How to get hired by a remote team

It seems that everyone and their dog is looking to join a remote team these days and gain the freedom to work from wherever they like. But with strong competition, actually convincing one of those teams to hire you is not the easiest of tasks. Here are a few words of advice to increase your odds.

Do your research and make yourself stand out

A very packed crowd, shot from above
Spot the designer! Photo credit: jamescridland

I don’t mean this in an arrogant way (since we are of course, a remote team), but we’re perfectly aware that in being open to hiring remotely, we’re still in the minority of companies here. Hiring remotely gives us a big advantage over other companies who aren’t willing to do it. For many people, “remote work” is the #1 criteria in their job hunt, and they’ll compromise on a lot in order to get it.

This means that we have a high demand of people who want to join our team. Since we get so many people asking if we could hire them, we have to be selective. There’s simply no way we can hire everyone, so we’ll have to disappoint the majority of people by turning them down. It also means that you need to stand out. That means not sending a dull CV attached to an email–it does nothing for your credibility.

This is even more important if you’re trying to join a small company. Sure, huge corporations do often hire based on CVs. But that’s definitely not the case for most smaller businesses.

If you’re applying to a company, do your research. Don’t just pick companies, grabbing their email addresses and sending a blanket message in the hope that they’ll respond. If you’re not prepared to put in the time to write a tailored message to them, telling them why you want to work for them, specifically, they won’t be hugely inclined to talk to you much further.

So, spend the time on writing a great message to them and tell them exactly why you want to join them and why they should want to hire you.

Demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about

While there are huge benefits to working remotely, it’s not exactly easy. Those who are natural extroverts can sometimes feel lonely and isolated, and natural introverts can slip into an unhealthy routine where they get very little social interaction. Neither of these are good things.

On top of that, you need to be a fantastic communicator in order to be a member of a great remote team. Since there’s no space for shoulder-taps and impromptu meetings here, you need to get very good at anticipating people’s needs and communicating very well, often asynchronously.

This is a skill that usually comes from experience. If you’ve worked as a freelancer, you’ll probably know what I’m talking about, here.

Given that communications is a really important skill for a remote employee, finding ways to demonstrate it can really help you. If you’ve had previous freelance experience or worked remotely in the past, it’s a great thing to emphasise.

Build a profile. Write.

How's this for building a serious reputation through writing.
How’s this for building a serious reputation through writing?

It’s hard to gauge how good someone is, when all you have to base your judgement on is a CV and an opening email. Sure, there’ll be interviews and video calls a little further down the line, but right now, you’re being assessed on solely these 2 things.

But if you’ve managed to build a public profile, this can help you out hugely. Public recognition for your skills is something that makes it a lot easier for others to see that you know what you’re talking about.

I’m not saying that a company will just follow the crowd–a twitter follower count is no definite arbiter of talent (if you’re looking for proof, just ask Justin). But it can count in your favour, and often makes the difference. Consider 2 different applicants for a job:

  • Lee has worked at an agency for 2 years and as a freelancer for 4. He’s sent a great covering letter and his personal site has a strong portfolio and well-written about page, explaining his background and history. He isn’t that well known online and doesn’t use Twitter at all.
  • Jenny is a content strategist who has worked at an agency for 2 years and as a freelancer for 3. She’s sent a great covering letter and her about page also shows that she’s spoken at 3 meetups so far this year on various content strategy topics. She writes occasionally and has 500 twitter followers.

At this point in the process, Jenny comes across as much more likely to be an experienced and confident hire, simply because she has a little bit of a public profile and has demonstrated that she’s confident enough to share her knowledge in public. She’s a long way from being a web celebrity, but she doesn’t need to be one, at all. Her public profile gives her that little bit of an edge over Lee.

If you’re not in a position to talk at public events, then writing can have a similar effect. I’m somewhat outspoken in my thoughts on this, but I think it’s really important, especially when looking for a remote job, to prove that you can write well. I wrote about this in detail recently, and I’m a strong believer in this because I think that…

“Writing a blog forces you to think deeper about what you’re writing about, and is also hugely revealing of your personality. And that comes across when they’re blogging about their experiences, and what they’re working on. I want to hire people who’ll fit in with our team, and who I’ll enjoy working with.”

It’s hard to judge someone solely on a few pictures in a portfolio or a list of previous responsibilities they’ve held. If they maintain a blog, however, you can get a far deeper look into the way they think and work. And their expertise really shines through.

So, where to look?

There are a few good places to look for remote companies. I’d recommend:

  • We Work Remotely, is run by remote pioneers, Basecamp (who used to be known as 37Signals)–a great place to hunt, although the positions can be very competitive.
  • Remote|OK is the newest kid on the block, created by the same guy who is behind NomadList.
  • stackoverflow Careers is great for technical positions, and has a filter to allow you to search for remote positions only.
  • Angel List can be good if you’re looking for a startup job.
  • And Dribbble is worth a look if you’re looking for a design position.

And of course, personal connections. Networking and talking to people at co-working spaces is still the best way to get your foot in the door. Once someone knows you and your personality, you’re more than just a name and an email message. There are many members of remote teams out there, particularly in busy co-working spaces.

Good luck with the hunt!