Before the pandemic, the job market was split into two uneven parts – office work and remote work – with hardly anything in between.
Two years later and we now live in a world where you can be, say, 92% remote, visiting the office twice a month. The binary of home and office work no longer exists; 'remote’ is a variable, and every company has its own baseline.
Some are offering remote positions on top of office ones. Many are taking a hybrid approach, giving the flexibility to work some days remotely and encouraging folks to come in for ad-hoc team events or sensitive one-on-ones. I was recently involved in a company effort to design that hybrid culture shift and it changed the way we recruit as well.
If you’re searching for a partially or fully remote role, how can you navigate through an uneven and saturated market? Here I’m sharing my guide for remote candidates looking to stand out by mixing new ‘remote’ tricks along with proven winning strategies.
1. Boosting your profile
Cut through the noise
It’s important to clearly communicate your personal baseline for working remotely. Let recruiters know if you’re willing to come to the office at all, and specify how often. Put this information on your LinkedIn profile and CV. Otherwise, you’ll waste valuable time talking to recruiters who are looking for something else and miss other opportunities due to a lack of focus. It’s also a good idea to highlight if you’re open to relocation and what your baseline would look like in the new country.
Plan for limited attention
As a hiring manager, I look through CVs every day. Attention is the most valuable resource I have, and so my task is to extract essential information as fast as possible to decide whether to start the recruitment process. I only take a deeper look when I’m preparing for the interview.
This isn’t just me. Some studies suggest you have only 7 seconds to attract a recruiter’s attention. That may be an exaggeration, but most recruiters I know settle on a 60-second interval. To increase your chances, consider structuring the most vital details on the first page and use an E or F pattern.
Showcase the most valuable details
When I scan the applicant profile, I personally look for:
- Is it a remote-only candidate? If so, what is their timezone range availability? I hope to find these details at the top of the page, together with their LinkedIn URL and personal website or GitHub.
- Is relocation needed? Relocation adds an interval on top of the notice period, so if I am proceeding with such a candidate I need to plan accordingly.
- What can this person do, and what do they like to do? A lot of candidates barely mention what they excel at and what kind of opportunities would make them happy. I get very excited when candidates include this in a summary.
- What was their last job role in detail? Here, I expect a clear distinction between responsibilities and achievements. When I was refactoring my own CV a few years back, I was surprised by how hard it was to separate achievements and tie them to numbers, let alone business outcomes. It’s no wonder that many candidates fail to paint a clear picture of their recent roles. However, doing this will get you bonus points.
- Is it written in sufficiently good English? I also use the CV to estimate English proficiency and attention-to-detail levels. This is especially important for remote candidates who rely a lot on written communication. And of course, it may not be applicable to neurodivergent individuals.
Treat LinkedIn as a minimalistic version of your CV
Recruiters rely on LinkedIn more and more as a sourcing tool where they can find and reach out to attractive prospects. Moreover, if your profile is detailed and up-to-date, they may treat it as a mini CV. Sometimes, I interview candidates without seeing their CVs, just based on their LinkedIn profiles.
Consider keeping sections like your ‘Summary’ in sync between your CV and online profile. Often, candidates don’t have any description of their roles in the LinkedIn ‘Experience’ section, which renders their profile semi-useless from a sourcing perspective.
Remember that exercise of writing down your achievements? These would shine on your profile too. Because of the spam, you would still get irrelevant proposals occasionally, but less so. Having your online profile in check may lead to some of the most promising and well-targeted recruitment invites.
2. Making the right impression
Think through your video appearance
In a remote work environment, the way you present yourself matters. It’s not about how you look. It’s how you impact the experience of others. When we come to the office, we want a comfy, quiet space with a nice interior. In a video chat, each participant's video and audio stream contributes to the overall environment. It forms that virtual office space. Your own contribution should improve it, so the interviewers can see it would be comfortable for them to work with you remotely.
Do you have everything listed below? These represent the hygiene minimum:
- Good sound. Don’t use an internal microphone.
- No background noise. You can also try to bring it down via software.
- Non-cluttered background. The real one is better, yet you can also resort to a virtual background.
- Non-blurry webcam. A cheap webcam also might do a better job if you increase the amount of light in the room.
- Good internet connection. Also, arrange for a backup connection.
If adjusting your current setup is entirely impossible, consider renting a meeting room through a coworking space or taking an interview from a friend's house with a better setup.
Demonstrate remote professional traits
Every company has different needs, so there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the personal qualities you should demonstrate in the interview. Some companies may consciously allow for specific traits as a part of their D&I strategy. A good trick is to ask the recruiter what kind of remote candidates they’re looking for.
That said, there are a few common things that would highlight your capacity to work remotely
- You come across as an organized person. To the extent that you are on time to join interviews, responsive to recruiters over email, and appear composed when speaking.
- You have good written communication skills. The typical signals are your CV, online profile, and any written content you generate during the recruitment process (e.g., email exchange with a recruiter) or posted online earlier (e.g., your article).
- You can be concise when speaking. This means you don’t take too long to deliver a point. Folks who can’t do this tend to bloat work meetings, increasing zoom fatigue. If brevity and structure don’t come naturally, you can practice in advance (try using the STAR or PARADE methods).
- You can bring results autonomously. This is especially important if there’s a timezone difference. The ability to organize and unblock yourself while your colleagues are asleep becomes crucial.
3. Applying the secret sauce
Highlight what makes you special
Every person is special and can contribute in a unique way. As a hiring manager, I also have to be very pragmatic. Ultimately, I will prioritize hiring those applicants who are already aware of what makes them stand out. These folks write about it on their profile and highlight it during interviews.
Things I would look for include open source contributions, pet projects, tech articles, non-tech initiatives, and public speaking. Your personality and past experience can also make you interesting. I’ve hired pilots and poets, architects, and party people. Carefully growing a team and adding diverse personalities into the mix can make it incredibly performant and creative. It also makes for a fun place to work. Consider what kind of community you want to join, and make your profile stand out in that way.
One thing I haven’t mentioned at all in this article is tech skills. Those alone could get you a job, and there’s a magnitude of resources dedicated to perfecting them. But it’s a shame that so many people overlook the importance of presenting themselves in a clear, appealing, and authentic way. By boosting your profile, making the right impression, and applying a bit of secret sauce, you’ll surely increase your chances of swiftly getting the best offer from the company that’s right for you.