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How to interview for a remote IT job
Employers are now more willing to allow IT talent to work from home. When interviewing for a remote IT position, use these 5 tips to stand out
In IT, it's a job hunter’s market right now, Sarah Stoddard, community expert at the jobs site Glassdoor, recently told us. Getting your dream job in tech no longer means relocating to Silicon Valley, Boston, or Seattle to compete for coveted positions. Employers, hungry for skilled IT talent, are increasingly willing to let employees work from anywhere if it will help them fill in-demand roles across the organization.
But don’t get overly confident if you are looking to score one of these work-from-home gigs. The competition will be fierce. According to Robert Half survey data, 77 percent of professionals want remote work, but despite this being one of the three top perks requested, just 14 percent of companies were offering remote opportunities. If you are going after a remote job, you may only have one chance to make a good impression: You’ll have to nail the interview.
[ Which of today's IT roles are vanishing? Read our related article, 4 dying IT jobs. ]
“Understand that hiring a remote employee takes a great deal of trust, and employers need to see proof that you are a trustworthy candidate,” said Kitty Brandtner, director of major accounts at LaSalle Network. “Reliability and trust are big factors when managing a remote employee. If those two things are missing, it just won’t work.”
Here are five tips for putting your best foot forward in a remote job interview.
1. Your technical skills matter most
During a traditional interview, hiring managers are often looking for a personality fit. Will this person fit in with the culture? Will they get along with others in the office? These attributes are certainly important for any new hire, but for remote employees, it’s your technical skills that you’ll be graded on above all.
[ Is your career stuck in neutral? Read our related article, Is your IT career stalled? 7 tips to get back on track. ]
“Candidates have to nail the technical interview,” said Brandtner. “Many times, when employers are open to remote workers, it is as a result of a talent shortage. To that end, candidates interviewing for remote roles need to ensure they have the necessary skill set required in the job description at a minimum.”
Be upfront about your technical strengths and willing to defend any areas of improvement - or else it might be a short interview.
2. Address their top concern: Staying connected
“In addition to strong technical skills, when I hire remote IT employees, I look for people who can handle and embrace the challenge of connecting and staying connected as a remote employee,” said Jennifer Pitts, HR business partner for TomTom.
Pitts says this should be a shared responsibility between employer and employee, so proactively addressing how you plan to stay connected can help you stand out.
“I want people who will go the extra mile to connect to the company, their manager, and their team members to ensure their success. Providing specific examples of these skills in a resume or cover letter, especially if he/she will be managing others, sets an applicant apart because many technical applicants don’t highlight these skills,” she says.
Ryan Sutton, district president for Robert Half Technology, offers up a few suggestions for getting this conversation started: “Show that you are a proficient communicator and productive worker by initiating a conversation with the hiring manager about what they expect from their remote employees and how they like to keep in contact. Will you set up a weekly touch-base, or will you have regular status updates every few days? Do they prefer to video call to get ‘face time’ with their staff?”
3. Highlight past work-from-home experience
Dig through your career history and be ready to bring up any and all examples of working remotely – whether it was a full-time remote position or a handful of work-from-home days in a past job.
“Employers care about the results achieved in past roles,” says Brandtner. “Have examples of past remote projects you worked on, the feedback you received, and a timeline of how and when it was completed. If you haven’t worked remotely before, explain how you would approach a specific project while remote and how you would communicate throughout.”
If you are worried you don’t have enough remote work experience, focus on the technology you’ve used to work efficiently with others that don’t necessarily tie you to a specific place, like Slack or Google Drive. “Be sure to highlight your experience with collaboration tools that will keep projects on time and on track regardless of distance,” says Sutton.