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How to actually get a remote job as an intermediate developer?
101 points by kinetik-pro on July 11, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 74 comments
I've been trying to get a Remote job for over a month now, with 0 luck so far. I know lots of HN readers are freelancers, so I want to address you.

How did you manage to get your first Remote job? And if anyone has some spare time and will, could you possibly help me understand what am I doing wrong?

I'm WebDev - PHP BackEnd with 3 years of experience. Cheers.

I see a lot of devs trying to convert to remote positions who get frustrated that they haven't landed a job after days/weeks/months.

Going remote isn't as easy as what many devs are probably accustomed to, especially if you're new to the game (as the tech hiring market has been :fire:).

If you're going to go remote, you need to realize a few things:

- You're competing against waaay more candidates. You need to stand out, not just be another warm body.

- You need to demonstrate, without a doubt, that you can/have worked autonomously.

- You need to demonstrate, without a doubt, that you can/have been self managing in the past.

- You need to demonstrate that you provide a better bang-for-the-buck than anyone else who has applied

Source: Working and hiring remotely for the last 7-ish years.

This. I work remote currently and my job was not initially a remote position. After about a year of demonstrating the above, I was offered remote as a benefit. So that's something that might also be an option: finding a company that's open to remote work and converting after working in office for some amount of time.

I'm in a similar position.

Started on site, early on asked for remote which wasn't possible at the time, circumstances changed and I asked again. It felt like forever it was in the hands of higher-ups but after two years fro my my start date with the company I went on a 3 month remote trial.

Trial went well and I'm now permanently remote.

Ask, provide reasons why you should be permitted to work remotely & if denied ask why so that you can change and try again.

As a tech manager, this has worked really well for me. I have had 5 remote employees. 3 were local first, and all 3 were great. 2 were remote hires and both failed.

I worked at a place where a junior developer announced shortly after starting that he was moving 3 time zones away. The company decided to continue to employ him. It was probably doomed no matter what they did, but they also insisted he work on a VM at the company headquarters, and didn't have him visit the team in person on a regular schedule.

Edit: In this situation, he was hardly local first, given the short time between his hire and his moving far away. All of which is to say I agree with the poster I replied to.

I sort of did the same. Worked there for years, but office policy wouldn't allow full time remote, so I quit. Now they hire me back. I'm think I'm the only one in the entire company.

Not trolling, but really curious, how do you propose one demonstrates the following in a very convincing way during the interview?

> - You need to demonstrate, without a doubt, that you can/have worked autonomously, that you can/have been self managing in the past

Do you simply state your experience of having worked autonomously, or having self-managed? If yes, how would you still stand out, because it's like every other candidate also states the same thing "Oh yeah, I require minimum supervision, always get my sh*t done on time by self-managing".


> that you provide a better bang-for-the-buck than anyone else who has applied

This is even more vague and fuzzy. How do you demonstrate that you "provide a better bang-for-the-buck than anyone else who has applied" during a phone interview? References?

Well in my case I put a massive amount of effort into the technical portion of my interview. I was given a week, as they knew how busy I was. I spent a good 8 hours on it, and went above and beyond. Instead of a simple working SPA, I produced a full working system with full UI, REST API, 100% coverage, rolling data import, containerisation and deployment scripts for all services, pseudo-branding, documentation, GitHub organisation with repo per service, and to top it off, deployed it to a $5 droplet and provided credentials.

This is what you'll be up against when interviewing for good remote companies. I work for a remote first company, not just a remote friendly company, so the competition really is stiff.

With the wage I went in for, it was a no brainer. Was hired days later, and it's been the best job I've had so far.

As a remote worker, you really do have to be a self-manager, you're trusted by your team – in the same way you trust your team – to get shit done.

Another thing I did was ace the interview. I went into it with the confidence to present myself as I knew myself, as I knew they didn't. I switched the interview around and interviewed them, and in the end, we were all laughing.

What I would say is "show, don't tell".

> , I produced a full working system with full UI, REST API, 100% coverage, rolling data import, containerisation and deployment scripts for all services, pseudo-branding, documentation, GitHub organisation with repo per service, and to top it off, deployed it to a $5 droplet and provided credentials.

In 8 hours that's very impressive. Thank you for your feedback. I wasn't aware that remote companies gave coding assignments, but it makes sense.

From your experience, do most remote interview loops have take home projects like this or do they tend to focus heavily on whiteboard-esque programming challenges?

I've had 3 remote positions over the last 6 years, and all of them had realistic(-ish) programming challenges that I was evaluated on.

> Do you simply state your experience of having worked autonomously, or having self-managed?

Yes, and you back that up with evidence of a project completed, references backing up their positive experience, etc.

This is why I think more people who are looking for remote should be open to becoming a contractor/freelancer temporarily. Working remotely is already an accepted practice in that context, allowing you to build up a track record of successful remote work. That will give many companies the confidence they need to hire you remotely, and you can offer to take on a small project contract with them first if they need to see it for themselves.

I only contract remotely, with no intention of taking regular employment any time soon, and I still get asked if I'd like to join the team full time as a remote fairly often. Not because I'm so amazing but because they don't need to guess or take risks, they already have proof I can do it successfully for them.

Right. That network cable goes all the way to Bangladesh. Average programmer hourly wage in Bangladesh:


I clicked on the second link:


   Maximum: 698 BDT / hr
   Average: 326 BDT / hr
   Median: 279 BDT / hr
   Minimum: 58 BDT / hr
In dollars that is:

   Maximum: $8.6 / hr
   Average: $4.0 / hr
   Median: $3.4 / hr
   Minimum: $0.72 / hr
I bet you're looking for more than them. But when they go remote, aren't you competing with them?

I would say it is easier to become remote if you are already working with a company that knows you. As for establishing such a relationship, I kind of agree with codingdave's advice in this thread.

You need to NOT be competing on price, add some other differential (in my case I tried competing on very good English and being on the same time zone as most of the U.S.).

Competing on price or selling yourself to the lowest bidder is a losing proposition.

That said, most of the best Indian devs aren't making that money remotely, they're making a lot more (or at least, I've seen them getting paid a lot more).

I got contacted and worked remotely through Hacker News and, although it didn't pan out (I wasn't a good fit) it was a great experience and I met really good people from around the world.

> But when they go remote, aren't you competing with them?

Not really. There aren't many companies who are considering both American and Indian remote developers for the same positions.

Well paying remote jobs tend to have time zone constraints, and require better English communication skills than the average Indian developer has (there definitely are Indian developers with excellent communications skills, but they aren't average).

People think that because they are out of the office that politics doesn't affect them and they don't need soft skills. But communicating effectively is even more important in remote work because of the inherently lower communications bandwidth.

Assuming an Indian coder is a good English communicator, would working the night shift be such a big barrier ,compared to the salary potential ?

In some projects, having a night shift can be a tremendous advantage. It works particular well in extremely agile environments with fast assignment->deployment turnarounds. For example, if the night shift does daily deployments, then the parent does QA during the day and sends fixes/new requests before the start of the night shift.

Other times, particularly if the project has complicated architectural requirements, it's too hard to get the night shift on the same page a super the parent.

Many hiring managers will be carrying around at least some latent racism from previous interactions with offshored developers that worked out as well as a car crash.

fair enough.

Considering the current perspective, 8 USD is good for Bangladeshi. AFAIK the current scenario is worst than that. Companies actually want to hire engineers 10k BDT which around 124 USD!! Same goes for upwork. The whole tech market looks totally unstable right now.

As an intermediate dev - is it even ~really~ possible to get a remote job then?

Assuming all of your demonstrating points are just from previous employment?

What if you built/launched something on your own? It doesn't have to be huge, or even commercial, but being able to demonstrate that you can go from idea to launch by yourself will help.

Really constructive answer. Thanks a lot!

I don't know a generic solution, I just can say what I did:

1. I quit my office job.

Worked there for about 7 years. I saved some money and got unemployment benefits (60% of my previous salary) so I had 1 year to do nothing.

2. I did some OSS stuff

OSS teams are almost all remote and they love contributors. So it's not hard to find some and ... well contribute?

It's an easy way to get into a remote team.

I didn't do it for long, because I don't like maintenance dev stuff, which working on Firefox stuff basically is if you a contributor for Mozilla, haha.

3. Do some remote studying

I started a master in computer science at a remote university here in Germany. They had two mandatory programming projects I had to do with a remote team of other students.

We did much coordination via slack, hangouts etc.

This was also a good way to get into the remote workflow.

4. Post your CV online and wait

I saved money for 2 years, so after one year of OSS and remote projects, I posted my CV on some recruiting sites (Angellist, Stackoverflow, etc.) and waited.

Took 3 months till I started my first remote job. Talked to 5-6 companies. Some never called back, some took 2 months to tell me they want/don't want me.

5. Worked remote for 2 years

I worked remote for 2 years in a startup that was about 300km away from me. Went there every 2 months for a day or two. They were rather picky with their remote employees and always tried to persuade me into working in-office. One day they they lost a investor and had to let a few people go, since I was the only remote guy left, I guess they simply wanted to get rid of me, haha. So I got fired.

6. Started freelancing

With >2 years of remote experience and >10 years of general developer experience, I started freelancing.

Got 2 projects. One I found by pure luck online in some project small directory and one in the company where my girlfriend works. Both don't care how and where I work.

>One day they they lost a investor and had to let a few people go, since I was the only remote guy left, I guess they simply wanted to get rid of me, haha. So I got fired.

That's my concern with fully remote work. You're not at the office, so only the people who work with you directly even know your name, and you don't form a personal connection with anyone. Even the people you work with directly have only seen you a handful of times.

When the time comes to cut someone loose, you're the obvious candidate unless your work is head-and-shoulders above the other people. It's a lot harder to fire people when you've been swapping stories about the kids and how about that game and whatever over the watercooler for any length of time.

> It's a lot harder to fire people when you've been swapping stories about the kids and...

Maybe in the past but those days are long gone. The key to longevity is to make sure your work is of critical importance to the company. And if you're let go it isn't the end of the world, lots of dev work to be done.

The key to longevity was always to make your work of critical importance to the company. But everybody else is doing the same thing. The point was being remote is a strike against you, and you really have to distinguish yourself to overcome it.

All of the remote teams that I've worked on have at least 50% of the team also working remote, so it tends to be a wash.

It's a tradeoff, sure. But working from a low COL area means you can be prepared for periods without a job.

> I saved some money and got unemployment benefits (60% of my previous salary) so I had 1 year to do nothing.

Well thanks, I'm out. In most of the world after quitting job one has literally nothing but savings, and even registering as an unemployed (to get the mere public health insurance) is not trivial.

One year I lived from the benefits, 60% were about 1600€ a month. Got this for 9 months, which made about 14k€. I also had about 18k€ in savings, back in the days and a month cost me about 1k€. So I could have done this without benetifs, but it was nicer with.

Unrelated, but in Germany you get unemployment benefits after you quit a job? Wow.

There are two (mutually exclusive) kinds of unemployment benefits:

Alg: Calculated based on your previous salary and paid for up to two years (based on how long you worked and your age). If you quit voluntarily, the first three months nothing is paid out to you. They will (try to) offer you employment opportunities. This is an actual (mandatory) insurance and costs 3% of your income (up to a limit).

Alg II: Based on the bare minimum you need to live. Without any limits but you need to actively work on getting a job. This is financed through general taxes.

I believe this is only for German and EU citizens, right?

Alg is available to anyone (as everybody pays into the insurance). Foreigner might be required to leave the country at some point, depending on the kind of residence permit they hold.

Alg II is a bit more complicated: It is available to all persons that have their regular residence in Germany (with some restrictions). Again, foreigners may be required to leave the country based on the residence permit they have (and of course lose the benefit). For example, foreigners with a settlement permit (which is generally available after five years and allows unlimited residence) don't have any restrictions here.

This is one of the most important social networks that exists today and nations all over the world should copy & paste this idea.

It is incredible to see how underdeveloped social networks are especially in the US.

It starts by reconquering the words of the language we speak.

Bullshit. It's very easy to get kicked out of the system, while one is still required to pay full contributions while employed in Germany. Let's say e.g. one works in Germany for years, moves to another EU country, ends up without a job within couple of months. German benefits are forfeit, that's about it regarding their social security. Money sunk in a black hole.

While the system is not perfect, in the scenario you describe times worked in another country can be recognised within the EU (by filling out form E 301).

What if one relocated to a country with very limited social support? Paying the highest (e.g. German) social contributions and getting the lowest (e.g. eastern European) social benefits. It's like getting spat in the face. Thanks.

yes, but it could be better.

People who don't are unemployed but don't get benefits still have to pay about 180€ a month for health insurance.

Well, it's like that:

You have to be employed for at least 12 months in the last two years AND you have to be fired. Then you get 12 months long 60% of your last salary.

If you quit by yourself (like me) you only get 9 months benefits.

Well, only if you apply to jobs and at least make the admins think you try to get something new.

yes, but if you get ALG1, they are quite chill.

ALG2 admins are harder, but you get ALG2 after being unemployed for more than a year, so it's understandable, I think.

Honestly, I didn't even know my first remote job was going to be remote. I applied for it like any other job, and it wasn't until the end of the 1st phone interview that they told me it was a remote position. Their take on it was they wanted people applying because they wanted the job, not because they wanted remote work.

In other words -- if you are looking too hard for remote work, that could be exactly what is holding you back. Look for the jobs that match your skills and background first. Then from those jobs that you know are a good match, prioritize the ones that are remote.

Network. Getting a remote job is similar to getting any other job, and people hire those they like and trust. If the term "networking" scares you, just think if it as making friends. You can do this any number of ways: participating in online forums, attending meet ups, engaging people on social media, etc. Figure out where the people that are doing the hiring for whatever position you want are hanging out and just be friendly towards them. That's my 2 cents!

Specialize - how can you compete in a market of PHP backend devs when you want to work remote?

Be a Distributed systems specialist. Or a machine learning guru. write a book, go talk at meetups and get them posted online. You need a differentiating factor.

If you think people are going to trust you to work remote because you have 3 years of PHP backend experience, you're wrong. You need to be trusted in the greater community, to have presence. If anything you should be landing gigs through referrals, not applying with your CV. So how do you get from point a to b? network. Meet people. Go to lots and lots of meetups and talk at them.

I worked on-site and became a Very Valuable Individual. I then told my manager that I'm moving out of the country and would love the opportunity to continue my work remotely.

In other words, I controlled more bargaining chips. I feel that is going to need to be true for any remote position. You need to be experienced and valuable enough that letting you work remotely is worth having you over someone on-site (for non-remote cultures).

For remote-cultures, the talent pool interested in remote work and the sheer number of people interested in it makes it far more competitive. As deedubaya said in their earlier response. You need to show without-a-doubt why they should choose you over anyone else. The competition is more fierce.

In my case I freelanced/contracted for 2 years before applying for a full remote gig. Those contract gigs gave me a diverse set of skills to show off on my resume. It did help immensely that prior to those 2 years freelancing I worked for 3 years as a intermediate dev for a company that in the last 6 months of my time there went into remote friendly. I took that opportunity to travel to Europe for 2 months which got me in the front page of one of our national newspapers. That factoid that I include in my resume catches a lot of attention and engenders a lot of trust. I've been working remotely for 6 months now a this new gig and it's been great. :)

Not sure if it works everywere but working on site for company and then discussing, after a few months, if that would work remotely, seems to work for friends of mine. I never had an on site job in my life (I am 42) and I try to be good at things that are hard to find. As PHP webdev, most companies I know would hire you if you reliably get shit done. Reliably churn out results 6.5 hours per day for 5 days/week. Not many people can do that; actually I meet very little who can. A colleague of mine makes business dashboards in PHP: he creates and maintains enormous heaps of the most boring stuff. But he does it, day after day, year after year and that is worth a lot. Adhd coders that want to code in some new thing are more common, as are stuck coders who have the productivity of a snail and need a lot of handholding. Just sit and do it is worth a lot but you need to get your name out and that happens when you work onsite first or are able to market yourself online for that role.

Awww this feels like a fresh shave, so many answers. Thanks a lot!

A month ago I didn't even have any web presence because I didn't need it. Since then I've polished my CV, made web portfolio, and every few hours I check each site that posts Remote/Freelance jobs. . .

Relocate to a tech hub (Dublin in my case) and find a job where working remotely is possible, but be on the site for a few months to prove yourself that you are effective when remote. Start full time on site and gradually move to be remote.

Yep as been mentioned, it's obviously a lot more difficult to get remote gigs. I probably applied to around 20 places over the course of 6 months. Some I heard back from, some I declined, and most I never heard a peep. I've got almost a decade of experience too, but it's just that competitive.

- You need to stand out, have a decent Github profile and/or solid code samples that you can share

- Demonstrate the ability to work autonomously

- Be patient, it takes time.

It's also worth mentioning that if you do get rejected ask them what you can work on. Helps to know what you can do to bet better and get a remote gig later!

Source: working remote for the past year

Work for a company that has several offices that are geographically spread out. This is a good indicator that the company has already developed the necessary prereqs (good code collaboration tools, everything is a videoconference by default, annual all-company occasions, travel policies that make cross-team sessions easy) to accommodate remote work. Once you know they have the pieces in place, remote work is a really easy sell. Sell it to your manager/director, not HR.

I would not want to work remotely for a company that hasn't gotten used to distributed workers yet.

I have worked remotely for just about 1 year right now. This answer may not please you, but I became remote by starting on-site for the company I now work remotely for.

After about 2 years of working in the office I told my manager that I would be moving to another state and that I was interviewing for remote positions. I also said I would stop interviewing if they gave me the ability to work remotely, which they did (and I was very, very happy to stay). It is going to be difficult to find your first remote job, but this is how I did it.

I know this probably isn't the route you can go down, but I'll share my story since it's one more data point.

The company I'm working for is fairly distributed across the globe, and a lot of the computer engineers are part time remote (three days at home, two days at office, say). But typically no one is fully remote at this company. I came to work on site at a city where they had an office and a few employees but it was a satellite office and I worked there for a year or so. Then the boss that was managing that office left the company and they decided to let the remaining workers from that city go full remote (it was just two of us and they didn't want to continue paying for an office for just two of us). Since I was going to be full time remote anyways I kept working for them but I can live whereever I want so I just relocated back to my hometown.

I did have to push at one or two points to ensure I ended up full time remote, but mostly it was luck, in other words. This company knows I'm a good worker and responsible from my year working on site so that may be why I can get away with the full time remote whereas for new people joining a company I can see how it would be a hard sell.

I started working remotely with a background similar to what you describe. Your best bet is to find or negotiate a local position that will allow you to be remote part-time, and then demonstrate that you are able to work effectively remotely. Then, over time, try to increase the amount of time spent working remotely. After a while, you'll hopefully be working remotely ~80% of the time. For me, that was good enough for a long time. If not, you can find a new (remote) job, and you'll be able to demonstrate a track record of working remotely, which is understandably very important to your prospective employer.

I've often thought about starting a job board / remote contract hiring firm specifically for this area. Pair people who are looking for their first step into a remote job with companies that are willing to test people out a bit for perhaps some discount or some other reason. The firm could help screen applicants for remote suitability, train them up a bit on what it really is like to work remotely, and then pair with companies. The firms would understand that while the worker may not have worked remotely before, they have been screened and are willing to give it a good shot. Thinking maybe a 6 month contract to start and then the option to turn permanent.

To be honest, this is actually a very interesting post and question. As even myself (fullstack dev for over 15 years) has tried to do this and failed. I therefore tend to move between fortune500 companies and make as much money as possible while contracting so that I can (in a while) create my own 'remote company'. I just decided that given how much of a challenge it is to get decent remote work, perhaps the best option is to create my own. Anyone interested in joining me in this venture?

What efforts have you actually made? How many jobs have you applied to? Have you polished your online portfolio and CV the best you could? Does googling you get high-quality results across various social media/news outlets?

The above are just a few questions to start off with. You'll find better answers once you give a better idea of what you've got going and what you're already doing.

Work in the office and demonstrate that you are competent and can work autonomously. Then ask if you canwork remote. This worked for me.

same story here as well.

Saw your comment on "How to Interview Engineers" but can't reply to it anymore.

I'm preparing a talk for the KC Developers Conference "The Two Question Code Quiz" on how to run an effective technical interview. Please reach out to me, https://github.com/scottconnerly, I'd love to bounce my ideas off you.

It was mostly persistence and luck in finding a position that matched my existing skills and interests. You'll often have a code screen as an early step (because remote jobs get hundreds of applicants in days), so getting good at those sort of problems can be helpful as well.

Look for keywords like “lean” and “agile” to find tech companies with remote work options. And keep in mind that if a posting makes no mention of being remote, chances are that it isn’t.

Do most remote job interview loops include whiteboard-esque coding challenges, or more focused on soft skills and project/contract based assignments to assess your skills?

Good question, I have a bit less experience but am looking for the same thing soon. I have no idea how to find one. Not even sure where to look.

One more: http://remoteok.io

Also, find companies that you'd like to work for that hire remotely. There are plenty these days.

stackoverflow jobs has a "remote" filter on their job search. Lots of high-quality positions there.

What have you been trying so far?

A good way to get a remote job is start local (for at least a year), then move.

Shout me out at my username at yarsa dot io. I'll see what I can offer.

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