11 missteps that can stall a remote job search

By Kathy Gardner

February 10, 2022
11 missteps that can stall a remote job search

Over the past seven years, I’ve been deeply involved in the remote work world and have observed many notable changes from both an employer and job seeker perspective. Obviously, the pandemic has made an indisputable impact on normalizing remote work. Sixty-five percent of people say they want to work remotely full-time post-pandemic.  At the same time, the remote job market continues to grow at a strong pace. In fact, FlexJobs saw a 12% increase in the number of remote job listings in 2021 over 2020 across more varied job titles and industries.

Although remote job opportunities are on the rise, there are certain tactics job seekers need to adjust in order to become competitive remote job candidates. To help strengthen their efforts, I consulted FlexJobs’s career coaching team to identify 11 missteps that can stall a remote job search, even in a hot job seeker market. Here’s what they said.

Applying for remote jobs outside your geography

Up to 95% of all remote job postings include a location requirement. It may be due to tax or licensing laws, because of an existing client base, or one of many other reasons. Paying attention to where the job is located or what the location requirements are–even if it’s 100% remote work–will help ensure your application isn’t stalling because you don’t meet location criteria.

Forgetting to highlight remote-specific skills

In addition to specific skills for the job, you will also need remote-specific skills for remote work. Employers know which skills they want in remote candidates and are looking for them, so ensure those and your experiences are highlighted on your résumé. Remote employers like to know that potential employees have good organizational, time management, problem-solving, and written and verbal communication skills, as well as technological know-how. Including these remote-specific skills and tools will help you stand out.

Not using your remote network

Eighty percent of jobs are found in the hidden job market and never posted on job boards or social media. However, tapping into professional networks–and utilizing tools such as LinkedIn, informational interviews, and professional associations to expand one’s network with other remote workers–can help you find them. You could also search for the recruiter or hiring manager’s email or LinkedIn page to send them a message before or after applying for a job. This will display your enthusiasm, eagerness, and help set yourself apart from other candidates.

Casting too wide a net

If you’re so focused on working remotely that you’re applying to tons of different remote roles, you may be wasting job search time. Target job searches to the career field and roles you’re qualified for. Employers need applicants to show them that they can do the exact job, and they need it spelled out clearly. You may be capable of doing five different types of jobs, but if your résumé and cover letter aren’t specific to the one job you’re applying for, an employer won’t realize you can do that particular job.

Jumping Right In

While you may be ready and eager to start your remote job search right away, a slow and steady approach may yield better results. Before scanning job boards, research companies in a specific field to find the ones that align with your values and goals. Starting with research can create a targeted list of remote-friendly employers and companies that match your preferences, putting you in the driver’s seat.


Sending the same résumé

Tailoring a résumé and cover letter to the remote job description can help demonstrate how you are the perfect fit for a role. Not only will it show you “get” a given company’s culture, but you’ll also be able to show how your skills will benefit the employer. It’s important to tailor résumés to the job description to improve the odds of an application making it past the applicant tracking system (ATS). The résumé and cover letter should reflect not only the skills and experience you have for the remote job but also how you might be a strong fit for their remote company culture. Shared values, previous remote experience, and even details about the applicant’s home office setup can all be included.

Submitting a fancy résumé

To make a resume stand out, a candidate might include graphics, columns, unusual fonts, or even a photo. However, using any or all of these elements could stall your remote job search. The ATS scans résumés for keywords in the text, but can’t easily scan these types of formatting elements, and often with columns and tables, the information isn’t parsed correctly. Photos, background colors, headers and footers, and columns are not read by the ATS. If the ATS can’t read application materials, the application will likely rank lower in the system, making it less likely a human will read it.

Using a task-based résumé

In addition to customizing a resume for each job application, it’s essential for you to explain why you’re perfect for the role. Job seekers commonly default to writing their work history similar to their job duties, listing off all the tasks they performed but not talking about the outcomes of their actions. But, employers want to read more than just a list of tasks and duties. They want to know the results and outcomes of the work that was performed, which provides them with information on why someone is better suited than the competition for a role. Specifically for a remote position, employers want to see how things were accomplished while working independently, staying focused, and utilizing common remote tools and technology.

Setting an unrealistic timeline

The average job search might take three to six months, but some job searches may take longer. When candidates state they must have a job by [X date], it could lead to unrealistic goals or push them to consider roles they wouldn’t ultimately be happy with. So much depends on the type of career field and industry, the overall job market, and each employer’s situation. Remote work also depends on whether a candidate is seeking a fully remote or hybrid job or if they’re open to both. Rather than focusing on a specific timeline, you need to focus on what you can truly control, like sending customized resumes and cover letters, building remote skills, doing company research, and networking.

Changing careers without preparing

Before you decide to change careers or start your career search, you need to prepare. If you’re changing careers, it’s important to demonstrate to a hiring manager, via a cover letter and résumé, how your skills will transfer from your old career to a new one. Additionally, being purposeful about pursuing training that will advance skills in this new direction, can give you the skills for their résumé and show a potential employer that you’re serious about the transition. If the career change includes working remotely for the first time, you need to show you’ve learned how to use remote communication tools, have strong remote work skills like time management, and understand how remote teams operate, all of which require research and self-training.

Not saying thanks

Finally, it’s important to remember that a job search doesn’t end with landing an interview–it ends when you land the job. Remember to send a thank-you note after the interview. Many candidates forget this simple, yet crucial part of the interview process, but it’s an opportunity for you to reiterate your excitement and convey why you’re a great fit for the role and company.

As FlexJobs’s annual Top 100 Companies to Watch for Remote Jobs in 2022 showcases, there are plenty of remote and hybrid job opportunities out there, but to land one of these jobs, you need to tailor your approach.

Kathy Gardner is the VP of communications at FlexJobs.

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