask, you should do so. Remember, job interviews may or may not be fruitful, and generating value out of them by asking questions like these, would be a good way of recovering some time spent at this stage.

Stay polite but always be genuine. At the end of the day, you are looking for a place where you would spend the next 1/3 of your day, every day. And pretending to be someone you’re not is one sure fire way of not liking where you are, even if you do get in, so strive for authenticity.

Take Exams Diligently

Some companies would like you to answer challenges for them as part of the interview process.

Invest but do not waste your time. One to two days is probably good. More than that would be too high of a risk to complete. If you really like the company you are applying to, then go nuts and spend as much time as you can. If not, limit the time you spend doing them. A better alternative would be to complete what you can in a day or two, then place in a separate document the steps that you would have done, given enough time. The greatest asset you have in the whole job hunting process, is time, and losing much of it towards the wrong company would prolong your search needlessly.

Be more careful than you are in production. Interviewers tend to be more stringent in checking exams than they are in checking real work, so be sure to be more careful than you would have otherwise. If you test once normally, test twice. If you review what you wrote once before submitting, review it twice. Being the most time heavy component of the interview process, you don’t want to be kicked out on one or two mistakes you could have caught easily.

Survive the In-Betweens

This is where the most stressful part of the whole process lies. After an interview, it may take a week or two before the companies get back to you. Same can happen with an exam. Worst case, is that they don’t even reply. That can easily add up to a month or five. It doesn’t help that remote job hunting means you’re in isolation most of the time. How do you survive this?

Continue sending out applications. If you are early in the process, continue sending out applications as your “thing to get busy by” for that day. Keeping busy will put your brain away from the waiting game and away from anxiety.

Interview for other companies. As in dating, before you get exclusive, try and know more people when you can. This means more meet-ups, or in your case, more interviews! This also has a side-effect of putting yourself in an upper hand when talking to other companies. Knowing that other companies are interested in you is a social signal that you are a desirable candidate, and may haps they would speed up the process for you.

Do stuff you love. This is just general good advice and fits perfectly in boosting your morale. If you can move away from your workspace for a while, all the better.

Review the Offer

If you have reached this stage, congratulations! Pat yourself on the back because the worst is over. This is just a matter of crossing the finish line.

Know your base requirements. What salary range do you need? What timezone would you like to work on? How many overlaps do you need? Healthcare? Laptop provisions?

Take time to talk to your own stakeholders. After receiving the offer, talk to your family whether it would be enough. This is the time to negotiate. Will the work take too much time that you would not be able to spend with them? Is there a financial need that you forgot to think about? Once everything is in place, accept the offer. You (M) can now fire yourself (HH) and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Conclusion

Finding remote work can be a daunting process but having a framework to follow can add a lot of ease to the whole she-bang. Remember that you are in control of a good chunk of the process and optimising it to fit your needs would lead to a favourable result.

Ace is developer for seven years and a remote software developer for the last two. If you’ve enjoyed the article, leave a clap, drop a comment or send a follow. It is greatly appreciated!


How to Make Remote Job Hunting Easier: A Practical Guide was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.