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How to take the guesswork out of applying to a remote job

5 Min. ReadWork life

If you’re interested in pursuing a full-time, work-from-home position, you can’t afford to go into the hiring process blind.

Recognizing the potential to recruit from a wider talent pool and reduce overhead, many companies are shifting to remote-only structures. Those organizations now claim to be fully functional, distributed workplaces. But not all of them have considered the transition thoughtfully enough to deliver a positive and productive environment.

Learn how to make sure you’re choosing the right remote company for you.

Four ways to determine if a company’s approach to working remotely is right for you

Recognize the link between a company’s values and its remote philosophy

When evaluating a role at a remote organization, you should expect a shared value in delivering great work. But you have to also ensure the company makes time for being human.

Eliminating the need to go into an office is one of the core benefits of a remote workplace. But if your potential employer doesn’t value establishing boundaries between work and home life, then never commuting to the office also means you’re always available to work from home.

In the technology industry, you’re especially at risk of working longer remote hours. A recent survey found that 60% of employees work longer hours at home since the pandemic began. Large companies like Amazon and Microsoft were even worse offenders. So if you place a premium on being able to protect your personal time boundaries, you have to make sure your prospective remote workplace is on the same page.

A values statement, which is usually displayed on a company’s website, offers insight into whether your views are in alignment with a potential employer. And if your prospective future workplace doesn’t talk about its values, that’s a telling statement in its own right.

Ask the right questions

It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: Every job interview is between two parties. While of course you should expect to provide further details about your background and why you’re the right fit for the role, you should always come prepared with questions of your own as well.

The right questions enable you to assess whether a company is the right place for you. Don’t worry about broader subjects like 10-year plans for the business. Worry more about what it’s going to feel like to be part of the organization. Talk through the following topics to gain a clearer picture of those details.

  • Core working hours: Remote companies typically hire employees from multiple time zones. Some firms may allow you to shift your day around as needed. But you should know whether the company prefers to keep a specific schedule. For example, if most employees operate on Eastern Time and you live in California, you may need to be up earlier than usual for staff meetings. Additionally, you should ask about the company’s policy for blocking out time for lunch and breaks, which may not fall at the same time for everyone. By ensuring there’s a clear policy, you’ll better understand how well the company manages remote work.
  • Range of distribution: A remote-first workplace’s employees could be located anywhere in the world. You should ask whether any employees are based outside of the U.S., and if that will shift the cadence of your workflow. If you’re considering joining a globally remote team, then you should expect a level of asynchronous communication. Depending on your needs, that may not be ideal for the way you like to work.
  • Technology and equipment needs: The pandemic has proven that effective remote work relies on video conferencing. You should ask whether the company will provide you with any additional needs for an effective workstation, such as a camera, additional monitor, or ergonomic seating. Even though you’re working from home, the right company will still provide the right tools to establish a healthy and productive environment. Plus, you should also understand your prospective company’s plans for distributing office equipment. If you need to pick up equipment from an office, then the company’s commitment to remote work is questionable.
  • How the company shifted to remote work: You should ask how long the company has adopted a work-from-home policy. Last year, the pandemic forced most businesses to adopt and adapt to a remote work environment. But there’s a big difference between making an intentional move to a remote structure and having no other choice. Confirming these details is especially important as we approach a potential end to the pandemic. If an open position is remote now, you should clarify whether the company will remain distributed months into the future when your some of your coworkers may be able to retu
    o an office.
  • The company’s approach for fostering internal connection: Once you’ve reviewed a company’s values, you should ask how those extend to retaining a company culture. Working from home doesn’t mean you can’t feel like you’re still part of a team. Ultimately, companies looking to foster a sense of teamwork will provide opportunities for employees to connect and discuss non-work-related topics.

Do your research

When it comes to providing a work environment that’s built for long-term success, not all remote firms are created equal.

You should gather as much information as you can about your prospective employer’s history and how it operates. Employer review sites like Glassdoor can still provide inside knowledge about what it’s like to work there. But there may not be a lot of content depending on the size of the organization. If you can’t find many details about a company’s approach to remote work on review sites, consider asking a company’s employees about their experience. In recent years, applicants have grown bolder with using LinkedIn to gather information by sending messages to potential future employers.

That said, don’t overlook the details provided on a company’s website. By reading thoroughly, you will find answers in both what is included and what goes unsaid.

Learn how a company’s remote work functions by reading between the lines

You can gain credible insights into a company’s perspective on remote work simply by reading its job listing(s) closely. For example, if an organization uses language such as “we’re scrappy” or “we do what it takes to get the job done,” you may justifiably fear long hours. Or, if a company sends catered lunches to their employees, then they’re probably expecting you to eat at your desk while continuing to work.

Similarly, you should pay attention to the circumstances around when your contacts at a prospective new job communicate with you. Are they sending you emails on weekends, holidays, or late at night?

While the demands of managing work and personal obligations during a pandemic lead to unpredictable schedules, sending an off-hours email also delivers an unconscious signal. If a company values unplugging from work, you may see an acknowledgment of the message’s unusual timing from the sender. Failing that, you can always ask.

The bottom line is remote work isn’t for everybody. But if it’s important to you, then you need to be sure of what to look for in a remote company before accepting a job offer. With the right mix of research and preparation, you can ensure your next career move finds you right at home.