Remote work has never been more accessible. COVID-19 has caused a permanent shift toward remote work and large companies like Twitter, Square, and Shopify have said all their staff can work remotely permanently even when their offices reopen.
That doesn't mean finding a remote job is easy. The competition for remote jobs has never been higher–and remote work isn't without its challenges–but if you're ready to work remotely, we've got an in-depth guide based on our experience as hiring managers, as well as our own experience running a remote job board.
If you follow the steps outlined below, you'll dramatically increase your chances of finding the right role and getting hired.
Decide if remote work is right for you
Before we dive into the mechanics of finding a remote job, it's important to get clear on whether a remote job is right for you. Yes, there are a load of benefits to working remotely but people tend to conflate telecommuting, working from home, and a truly remote roles with a flexible schedule. In practice, each of these categories are different.
So, what is remote work? There is no one-size-fits-all definition but in general remote work is a working style that lets you work outside a traditional office environment based on the idea that work can be done from anywhere.
As we alluded to before, not every remote job is the same. Here are a few things you should do to assess remote opportunities to determine which roles might be right for you:
- Clarify what you're looking for: Applying for every remote job you see without understanding what you're looking for might work, but it'll take longer and your results won't be as good. Invest time thinking through what software and tools you like to work with, what type of team you want to work on, the problems you want to solve, and the salary and benefits you expect. Use our remote company database.
- Consider how much stability you need: There are many ways to work remotely. You can be a full-time, salaried employee with benefits. You could also work on a contract basis for a single company for a set period of time. Or you could join the ranks of the growing number of remote freelancers who work with multiple companies at once. Think through what will work for you. If you need stability and a stable career path, look for full-time positions at established remote companies. Flexibility and freedom? A contract or freelance position might be better.
- Think about when and where you want to work: Office jobs tend to have expectations around when and where you work, generally in the office 9-to-5. Remote work can be a lot more flexible. For example, you could work at a company that has no set hours or location and allows employees to work from wherever and whenever they are most productive.
- Think about the kind of company you want to work for: You want to get along with the people you work with and be excited about the company's mission and values. This can be more difficult if you work at a company with a majority in-person team with a few remote employees. There's a huge difference between working a job where you're the only one not in the office and one where everyone is 100% remote and time zone agnostic.
- Consider what management style you enjoy: Remote companies and their managers can vary dramatically. One company may work a 9-to-5 schedule across a single time zone or country while others work asynchronously and communicate primarily through writing. No one style is inherently better than other but you need to figure out if it'll work for you.
Understand the different types of remote work
Not every remote role is the same but most remote workers tend to fall into one of the following:
- Working from home (or work from home or WFH): Employees work from home at least some of the week but may be expected to live within commuting distance of office. If you simply want to work from home, we've got an in-depth guide on how to ask to work from home.
- Remote employees: Full-time employees who never commute to an office and instead work from their home office, a co-working space, or wherever they please. Depending on the company, they may be allowed to work from anywhere or be bound by particular countries or time zones.
- Freelancers: Freelancers aren't full-time employees of a company. Instead, they contract themselves out for a specific rate for a length of time or project to one or more companies. They are typically self-employed but some work through employment agencies or marketplaces.
- Contractors: Contractors are a type of freelance who typically work full-time for a single company. Unlike full-time remote workers, contractors generally don't receive benefits like healthcare, parental leave, etc. The exception to this is when fully remote companies employ international talent as contractors to avoid the complexities of overseas tax and payroll requirements but still offer benefits.
- Digital nomads: Digital nomads can be remote employees, freelancers, or contractors who make a living online while traveling full-time, working whenever and wherever they please.
- Teleworking (or telecommuting or telecommuters): This is an older term that describes the practice of working from somewhere other than the main company office. This is generally synonyms with working from home.
Look at remote job boards
Not every job board makes it easy to find remote job listings. To speed up your search, we recommend starting with job sites that specialize in remote work.
We've done an extensive search for the best sites for remote roles and compiled them into one complete list but here are a few to get you started:
- Himalayas: Himalayas is the best place for remote job seekers to find a job. We're focused on providing a job search experience that has great UX, focused on speed and efficiency. There are no third-party recruiters, so you'll speak directly to hiring managers and we've got a wide range of remote company profiles you can use to find companies whose culture and mission match your values. Find a remote job on Himalayas today.
- FlexJobs: FlexJobs is a popular job site to find remote, work from home, and telecommuting job opportunities that has been around since 2007. The downside of FlexJobs is that it costs money to see the entire job description.
- Remote.co: Remote.co focuses purely on remote work jobs, choosing to exclude telecommute and location-based work from home jobs. You can filter results by job categories and job type to find entry level, freelance, high-paying, part-time, and international remote positions.
- Working Nomads: Run by a pair of digital nomads who travel while working remotely. There are job postings in web development, marketing, management, sales, customer service, design, and more.
- Virtual Vocations: A family-owned and operated website that was started in 2007 and is based in the U.S. They’re also a 100% remote company, so they know what it takes to make virtual work, work.
- Jobspresso: An established remote work job board trusted by some of the world’s top startups and remote companies, such as Automattic, Zapier, and Trello.
And it goes without saying, if a job sounds too good to be true it probably is. Unlike in-person jobs where you can visit the office and get a feel for the vibe, it's harder to get a clearer picture of the company and its work environment.
Keep an eye out for these red flags:
- Suspect jobs ads: That say things like "unlimited earning potential, investment opportunities and seminars", or "quick money".
- Requests for personal information as part of the application process: This could include your social security number, birth date, credit card number, or anything else early in the interview process or as part of your application.
- Payment to apply: If you need to pay to apply, it's probably not a real job.
- Offered a job right away: If you're offered a job without an interview or without the company asking for references be wary.
- Excessive micromanagement and employee tracking: Companies who rely on micromanagement and employee tracking to ensure productivity are likely believers in one or more of the most common remote work myths, and aren't places you want to work at.
You should always research the company before applying, Himalayas has 1,300+ real remote companies you can explore.
Seek out hybrid, remote-friendly, or fully remote companies
Despite most companies supporting remote work during the pandemic, if you want to work remotely permanently we recommend looking at companies who have made remote work fundamental to their business. Namely hybrid, fully remote, remote-first, and remote-friendly companies:
- Hybrid companies: Hybrid companies have at least one physical location while supporting remote work.
- Remote-friendly companies: Hybrid companies that have remote options but tend to maintain core working hours and require time zone overlap with a physical office.
- Fully remote companies: Companies with no physical office and a fully remote employee base.
- Remote-first companies: Companies that have been remote from day one, increasingly common as remote work becomes more popular.
Working at a company that understands remote work means you avoid the issues that stem from transitioning and making remote work work. Remote companies put a lot of thought and effort into building a strong remote culture and good remote employee experience.
If you're looking for remote companies, we recommend starting here:
- 1,300+ remote companies: Our remote company database is a great way to find remote companies whose culture, mission, and tech stack match your values. Our in-depth profiles include company descriptions, perks, benefits, and even tech stacks so you'll have all the information you need before applying.
- 25+ fully remote companies that let you work from anywhere: This blog post from Zapier has a bunch of companies who have fully embraced remote work by allowing employees to work from anywhere.
- Remote-friendly companies: This is a crowdsourced GitHub page with a list of companies that support remote work for at least some employees but information is limited to the company name, website, and region.
If you find a remote company you're interested in but it doesn't have any open opportunities, you can still reach out and see if they have any positions for you based on your skills and experience.
A good way to do this is to direct message the manager of the particular area you'd like to work in. This is usually done via email but Twitter and LinkedIn DMs can work. This shows you are resourceful, intuitive and interested enough in the company to do the work. It also gives you a chance to stand out without having to make it through a traditional requirement process.
Update your résumé to show you're ready to work remotely
Before you start applying for job openings, tweak your résumé to show that you're not only perfect for the role but also an ideal remote worker:
- Update the location of previous roles: If you worked from home at a previous role, put the location as Work from home, Remote, or Virtual. This shows the hiring manager you're already familiar with remote work and will help you get past the initial screening process. Even if you've only been working from home a few days per week note it.
- Highlight your experience managing or coordinating teams across geographies and time zones: Even if you don't have experience working remotely, if you manage a team across countries or time zones it's worth noting. You might use a sentence like: "Led a cross-functional team of three designers, seven engineers, and two product managers across six different time zones and three countries."
- Emphasize your ability to work effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds: If you're applying to a fully distributed company it's helpful to show that you have experience working with people from different cultures. If you speak a second language highlight that too.
- Use words like "remote", "worked from home", and "virtual" on your résumé and LinkedIn profile: This will help you come up in searches when remote recruiters are looking for talent and it'll help you résumé get through any algorithmic screening in applicant tracking systems. You could include something like: "I'm currently working in a 19-person remote team spread across the six different time zones in three countries."
- Demonstrate that you have remote work skills: Remote work skills are a set of tangible and intangible skills that are essential to productivity in a remote work environment. Some important skills required for remote work include: being accountable, a self-starter, discipline, organization, problem-solving, punctuality, adaptability, effective communication, and strong time management.
If you don't have remote experience, do you have freelance experience? Experience running your own business? A side project? Any of these will help your résumé or cover letter stand out as they show you can work productively without supervision.
You'll also want to think through your online reputation. Remote jobs can get hundreds or even thousands of applicants and hiring managers don't have a lot of time to look through your application.
If you have a strong online presence and a nice website or portfolio, you'll stand out. If you Google yourself and nothing comes up, consider creating a personal site or writing a few blog posts.
Ace your remote interview
Hiring managers need to understand whether you're ready to work remotely and more importantly, whether you'll get along with the team and add to the company culture. Here are the traits and questions that run through their heads during interviews:
- Interest in our mission: Does this person care about what we are trying to accomplish? Or are they just looking for any remote job? Are they asking smart questions? (Read our guide on the best questions to ask in an interview!)
- Discipline and work ethic: How committed is this person to their work and helping others? Do they care about their craft? Or are they only looking to escape their commute?
- Communication skills: Is this person a good communicator? Can they write well? Are they able to communicate asynchronously? Or will they be a drain on the team?
- Autonomy and independence: Can this person be trusted to work alone? Have they previously work remotely? Do they like working independently and managing their own time? Or will they require a lot of micromanagement?
- Self-awareness: Do they understand their weaknesses and strengths? Are they comfortable communicating their needs and desires to the team? Will they help make the team run more effectively? Or do they think they are good at everything?
- Resourcefulness: If this person doesn't know how to do something, are they able to figure it out themselves or reach out to someone who can help? Or will they sit around and do nothing?
- Humility: Do they talk about their shared accomplishments? Or do they only focus on their own personal achievements?
These traits are important for any job but foundational to making remote work work. Like any interview, you should be prepared to answer behavioral interview questions designed to reveal your problem-solving skills, abilities, personality, and whether you're the right candidate for the role. Be prepared to answer questions like:
- Can you give me an example of a time when you had an inter-team conflict? How did you handle it?
- Give me an example of when you didn’t meet a customer’s expectations. What happened, and were you able to turn the bad situation into something useful?
- What can you contribute to this company?
- Do you have any questions for me?
- Can you name three things you improved at your previous company?
- Tell me about a time when you were under a lot of time pressure. What was going on, and how did you get through it?
- Can you describe a situation when you were able to use persuasion to convince someone to see things your way?
- Do you prefer delegating tasks or doing them yourself?
We recommend using the STAR method, a structured approach that involves outlining the specific situation, task, action, and end result:
- Situation: Describe the situation you were in. Use a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of your past experiences. Your response should provide the interviewer with enough detail to understand the situation clearly.
- Task: What goals were you working toward?
- Action: Describe the actions you took to address the situation while you should mention contributions from the team, it's important to focus on what you contributed. Hiring managers want to know what you did.
- Result: Describe the outcome of your actions and take credit for your achievements. What happened? What metrics were improved? How did your customers react to the new feature? What did you learn?
Finally, the interview is likely to be over Zoom or another video conferencing platform. It's a good idea to practice answering questions on camera, either by yourself or with a friend who can help. Get everything set up and learn to make eye contact while speaking into your webcam. Read our Zoom interview tips.
Don't focus on only the remote aspect of the job
While you want to emphasize you're a good fit for remote work, you don't want to come across as only wanting to join because you can work from home. It's a massive red flag when a candidate is obviously only applying because the position is remote, not because they want to work at the company.
When you're talking about why you want to work remotely, think about it from the hiring manager's perspective. Your motivators like skipping the daily commute and having better work-life balance can be framed in ways that are mutually beneficial. For example, you might be more productive because you have less interruptions at home than in an office.
When you're offered the opportunity to ask questions, it's the perfect time to demonstrate that you're the ideal candidate. Yes, you can ask about the remote culture of the company but you should also focus on the specific aspects of the role and its responsibilities like you would with any other interview.
Remember, job interviews are a conversation. You are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you. By asking good questions, you not only stand out as a candidate but also gain valuable insights into the work and what you'd be doing on a daily basis.
A remote job is still a job. The most important thing is to assess whether you'd enjoy remotely working at the company. Remote work isn't for everyone, some people thrive in an office environment.
There are challenges to working remotely that you need to understand:
- Loneliness: While remote work is becoming more common and people are learning how to build strong bonds online, not everyone likes it. If you thrive on in-person interaction then working from home can get lonely.
- Overworking: While some people believe that remote workers aren't really working, the opposite is often true. Without an office to leave, it can be a struggle to divide home life and work life. Remote burnout is a real thing and can happen quickly.
- Underworking: The opposite is also true. If you rely on direct supervision to get your work done then working from home might not be for you. While productivity generally increases when working remotely, some people aren't suited to remote work.
- Less impromptu moments: If you like chatting to colleagues in the hallway or grabbing a coffee in person then remote work might not be for you. You lose impromptu moments when you work from home and this becomes even more apparent when you work asynchronously.
- Less team social activities: If you love catching up with your team in person, remote work might be difficult. It's hard to get everyone together for Friday night happy hour when you all live in different countries. With that said, off-sites can help but they're less frequent and harder to organize.
Of course, there are also benefits and if you do everything outlined in this article, you'll be able to find and more importantly get hired for a remote job. You'll prove you not only have the skills for the role and can work well on your own, but more importantly that you understand what it means to work within a remote team.