How to Find (and Land) a Remote Job

A remote job can be a fantastic opportunity for someone who wants to travel, or simply live in an area that's too far for a traditional commute.  Rural areas tend to have significantly lower costs of living, and can offer beautiful landscapes and privacy that can be hard to find in more populated areas.  If you're living in a structure like a tiny house on wheels, a rural area might be the only place you're able to park your home legally.

Unfortunately, finding remote work can be significantly harder on potential employees than finding a traditional job at a physical location.  In most cases, you won't be able to physically walk into a building and ask for the hiring manager.  And you'll be competing with a much larger candidate pool, so you need to work much harder to stand out.  

Here are a few strategies for finding remote employment.

Keep Your Job

If you already have a job that you like, consider whether you could do your work remotely.  Some jobs require physical presence, but others don't.  While it might be difficult to convince your boss to let you work remotely full-time, keeping a job you already have would certainly be easier than finding a new job that allows remote work.

Use Your Connections

The best way to find a job is through your personal social network.  Ivy league universities are most valuable, not because they teach their students any better than state schools, but because their students develop connections with other ivy league students.  It's easier to get a job if you're able to bypass the normal application process to schedule an interview.

Everyone has connections that they can use in their job search, but few people truly take advantage of the resources around them.  Consider everyone you worked with at every job you had, from the receptionist to the CEO.  Consider every current or potential vendor or business customer of all of your previous employers.  Consider everyone you're linked to on social media. 

Reach out to each individual with a personal message, and ask them for a favor.  Phone calls are best, but email can be a practical choice for contacting lots of people you might not have a current phone number for.

Tell your contact specifically what kind of positions you're looking for.  Ask them for an introduction to anyone who might be able to use your services.  Thank them, and offer to provide your own help in kind, if there's anything you can do for them.  Here's an example:

Hi John-

I hope you’re doing well.  You may remember me from when we worked together at [company] in 2004.

I have a favor to ask.  My wife and I are travelling full-time, and I’m looking for some work I can do remotely.  It can be tough to find work that allows me to telecommute full-time, but I have valuable skills to offer.  I enjoy working with businesses to build and improve their sales funnels, customer relationship management, and order fulfillment processes. I’ve also written content for a few web-based businesses including blog posts, email campaigns, an eBook, and a technical manual.

If you know of any businesses that might be able to use my services, I would be grateful for an introduction. Even if you’re not sure I’d be a good fit, I’d appreciate the opportunity to talk to them. You can find my resume here [link].

I truly appreciate your time.  If there’s ever any help I could offer you in return, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Thanks!

Dan

It's far easier to find work this way than to go through a jobs listing site. It doesn't hurt to ask, and unless you're trying to sign people up for a pyramid scheme multi-level marketing business, your contacts will probably be pleased to hear from you. Most people you contact probably won't be able to help you, but that's OK. You only need a few interviews to land a good job.

Remote Job Listings

Looking for remote work through job listings is possible, but incredibly difficult.  Why?  The ability to work remotely is a highly sought after benefit, and since the applicant pool has no geographic boundaries, you'll be competing with tons of applicants.

There are a few public job boards that cater to the location independent workforce.  JobspressoSkip the Drive,  Working Nomads, Telecommunity,  RatRaceRebellion, and WeWorkRemotely are worthwhile free sites to check.  Escapees RV Club has a handful of remote job listings from time to time.  Flexjobs is a paid service that aggregates remote and telecommuting jobs from other job boards and directly from company websites.  Virtual Vocations is a similar service, with a free limited membership option.

If you have tech expertise, check the remote job listings on Stack Overflow and Github

You can use traditional job boards like IndeedCareer Builder or The Muse to search for remote work, but be aware that their definition of "remote" might not mean "location independent."  Look for "full time telecommuting" positions.

Applying for Remote Work

Tailor your resume to the listing.  You should be writing a new resume, specifically for each job you apply for.  Locate keywords in the listing and include them in your resume.  Regardless of whether a computer or a person is sorting through resumes, you want to be sure they find the keywords they're looking for.

Look for the key tasks and qualifications on the job listing, and use your resume to explain exactly how they fit your strengths, and how your specific past experience demonstrates your ability to be successful in the role.  Use specific numbers if you can.

Your resume and cover letter must be perfectly formatted, succinct, easy to read, and each must fit on one side of a single sheet of paper.  If you are sending your resume digitally, send it as a PDF.

Getting The Interview

The day after you applied for the job, follow up with the hiring manager by phone.  Do not skip this step.  Make sure they received your resume, and if there's any question, offer to email it to them directly.  Here are some suggestions to guide your conversation:

Hi, this is Dan Greatley. I sent over my application yesterday for your Customer Relationship Manager position, and I wanted to make sure you received it.”

“I’d like to talk to you about the position, and get your thoughts on whether I would be a good fit. When could we schedule an interview?”

“I understand you’re busy, since I’m sure you’re getting lots of applicants for such a great opportunity. But I think I would be a perfect fit. When would be a good time to follow up with you?

Consider the process from the hiring manager's perspective.  Instead of choosing from a small pool of applicants in the immediate geographic area, and meeting with each applicant in person, the hiring manager will need to sift through hundreds of electronic applications.  Most of those applications will be terrible—poorly written or totally unqualified.  But a large number of qualified applicants will be left for the manager to sort through, and he needs to separate the ones who will be successful from the ones who won't.  Hiring someone who doesn't work out is costly, so choosing an applicant is a risky business.

Remote work by nature requires a self-starter, someone who can do what needs to be done without being prodded.  But how do you identify a self-starter from an electronic application?  It's impossible—the job application process is mostly passive.  A self-starter wouldn't just fire off an application and cross their fingers, they'd do something active, like track the hiring manager down and set up a meeting.

Tracking Down the Hiring Manager

Most job listing sites don't include the hiring manager's contact information.  You'll need to track them down personally.  If you have enough information, you might be able to find their profile on LinkedIn.  But for the most part, you're going to be working the phones.

If you don't have a phone number for the hiring manager, go to the company's website, call the main number, and ask how to reach the hiring manager for your job.  If you don't know the hiring manager's name, just ask whoever answers the phone.  Get names and direct phone numbers ("in case I get disconnected") every time you're transferred to someone else.  Write them down.  If you're not successful the first time, wait a while (a few hours or the next day) and call again.  Be polite, friendly, and professional, but tenacious about getting your interview.

Here's some ideas for phone calls.  Try to find out the hiring manager's name, and use it once you have it.

Hi, this is Dan Greatley, I’m looking for the hiring manager for the Customer Relationship Manager position. Could you tell me who I should reach out to?”

“I’m looking to follow up on my application for the Customer Relationship Manager position. Can you tell me who the hiring manager is? [wait for response] What’s the best way to reach out to him/her?”

“I have a question about the Customer Relationship Manager position you’re hiring for. Is there someone I could talk to about that?”

“I’m certain the hiring manager is busy, but I’d like to get some feedback about my application. Could you tell me the best way to get in touch with him/her?

Schedule several hours every weekday for applying to jobs and following up with hiring managers.  If you want land a competitive job, you'll need to treat your job search like it's your new occupation.

Dan GreatleyComment