With millions of Americans still unemployed and many transitioning to working from home, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned an already competitive remote job market into an all-out battleground. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still find rewarding work as a telecommuter—that is, if you’re willing to do what it takes to stand out among the packed crowd.
Whether you’ve been sending out applications for weeks with no bites or you’re just starting out and don’t want to find yourself stuck, here are seven job search woes to avoid in your quest for remote work:
1. Not knowing what you’re looking for
Before you can find the remote job of your dreams, you need to know what your dream is. Develop a targeted idea of what you’re looking for in a job—whether that’s increased flexibility, greater fulfillment, or even just a bigger paycheck—as well as what you can bring to the table. What are your preferences, strengths, and values? How will these come into play in the remote workplace?
There are a number of career assessment tools that you can use to help narrow down your options, but don’t be discouraged if your results indicate you may not enjoy some parts of working from home. Remote jobs come in a variety of packages: some are more team-oriented, while some are more independent; some jobs involve frequent travel, while others allow you to work from home 100% of the time. With more and more professionals diving into remote work, you may also be able to find local resources, like coworking spaces, that can help ease your transition into telecommuting.
2. Not following application instructions
It seems like a simple slip-up, but this blunder can get you summarily disqualified from the hiring process. It may be tempting to skip sending over your salary requirements or wait until you hear back to include a list of references, but failing to include every piece of information requested in your first correspondence is a red flag for recruiters who are looking for detail-oriented professionals to work from home.
Some remote-enabled employers even include seemingly arbitrary—and oftentimes silly—instructions to weed out those who fail to read the job description carefully. Don’t let this be you: pay attention to detail and follow all instructions if you want to stay in the running for the position.
3. Not having the required qualifications
Recruiters, especially those working with remote companies, often have to sift through hundreds or even thousands of job applications for a single role—and they aren’t going to waste their time if they think the candidate at hand isn’t qualified. Take a look at the job description to figure out what strengths, experiences, and academic achievements the employer is looking for in a candidate, and highlight those on your resume and in your cover letter. You don’t want there to be any question of whether you’re capable of meeting expectations.
Putting keywords from the job ad front-and-center in your application can also increase the chances of your resume getting through automated applicant tracking software (ATS) programs and into the hands of an actual recruiter.
4. Not being technically savvy
Many remote employers expect potential employees to either already be familiar with the software and web applications they use, or be willing and able to pick them up quickly. When looking at job advertisements, make note of any programs that are named explicitly or ones that are listed under requirements for the role—and if you have experience with these applications, ensure your resume makes that clear.
If you don’t have specific experience with those tools, try to demonstrate your technical aptitude in other ways, perhaps by listing similar software programs you are familiar with on your application documents or by showing that you’re comfortable with programs like Skype and Whereby during your virtual interview. You can also find many free or low-cost courses on how to use these software programs online; completing one such course and listing it on your resume could give you a leg-up over other applicants.
5. Not demonstrating a history of working independently
Remote work requires professionals to be self-motivated, well-organized, and resourceful—you won’t have a boss shooting warning glares your way if you start late, nor will you have colleagues nearby to help you organize your files or troubleshoot technical problems. For this reason, employers value candidates who have the ability to manage glitches and resolve minor issues on their own without costing them time and money.
If you haven’t worked remotely before, use your resume and cover letter to highlight other instances where you’ve worked independently, perhaps in school or in a volunteer position.
6. Not being honest and authentic
During the application process, potential employers are on the lookout for applicants whose materials simply don’t add up. Recruiters will look not only at your resume and cover letter, but also at your social media profiles and your answers to their interview questions—and if you aren’t presenting a consistent front, they’ll see that as a red flag.
For best results, ensure you’re being authentic and honest both in your application materials and elsewhere online, and be upfront about any employment-related discrepancies like past firings or failed projects so the recruiter doesn’t feel misled. Remember, remote-enabled employers want to be able to trust their employees—and even something that seems like a little white lie could cost you the job—but every negative can be reframed as a positive if you focus on the lessons learned.
7. Not researching the company
Remote-friendly companies often have an extensive online presence, so don’t be afraid to make use of that in your job search. Find the employer’s website and look into the company’s culture and values, and scour the web for news about new product launches or changes within the company’s leadership. You may even have colleagues in your professional network or among your LinkedIn connections that can give you the insider scoop on the company. Being able to reference back to this information in an interview will set you apart from other applicants and show your interviewer that you’re serious about becoming a member of the team.
The bottom line
Identifying ways in which you may be inadvertently sabotaging your job search is the first step toward getting back on track. If you empower yourself to address struggles in your job search head-on and adjust your strategy accordingly, you’ll only be setting yourself up for future success.