How the Remote Hiring Process Works
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers are pivoting to full-time remote work—perhaps permanently in some cases. Companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Shopify have announced plans to allow some or all of their employees to work from home indefinitely.
Mark Zuckerberg also announced that Facebook employees who currently work remotely will have until January 1, 2021 to inform the company about their new location. At that point, their pay will be adjusted to reflect the cost of living in their area.
Cheaper overhead is one reason why remote employers endorse telecommuting.
But there are plenty of benefits of remote work arrangements for employees as well. According to a survey from video conferencing technology firm OWL Labs, 83% of respondents said that being able to work remotely would make them happier. Perhaps that explains why more of those employees surveyed would likely look for another job if they could no longer continue remote work.
If you’d like to join this workforce and land your own work-from-home job, it’s helpful to understand the remote hiring process. While many aspects of the interview process are similar to the in-person version, there are enough subtle differences that it pays to read up before you jump in.
How the Remote Hiring Process Works
Just as with the traditional interview process, every company is different. Some make offers quickly, while others have multiple rounds of interviews, require pre-employment tests and sample work, and take a long time to make an offer.
Here are the steps you may encounter during the remote hiring process.
1. Find Remote Jobs
The best job search plan is multi-pronged. Don’t rely solely on one source for job opportunities. Let your professional network know that you’re looking, search for online job listings, and follow your dream employers on social media.
You never know where your dream job will come from.
If you’re looking for your first remote job, you might also broaden your search to include freelance, contract, and part-time opportunities. Companies are more willing to take a chance on a short-term contract worker. Plus, your temporary job may evolve into a full-time role—or give you the remote work experience that other employers are seeking.
Looking for online job listings? While you can find plenty of opportunities on job search engines and general job search websites by searching for keywords like “remote,” “work from home,” and “telecommuting,” you should also give niche job boards a try. Remote job boards such as FlexJobs, WeWorkRemotely, and Remote.com offer work-from-home job listings.
2. Get Selected for an Interview
To get to the interview stage, you need to get past the applicant tracking system and impress the hiring manager. This means decoding the job listing to determine which skills, qualifications, and achievements are most attractive to the employer and then using those keywords in your resume and cover letter as well as during the job interview.
When you’re applying for a remote job, it’s especially important to show that you have both the hard and soft skills that are necessary for success in the role.
Remember that your prospective manager may not be able to train you in person. In fact, they may not even meet you in person for quite some time—or at all.
You need to be able to demonstrate that you can jump into the role without a lot of oversight and be a success, starting on day one.
Emphasize your job-specific skills—project management, administrative skills, or your familiarity with software packages—but also demonstrate your people skills, such as communication, teamwork, and self-motivation.
Finally, if you have experience working from home, be sure to highlight it. Being able to manage your time, collaborate from a distance, and troubleshoot your own technical difficulties are valuable skills. Most employers with remote positions would prefer to hire someone with remote work experience, whether it’s from a previous job, freelance or contract work, or entrepreneurial ventures.
3. Expect to Do Multiple Video Interviews
The interview process seems to get longer and more involved every year, and the remote hiring process is no different. You should prepare for multiple phone or video interviews, which may involve hiring managers, prospective colleagues, and human resources.
If you’re new to video job interviews, prepare beforehand, and you’ll feel more relaxed during the discussion. A ResumeGo survey shows that employers most commonly use these video platforms:
- Zoom: 43%
- Skype: 12%
- Google Meet/Hangouts: 19%
- Microsoft Teams: 7%
- Cisco WebEx: 5%
- Other: 14%
Get comfortable with the most common technologies and use them to do practice interviews with friends who can critique your performance. Be sure to dress appropriately and set up a professional workspace as soon as you’re interviewing so that you’re ready to go. Skip the zany Zoom backgrounds and keep it work-appropriate.
Be ready to do a video interview right away. Employers may send screening questions or do a phone call first, or they may move right to video chat.
4. Prepare for Remote Work Questions
Prepare to answer interview questions about your work experience, qualifications, skills, and goals. In addition, expect the hiring manager to ask interview questions aimed at determining whether you can work from home productively and successfully. These may include:
At some point during the interview process, the employer may also ask you for your location—even if your job is entirely remote. This is because some jobs are location-specific due to legal or tax requirements, among other reasons.
5. Plan to Take Pre-Employment Tests or Do a Sample Project
Many employers conduct pre-employment skills assessments or ask employees to complete a sample project during the interview process. For remote jobs, these tools may be even more important. Anyone can claim to possess a skill, but these techniques provide proof of an applicant’s abilities in addition to offering insight into how they work.
After the Interview
Send a Thank-You Note
Regardless of whether you intend to pursue the job, send a thank-you note or email as soon as possible after the job interview to express your gratitude for the opportunity. You can also use this note to re-emphasize your qualifications or clarify points from the interview.
Get an Offer Letter or a Rejection
Once the interview process is completed, you can expect either an offer letter or a rejection letter. Typically, these will be sent via email and follow a template that the company uses for these communications.
Again, it’s hard to say how long it might take to receive word about the job. Some organizations are quite prompt, while others leave workers hanging. Occasionally, you may even run into a company that “ghosts” prospective employees, leaving them dangling without a definite yes or no.
As frustrating as this situation might be, consider that you’ve probably had a lucky escape. A company that treats its job candidates poorly will probably do the same to its employees.
Decide Whether to Accept the Job
- The compensation, including benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and sick time.
- The corporate culture and work environment. Are there other perks that would make up for a lower salary, for example? And, on the flip side, are you certain that you’ll achieve the work-life balance you need? Not every remote work situation is conducive to unplugging at the end of a workday. Make sure that the company's expectations align with your personal needs.
- The path forward. Will you have opportunities to learn and grow? Is there a path to promotion if you want one, or other chances to move closer to your goals?
Onboarding and Orientation
Finally, if you receive an offer and accept the position, you can usually expect to participate in an onboarding process or orientation program. For remote workers, these often take the form of interactive sessions and meetings via Zoom or a similar platform. Some companies use video chats to help new coworkers connect with each other socially during the onboarding process.
How to Get Hired for a Remote Job
Emphasize Your Qualifications: Match your skills to the requirements in the job listing, but don’t forget to highlight any remote work experience as well.
Make a Good Impression in the Video Interview: Dress professionally and practice using the video conferencing software before the meeting.
Prepare to Answer Remote Work Questions: Demonstrate that you have the initiative, responsibility, and time management skills to succeed.
Send a Thank-You Note: As soon as possible after the job interview, send a thank-you note expressing your gratitude and emphasizing your skills.
SHRM. “COVID-19 Ushers in New Outlook on Hiring Remote Workers.” Accessed June 2, 2020.
The Wall Street Journal. "For Many, Remote Work Is Becoming Permanent in Wake of Coronavirus." Accessed June 2, 2020.
Reuters. “With Remote Work Plan, Facebook Dashes Hopes of Paycheck Arbitrage.” Accessed June 2, 2020.
OWL Labs. “State of Remote Work 2019.” Accessed June 2, 2020.
Remote.co. “What is Your Hiring Process for Remote Workers?” Accessed June 2, 2020.
ResumeGo. “Virtual Job Interviews During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Accessed June 2, 2020.
OWL Labs. “Remote Hiring Guide.” Accessed June 2, 2020.
Talent Board. "The 2017 Talent Board Candidate Experience Benchmark Research: Pre-Employment Assessments and Testing." Accessed June 2, 2020.
SHRM. “Virtual Onboarding of Remote Workers More Important Than Ever.” Accessed June 2, 2020.