“I need a job!” Is that your constant refrain these days? We’ve all been there at one time or another, but it’s always hardest when you’re trying to land your first work-at-home job. Breaking into a remote career may feel like diving into a scary new world where there are none of the traditional landmarks – but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve been there already, and I’ve got eight of my top tips for you today to help you snag your first work-from-home gig.
Apply Up and Down
When you’re trying to break into the remote career world, you shouldn’t limit your job search to whatever few job listings you find that are a perfect match with your qualifications. Rather, you should be open to applying for jobs above your experience – and jobs that you may be overqualified for. This wide-spectrum approach will give you the greatest chance of landing that first work-from-home job.
Look for positions a little above your skill set; don’t ignore them because you think you’re automatically disqualified for only having three years of experience when they want five, or not knowing how to use Zendesk yet. If the position sounds like one you’d be excited to fill – perhaps it’s even your dream job! – you should throw your hat in the ring. You’re dedication and passion for the prospective position can carry you far in an interview, and that human touch could win you the job.
You should also look for jobs a little below your skill set – some hiring managers may be concerned about your commitment, wondering why you’d be interested in a job that you’re overqualified for. However, your honest explanation that you’re truly interested in the position for the foreseeable future can set their minds at ease. Or you may find yourself being offered a different position for which you’re better qualified in the interview – one you might never have discovered if you weren’t open to a job a little below your career stage.
Watch for Scams
The Internet can be just as dangerous as the real world – full of folks trying to scam you out of your money or your personal information. Don’t help them get you! When you’re searching for and applying for virtual positions, make sure you research each company before applying. Don’t fall for a scam because you’re not thinking through each job listing you encounter.
A good general rule of thumb is this: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Thoroughly research the company behind your dream job – you can check Glassdoor to see what other employees have said, Google the company name to see if there are any fraud reports on them, or ask other work-at-home folks in private groups like mine on Facebook what they know.
Another good rule: if they ask you for money or other personal information (like your bank account number) before you've even reached the interview process, it’s probably a scam. And no one should be asking for your SSN up front, if at all – that’s something that comes when you’re doing the new-hire paperwork for a work-at-home employee position.
Make Sure Your Resume is Tailored to Each Job
Next to the job application, your resume is the first face that you show to a prospective employer. It’s vital that face be attractively put together in a way designed to entice that specific employer. You know what they’re looking for; you’ve read the job listing. Now highlight your skills and experience that show why you’re a great fit for the job. Don’t simply send one generic resume to every company where you apply – they can plainly see that you didn’t put a lot of effort into your first impression with them. Why would they believe you’d bring any enthusiasm and dedication to the job in question?
If you don’t have the time to fully customize your resume for every single job application, you should at least have a few different templates geared to different job types. If you’re a freelance writer who also dabbles as a virtual assistant, it might mean having one resume for your writing skills and one for your virtual assistant experience. With the bulk of the work done to tailor it to the job type you’re going for, you can just spend a few moments tweaking it to match the specific job listing in question. Make sure that includes using any keywords that show up in the job listing or are important in your industry.
Take the Interview Seriously
Just because you’re trying to work from home doesn’t mean that a prospective job – and especially the interview for it – will allow you to be more casual or informal than a typical workplace. In fact, you need to be even more put together with a strong projection of competence. Why? Because the company needs to know that you can operate honestly with dedication when you’re not in the presence of an on-site supervisor. They must feel like they can trust you, or you’re not going to get that job.
So, take the interview seriously. Show up on time – that means being ready and at your computer at least five minutes before a video interview, or being in a quiet place for a phone interview. It means being prepared to discuss the job and industry, and know what you plan to say. It means having an answer for any employment gaps that still maintain their confidence in you – and, yes, breaks due to retirement, going back to school, or being a stay-at-home mom are all acceptable.
Check Your Equipment Beforehand
Never head into a job interview or a skills demonstration or test without testing your equipment first. The reliability of your equipment is a big component of working online – your prospective employer needs to see that everything’s working well, and nothing shatters their trust so quickly as you having technical difficulties.
If you’re going to have a video interview, test your webcam and your mic to ensure they’re both working correctly and providing clear video and sound. It’ll also help you discover whether there are any distracting background factors in your home that you may need to change before the meeting – like a loud AC unit or poorly lit area. If it’s a phone interview, make sure you’re in a quiet area with good cell reception. If you’ll be using your computer in any capacity, make sure there are no Windows or other program updates pending that could disrupt you – and test any programs you’ll be using to make sure they’re operating normally.
Set Aside Enough Time
When you’re looking for a remote job, there’s a good chance that everything is going to take longer than you think it is. The job search is involved, especially if you’re searching only the free websites, from Remote.co to the ProBlogger Job Board to Indeed. Saving time and peace of mind are two big reasons why I’m such a proponent of FlexJobs – their job listings are vetted so you don’t have to worry about scams, and you can set up auto-searches that notify you when a job you’d love is posted.
Make sure you set enough time aside for every part of your work-from-home job search journey. Remember that your job is finding a remote job, and treat it accordingly – take your time to do your resume and cover letters correctly, dedicate time to searching job listings, and then invest the time in getting your home office set-up for interviews, tests, and ultimately your work-at-home life.
Don’t Talk Yourself Out of an Offer
I see this so many times. You finally get an offer after months and months of applying. Then, the first thing you do is start looking for the downside. You head over to your favorite work-at-home Facebook Group and say, “Tell me all of the bad stuff.” Or, you head to Glassdoor and skip over all of the positive reviews just focusing on the negative. A few hours later, you're sending off an email to decline the interview. And you're back at square one.
We've learned to be cautious when it comes to work-at-home offers. I completely support performing due diligence. I'm talking about offers from well-known companies that we know are legit – companies who have employed thousands of remote workers over the years. The opportunity may not be perfect, but it may give you the much-needed experience to put on your resume that is going to help you land a better job. You aren't marrying your first work-at-home job. It's often just a stepping stone to something better.
There are red flags that you should watch out for with any offer – like not getting paid for worked performed. But many personal experiences shared on review sites are just that – personal experiences. A job may not have worked out for me, but maybe it's the perfect gig for you for right now. And remember, as with all online reviews, happy people often don't take the time to leave them. Take note of serious infractions, but take personality conflicts and minor infractions with a grain of salt.
If you know a company is legit and it works for your current situation, don't talk yourself out of an offer.
Looking for legitimate opportunities? Check out these posts:
- 150 Work at Home Jobs
- Customer Service Jobs
- Best Work-from-Home Companies
- FlexJobs – job board that verifies legitimacy
Present Yourself Professionally
Remember: just because you work from home doesn’t mean you can behave any less professionally in regards to your remote job. When being interviewed or working via video chat, dress appropriately. Present yourself with neat hair and appropriate makeup, if applicable.
Don’t forget about your home workspace: again, if you’re on video, you’ll need a backdrop that conveys professionalism. If you can work with your back to a clean, blank wall, that’s great. If not, be sure to keep your backdrop clean and neat, with any inappropriate items cleared out of your camera’s view. You should also ensure you have good lighting, that no windows are causing glare, and that your workspace is quiet.
These eight tips should have you prepared to get out there and land your first work-at-home job. Let me know how it goes, and remember – we’re rooting for you.