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How to get a remote job

Are you thinking of finding a new job? Are you dreaming of finding that perfect match company, where you are working on something you care deeply about with people you consider great friends?
If you haven't fallen in love with your career yet, you deserve to. There can be a plethora of reasons why you want a new job. Maybe you don't have one currently. Maybe your current job isn't fulfilling or fun. But like most people right now, there's a good chance you have been forced back into the office, and are now looking for a remote job. People are starting to realize what remote work really looks like (outside of a pandemic). People are working from cafes and co-working spaces instead of bedrooms. Couples are moving abroad to build their dream lives. Families are moving into places with more space and access to nature.
This article is a step-by-step instructional guide on how to get the remote job that will fuel whatever life you'd like to build.

Step 1: clarify what you are looking for

What do you value in your career?

This is one of the most fun steps. You'll need to outline what it is you want. Applying for a remote job without understanding what you are looking for is sort of like going fishing without knowing what bait to use. Trial and error will work, but it will take much longer with worse results.
Start by answering the following:
  1. What kind of products do I want to work on? - Software, services, consumer goods, etc.
  2. What kind of culture and working environment do I thrive in? - Fast-paced and energetic, relaxed and empathetic, wild and innovative, etc. - Synchronous vs. asynchronous, time zones, etc.
  3. What benefits would you like to have? - Salary, equity/shares, healthcare, pension, paid vacation, etc.

What value can you provide?

Think about the company you described above. How can you become an essential part of that company? What skills do you have that can contribute to the success of a company like that?
Note, this may or may not be within your existing field or area of expertise. Only you can answer that. If you work in sales but you hate sales, don't apply for the same role in a different company. If you love doing sales but hate the culture of the company you are at, find the same (or promoted) role at a new company or startup. Remember that switching career paths is generally much easier than people think.
Usually, jobs fall under one of the following categories:
  1. Tech and development (engineering)
  2. Business, legal and accounting
  3. Growth and Marketing (including sales)
  4. Product
  5. Human Resources
Get creative when thinking about this. When applying for a role, you need to have experience of some kind, but think outside the box. If you taught yourself how to code a side project, you are a developer. If you grew a TikTok account to hundreds of thousands of followers, you are a content marketer. If you used to be a freelancer, you know how to do sales.

Step 2: Prepare your remote profile

Building your credibility

When a hiring manager looks at an application, the first question they are going to ask themselves is, "could this person do the job I need them to?". The most essential part of applying for a remote job is to not only answer this question for them, but make it obvious. Remote jobs get hundreds, even thousands of applications. The hiring manager will only glance at your resume for a brief moment, even if they love what they see.
How to build credibility
  • Website or portfolio - You need to have a location online that showcases your talent and what you have worked on. This needs to be something you can quickly link to, or download into a PDF. Make it appealing to your industry. If you are a developer, give examples of what you built. If you are a marketer, give numbers backing up your past successes. If you don't have one yet, use an easy tool like Notion or Wix. NOTE:
    Do not default to using LinkedIn. It's great to have a good looking profile, but do not rely on this for your portfolio or resume.
  • Resume - This is much different from a portfolio. Your resume needs to be a
    single-page document that can be both downloaded and linked to. Less is more! No one cares about how many things you've done, they only care about how well you've done the most recent things.
  • Your "Google" reputation - This should be obvious, but be aware of what your online reputation is. Don't panic, it's fine (and beneficial) to look like a normal person. There's no need to photoshop the beer out of your Instagram photos anymore. Still, if you Google yourself and it's rather lacking, start producing some things. Write some articles. Post some thoughtful Tweets.
💡 Notes on having a well-designed resume:
  1. Max one page
  2. List only your recent work and what is relevant
  3. Design it like a good landing page: simple yet aesthetically pleasing
  4. Search for free resume templates online as a guide (Notion has excellent ones!)

Be active in the right places

Certain platforms are incredible for remote jobs. We'll go into where to look for actual jobs more in detail shortly, but for now, it's worth mentioning that you'll want to be active on a few platforms for a successful job hunt. Active means having a well-thought-out and compelling profile and participating in conversations on the platform.
Note that you don't need large followings on these platforms. It's to showcase who you are. This does, however, mean that you should be active. No one hiring for a remote role is going to take you seriously on Twitter if you just joined a week ago with no Tweets or activity. Remember that you also don't have to be active everywhere. Pick platforms that have a 'personality' that resonates with yours, and go all in there.
Places to consider being active:
Individual niche communities Don't forget that the best place to find opportunities are in the most targeted communities. If you are a growth person, find a marketing community with a jobs thread. If you are a designer, put more work into your Dribbble profile than your resume.

Step 3: scan open jobs and set alerts

Now that you know what you are looking for, you are ready to apply! Make a list of relevant job platforms that have remote jobs you will be looking for. Most job boards now have filters that let you get targeted results. Use them! Make sure the jobs you are applying for are ones you really want. Once you have your filters done, set an email alert (if the platform allows) for job alerts. That way you can sit back and watch your inbox, then apply to any jobs that come in.
You'll have a large front-load of work as you search for jobs posted over the past month (there will be many). Once you apply and get 'caught up' you can handle the incoming job listings that match your criteria on a day-to-day basis.
It's recommended to set up a spreadsheet using a basic template similar to this to keep track. It has a field where you can mark your excitement about a job opening so you know which ones to prioritize. You should be applying to at least one job a day if you are trying to get hired ASAP, so if you aren't getting alerts where you have at least one job to apply to a day you are excited about, you need to set up more alerts. There are a TON of remote jobs out there.
Some places worth setting up alerts:
Other places to look for jobs:
  • Twitter - use search tools to find companies posting about jobs
  • Reddit - find active threads for your industry or remote jobs
  • Slack groups - search creatively within your industry, there are a ton of Slack groups that almost always have a jobs channel.
  • Facebook groups - many companies and hiring managers post listing in communities specific to remote work or industry. There are even groups dedicated to finding a remote job! Sergi, the founder of Workew, creates a list of best most recent job posts from Workew in his group Remote Work & Jobs for Digital Nomads.

Step 4: applying for jobs (most important)

While the majority of the time and work goes into search, the most important part is the application.
Here are some things to keep in mind when forming applications:
  • You are likely one of hundreds, if not thousands of applicants, but 95% of applications are an easy "no"
  • Hiring managers at least look at every application that comes in, but they look briefly and scan for specific things
  • It's as much about how you apply as what you apply with.

How to apply

You know how some hiring platforms (like LinkedIn) offer one-click applications? Ignore this. It's a miracle anyone has ever been hired this way. In fact, even if the hiring platform has a way to apply natively, it's best to ignore it. That's because it will format your application to look like every other application. It's hard to stand out, and feels a bit lazy.
The best way to apply for a job is to send a direct message. This is usually an email, but could also be a Twitter or LinkedIn DM. Applying through direct message shows you are resourceful, intuitive and care about the application. It also gives them a chance to get to know you in an authentic way right from their own inbox (where much of their day-to-day work happens). There is an exception to this. When a hiring manager specifically states a method to apply through, definitely do that (otherwise you might not make it into their hiring system pipeline). But once you do that, still send a DM.

Find the hiring manager's email

Find their name First, you'll need to find who the hiring manager is. Some platforms, like AngelList, actually tell you who that is. Sometimes you'll need to figure it out manually. Look at company team pages and LinkedIn accounts to see who would be most likely in charge of the hiring for that specific role. If you are applying for an SEO position, for example, you should probably reach out to the leader of the marketing or content team. If it's a smaller startup (30 people or under), go straight for the CEO.
💡 If you are uncertain of who to include in your message, or there are multiple people who could easily be the hiring manager, just include both. It doesn't hurt. It might even give you an advantage to have several people included in an email.
Use an email hunting tool Once you have the hiring manager's first and last name, use an email hunting tool to get their email. My favorite is Norbert, but there are many out there. Most require a first name, last name and website URL of the company they work for. This tool works 9/10, which is pretty good. Note that sometimes you might have to tweak first names (ex. Samuel → Sam).
For the contacts where an email can't be found, try to find another (appropriate) way to message them. Twitter is a great bet. In fact, if your hiring manager is super active on Twitter, they are likely to rather be messaged there than over email. In a worst-case scenario you can message on LinkedIn, although note that LinkedIn has a lot of spam, so many people don't read all their DMs, and you'll have to go out of your way to sound authentic and conversational.

Crafting your email

Finally, you are ready to apply. Designing a wonderful application email comes down to using intuition and avoiding red flags.
Again, write the email authentically. Don't write like you are emailing a professor or stranger. Write it like you are emailing a friend to apply for a job at a company they work at or run. You want to be warm and friendly yet professional. You want to convince the hiring manager you will be fun to work with, but also successful in the role. This is especially true if the team is smaller. You also need to demonstrate that you are great at remote work norms and communication.
Some Do's
  • Be polite, casual and confident
  • Explain why you are perfect for the position (in terms of skill and personality fit)
  • Include numbers or evidence to back that up WITHIN the email body
  • Keep it as short as possible
  • Link to more detailed evidence of your success and past work.
Some Do Not's
  • Using academic or overly professional speech ("To whom it may concern" or "Dear Mr. X")
  • Write an incredibly lengthy email
  • Write in a language different than the job listing (unless specified)
  • Send an email ONLY with links to your work (don't make the hiring manager dig for the information they need)
  • Focus on fluff. You don't need to say you are good at communication if you can demonstrate it.

Dissecting a great application email

Let's take a real-life example that worked. This was the application email sent by myself to get my current job as Head of Growth at SafetyWing.
  1. In the first paragraph, the application is phrased to sound almost like an in-network hire (which is always preferred). It states that the intent is not to find a job, but to find a perfect match
  2. The second paragraph pulls some of the highlight numbers from recent accomplishments. In a sense, the CEO can be confident of the work without looking at the resume or portfolio
  3. The 3rd paragraph tries to quickly demonstrate why it would be a good culture + personality fit
  4. Quickly link to portfolio and resume in the final paragraph
  5. Make sure your footer is also appropriate. It should showcase who you are professionally, but also show you are a real person (I link to my Instagram, which is basically all bike and travel photos).

Applying outside of email

You might choose to message someone on a platform other than email, particularly if you don't have their email. All of the same principles still hold, but need to be drastically shortened. The above email will not fit well into a Twitter DM. Same goes for LinkedIn.
When messaging on these platforms, it's as much about your profile as the message. Make sure your credibility stands out in your bio, and there are links to your work for anyone who wants to see. That way, you can focus your DM on a short and engaging message. If you link to your current work/projects in your bio, you can link to a resume in the outreach DM.
If you go this route, try extra hard to be active on the platforms you'll be DMing from. So if you like to use Twitter to apply, make sure you are looking for jobs and interacting on that platform daily.

Final thoughts

This might seem like a lot of work, but it's a key area of life you need to put effort into. It takes work to find your dream career. Putting the time and effort into planning and researching what you want and need will ensure that every single job you apply to is worth it.
Here are some miscellaneous things to close with that might help your search.
  • Use an email tracking tool - You can use an email tracking tool like Mixmax to see who opens an email and when. This can be helpful in determining which subject lines work and whatnot, but don't spend too much time obsessing over it. Part of it really is a numbers game. If your email is never opened, you can try messaging someone else at the company.
  • Following up - It's not a bad idea to follow up on application emails a week or two after sending. Just make sure it doesn't reach an annoying level.
  • Apply to many - If you are seriously looking for a job ASAP, you should be applying to at least one a day. Fortunately, once you've prepared everything, an application shouldn't take more than an hour (it's just writing half an email after all).
  • Getting rejected - Don't get discouraged! If you are shooting for a dream job, you will be rejected many times. There are numerous reasons why, but the company knows better than you whether it will be a good fit. Oftentimes, rejections are just dodged bullets.
    Note: This should go without saying but don't send hate mail when you are rejected.
  • Where NOT to message - unless someone is specifically posting about it on that platform, be weary of messaging on platforms like Instagram and Facebook for job opportunities. That's because most people come to these platforms to escape work, and might be annoyed. Unless you know someone personally, it's best to avoid texting and phone calls.
  • See if you have any connections - the best way to apply for a job is always through a mutual contact. Even if it's a friend of a friend, reach out and ask if they can ping someone about your application email. It might help you get noticed and stand out.
  • To each their own - each hiring manager will look for and dislike certain things. One might not bat an eye at a spelling error while another will call that "lack of attention to detail". Don't sweat the small things, if it is the right fit it will happen.

Want more tips on applying for remote jobs? Follow Sam on Twitter!

About the author

Sam Claassen

Head of Growth
SafetyWing
Sam Claassen is the Head of Growth at SafetyWing and a serial advocate for remote work. A longtime nomad himself, he has been to 65 countries while doing growth and remote work consulting for startups and accelerators. Through his work at SafetyWing, he is working with a team to create BuildingRemotely.com – a podcast, online resource and soon to be book on building a thriving remote company.