Depending on your age, you may remember the days when finding a job meant scouring the newspaper classified section, calling people in your network on the phone, and maybe even faxing your cover letter and resume to employers. Of course, this has all changed over the past decade, with the COVID-19 pandemic putting remote work into overdrive.
Adding to this is the fact that more people than ever before are interested in working from home. According to FlexJobs, “65% of respondents reported wanting to be full-time remote employees post-pandemic, and 31% want a hybrid remote work environment—that’s 96% who desire some form of remote work.”
With this in mind, what can you do to stand out as a remote work applicant?
In many cases, you’re up against candidates from all over the world. If you don’t take steps to stand out, your resume will soon find its way into the trash pile and that’s not what you want. So before going any further, remember this: there’s no exact science to ensuring that your application stands out. Even when you do everything the right way, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll receive an interview invite.
Of course, that shouldn’t stop you from chasing after your dream job. When doing so, there are many steps you can take to stand out from other applicants.
1. Talk Up Your Remote Work Experience (if applicable)
This is all about showing the employer that you have experience working in a remote environment. This can be particularly beneficial to talk about for many reasons:
It’s less work for the company since you already have work from home experience.
You can prove that you have what it takes to work efficiently in a remote environment.
It’s less training costs, which leads to cost and time savings for the employer.
You don’t have to go overboard talking about your remote work experience, but make sure you mention it when applicable. Even if you’ve only worked from home part-time, include it in your cover letter and resume. You’ll likely be up against candidates who don’t have remote work experience, so emphasizing that you do is a big plus.
2. Focus on Your Unique Skills
This is your chance to show the hiring company that you have special and unique skills that pertain to the position you’re applying for. For instance, working efficiently in a remote environment requires the use of technology including:
Communication apps, such as Slack and Zoom.
Collaboration tools, such as Asana and Basecamp.
Project management tools, such as Proofhub.
You likely have more special skills than you realize, so take the time to consider which ones best align with what the hiring company is looking for. For example, there’s nothing wrong with listing basic skills on your resume such as Microsoft Word and Google Docs but what you want to focus on your unique skills that will set you apart.
3. Read Company Reviews Online
Before you do anything, read as many company reviews online as you can find. These reviews, created by former and current employees, give you a better understanding of how you’ll fit in, company culture, and things you can include in your cover letter and resume to help you stand out.
For example, when you show you’re familiar with the company culture, the company is more likely to look favorably at your application. This shows them that you’ve done your homework, which makes it easier for you to dive straight into your job responsibilities without too much hands-on training, which can be especially appealing to recruiters when considering the way onboarding and training new remote workers is a whole different ballgame from traditional hiring.
You don’t want to be that annoying person who constantly follows up with the hiring manager. However, it never hurts to send a quick email asking if they received your application and where they are in the hiring process. When you get to that point in the waiting game, here are some tips for helping you craft the perfect follow-up email:
Address the hiring manager by name.
Get straight to the point.
Write only one or two paragraphs, at the most.
Include your contact information.
There’s no guarantee that you’ll receive a response, but as well all know from long-running parental advice, following up on an active application will never do more harm than good.
5. Let Your Cover Letter Talk the Talk
Your resume is important, but your cover letter is where you shine. This allows you to show why you’re worthy of an interview. When applying for a remote work position, there are some specific details to include in your cover letter:
Any experience you have working in a remote environment.
Flexibility to work full or part-time remotely, if applicable.
Special skills in regards to working efficiently and effectively in a remote environment.
Focus on writing an appealing cover letter that will have the hiring manager wanting to learn more about you. To evaluate how appealing a cover letter is, write several of them, let them sit for a few hours, and then compare them to one another, or ask someone else to read them for you. There’s a good chance that you (or your test subject) will be attracted to one over the rest.
Questions to Answer
There are a variety of questions you can answer before applying to any job that will help you when writing your cover letter, tweaking your resume, and (hopefully) communicating with the hiring manager. For example:
What are the two or three things about you that make you special? What allows you to stand out from other applicants?
Are you flexible in regards to working full and part-time remotely?
Are you able to share any past remote work successes?
What do you know about the company’s culture and hiring process that you can use to your advantage?
Do you know anyone who works at the company who can answer your questions or write a letter of recommendation?
What can you expect from how leadership manages their remote employees?
These are far from the only questions to answer, but they’re among the most powerful. By evaluating your eligibility for a position, you’ll feel more confident and prepared for the interview. If you get the position, you’ll most likely be micromanaged less due to your confidence and critical thinking.
Take a few hours to consider these questions for yourself, along with any others that pop up along the way. Doing so will help you better understand what you want from your next job, how to best connect with the hiring company, and what you’re getting into if you’re offered a position.
When searching and applying for a job as a remote work applicant, it’s critical to do whatever you can to gain the inside track. Not only does this allow you to stand out, but it’ll also work in your favor as you prepare for virtual job interviews.
There’s no shortage of steps you can take and moves you can make, but starting with the five above will put you on the right path. The job market is more competitive than ever, but don’t let that scare you. Do your part in showing that you have what it takes to work efficiently and effectively in a remote environment.