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Written by Susan ShorSusan Shor

Applying for jobs remotely: is it any different?

6 min read
Artwork by:Antonina Kasyanikova
There’s a big world out there and you’re itching to explore it, but let’s face it, you have to eat. A remote job may be the answer. The blog below gets to the nitty gritty of what you need to know about securing a job that also lets you pack your bag and move on when you want to.

Applying for any job, remote or office-bound, requires an excellent resume and cover letter. You know that. You’re proud of your work, but you’re looking for flexibility and perhaps a chance to stay out of the cold or jump into your ski clothes, whichever suits you.

Getting the right blend of “I’m dedicated to my job” and “I don’t want to come to the office” takes forethought beyond typing “remote work” into a search engine. Luckily, we’ve got your back.

Below, we will discuss the answers to the following:

  • What should you know about remote work?
  • What do employers look for in remote workers?
  • How do you best tailor your application?

What to know about remote work

First, you need to know that every company has a different definition of “remote.” Some may mean that you can work anywhere at any time, but others may put restrictions on your geography or time.

Some job advertisements say remote, but then they qualify that by saying, “in X area.” That probably means that they want you in the same time zone or available to come to the office for meetings or other company events.

Others qualify “remote” with “must be able to work X time zone hours.”

Expert tip

Remote vocabulary

  • Distributed workforce: The company employs people in many areas who mostly work remotely. It may have one or more physical offices. Resources are available in the cloud.
  • Flexible work: This may refer to a company that allows people to work when and where they want as long as tasks are completed on time and accurately.
  • Hybrid work: A combination of work-from-home and in-office work.
Paper plane with resume letter
Paper plane with resume letter

What employers look for in remote workers

Be aware that if you apply for remote work, chances are your prospective employer will want you to have not only the hard skills necessary for the job but the ability to work independently. Yes, you will have access to coworkers and your supervisor, but you must be able to function mostly on your own.

Also know that depending on the type of work you do, your employer may be monitoring your time spent working, your activity online, or the tasks you complete. Whether you find this more intrusive than the boss physically watching you in the office is a matter of your temperament and comfort level.

The top attributes recruiters want to see in candidates seeking remote work:

  • Communication. This is perhaps even more important than if you are in an office where you can turn to your neighbor and ask a question or impart information. Remote workers have to make an effort to send a Slack or get more formal with a meeting invite when they need something.
  • Confidence. You need to trust that you can do the job but also have the confidence to ask questions without feeling that you will look incompetent. In addition, you will need to drive your own career advancement by asking for assignments that help you grow and learn.
  • Time management. When working remotely, it may be fine to stretch your day out or work early in the morning, take a four-hour surf break, and then work in the evening, but you’ve got to work – and do it efficiently.

How to tailor your application

So how do you assure employers that they can trust you to get the job done well from a city halfway around the world or your basement office? And how do you get the interview in the first place?

The key is honesty. Make sure it’s obvious what type of remote work you are looking for. Use the summary of your resume and your cover letter to explain why you want remote work and what you can accomplish independently. 

Highlight any technical skills that will make the transition to remote work easy for you. If you have already worked remotely, make that clear and use examples of your remote achievements throughout your application.

Expert tip

A couple of don’ts

  1. Don’t apply for a job and then mention in the interview that you’re not really on the East Coast, but you’re sure you can make it work.
  2. Don’t get too personal in your explanation of why you are seeking remote work. Your employer doesn’t want to know that you prefer to keep your baby home instead of putting her in daycare.

Key takeaways

  • Make sure you understand the type of remote job you are applying for
  • Be clear that you are only seeking remote work
  • Highlight the qualities you have that will ensure employers you are able to work independently and reliably in both your resume and cover letter
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