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The secret to landing a remote job — and who is hiring right now

Key Points
  • On Thursday jobless claims soared past 3.2 million, shattering the Great Recession peak of 665,000 in March 2009 and the all-time mark of 695,000 in October 1982.
  • For many, remote work is a tempting solution, not only during social distancing but as a full-time long-term job.
  • But finding a remote job comes with its own set of unique challenges, according to remote job platform FlexJobs.
The surge in unemployment from the coronavirus pandemic has many workers shifting to other industries. One option is remote work, a practice that has grown 159% since 2005.
mapodile | Getty Images

The belt-tightening in response to the coronavirus outbreak is leading businesses to cut hundreds and sometimes thousands of employees. Last week several states reported that so many people were trying to file unemployment claims at the same time, their websites had crashed. On Thursday the Labor Department reported a surge in jobless claims to 3.28 million, shattering the Great Recession peak of 665,000 in March 2009 and the all-time mark of 695,000 in October 1982.

For many who are out of a job, remote work is a tempting solution, not only during social distancing but as a full-time long-term job. A special analysis done by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics found that there has been a major upward trend in the amount of people working remotely in the U.S.

But according to online remote job platform FlexJobs, finding a remote job comes with its own set of unique challenges: You not only have to demonstrate that you're the best applicant for the job but that you're the best remote applicant, says Brie Reynolds, FlexJobs' career development manager and career coach.

To help those who want to shift away from working in the office to working from home, CNBC spoke to FlexJobs to find out the best way to search for a remote job, sell your skills and prepare for the interview — and which companies are hiring remote workers right now.

Understand the language

There are at least 19 different ways to say "remote work." Since no two companies use the same term, as you're searching for a remote job, you should know all the different ways to say "remote work." Here are just a few of the common ones FlexJobs says you should be aware of:

  • Distributed workforce: When you and everyone you work with work remotely
  • Work at home (or work from home): When you work at home
  • Virtual job: When all the work is done online or in a virtual office
  • Work from anywhere: A job without any geographical restrictions
  • Agile workforce: A flexible workforce

"Pay attention to the wording used by companies in job listings," says Reynolds. "You might notice that companies in your industry or line of work tend to say 'telecommute' instead of 'remote' or 'remote' instead of 'virtual.' Those subtleties can focus your search on the best keywords for your particular career goals."

Read the job description carefully

While there are jobs that are 100% remote, some require you to be in the office a few days a week. Reynolds says you must read the job description carefully. Some fully remote jobs also have a location requirement. There are several reasons why remote jobs have this restriction, including:

  • Legal: Some licensing requirements or government regulations may restrict the company to and from specific locations.
  • Taxes: Companies may pay employment taxes only in certain states.
  • Travel: Some companies require you to take frequent business trips, which makes living near an airport a necessity.
  • Client base: Remote work doesn't mean never meeting clients in person. If you're responsible for a certain territory of customers, you may need to live close to them to facilitate meetings.

Watch for red flags

Unfortunately, the "remote work" job category tends to attract scams, says FlexJobs. For every one legitimate work-from-home job, there are approximately 60 to 70 work-from-home job scams. In other words, less than 3% of all work-from-home job listings are for legitimate jobs. Some of the common scams include secret shopping, product testing or reshipping and rebate processing. Here are a few red flags Reynolds says you should be aware of:

  • The ad says things like "Unlimited earning potential," "Investment opportunities and seminars" or "Quick money."
  • You're asked for personal financial information (like your Social Security number or birth date) early in the interview process or as part of your application.
  • The job requires upfront expenses from you.
  • You're offered a job without anyone contacting – or even asking for – your references.

Search the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission websites to be sure the sites are valid, and search the company name on a search engine, plus the word "scam," and see what comes up.

Know where (and how) to focus your search

Certain job boards focus on all types of jobs, but if you're looking for a remote job, focus your search on job search platforms, like FlexJobs or Upwork, that specialize in remote and flexible work and whose research teams vet their job posts. You could also browse a company's career page and be on the lookout for works like "work-life balance" or "flexibility."

Sell your skills

If you have any previous experience working remotely, make sure you mention them in your cover letter and resume. But if you haven't worked remotely, you may have to do some digging to spotlight some experience that could be relevant to remote work.

Start with your clients and co-workers, says FlexJobs. Are they located somewhere else? If so, have you coordinated a meeting across multiple time zones? Collaborated on a project? How did you accomplish these tasks? What software did you use? Talk about your successes in these areas.

Thomas Barwick | Stone | Getty Images

Even if you've never worked with someone outside your office, that doesn't mean you don't have the skill set necessary for remote employee success. Employers with remote positions want applicants that are skilled in time and task management, self-motivated and focused, comfortable with technology and have excellent communication skills, says Reynolds.

"Your resume should include a section that highlights your technology skills because being comfortable with technology and basic troubleshooting is critical for remote work," FlexJobs' Reynolds says. "List all the programs you're familiar with, including general programs like Microsoft Office, Salesforce or Quickbooks, and remote-specific programs like web and videoconferencing tools, online chat programs, document sharing, project management, collaboration tools and more."

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Prepare for the interview

Remote interviews usually involve a phone or video call. If your interview requires the internet, make sure you have a reliable connection. Wi-Fi and cellular connections are OK, but a wired internet connection is usually a safer bet, says FlexJobs. Download (if necessary) and test your connection to be sure everything works.

Also, think about where you will have your interview. Do you have a home office? If so, does it look professional? Make sure the area is tidy and clean. If you don't have a home office, go into a room where you won't be interrupted during the interview.

"For video interviews, practice answering questions on camera, either by yourself or with a friend who wants to help. Get everything set up and speak your answers out loud while looking at your computer camera. "t's hard to get used to at first, so practicing ahead of time will calm your nerves for the real interview," Reynolds says. Attend to these things in advance, so you're ready to go when it's time.

An interview for a remote position will include the standard "Tell me about yourself" or "Why did you apply for this job?" and "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" Prep and practice for these, but also keep in mind these remote-specific interview questions, too, says Reynolds:

  • Where do you work when you're remote?
  • Why do you want to work remotely?
  • How do you handle distractions?

Companies hiring remote workers right now

FlexJobs reviewed its 2020 annual list of the top 100 companies hiring remote workers and pinpointed the companies that are currently offering a decent volume of remote-friendly positions in the top six industries for remote work. The companies listed here posted for these specific remote job titles within the last week.

"While we can't say for certain which jobs, companies and industries will continue to hire at a pace unaffected by COVID-19, these particular job titles and these industries are the ones that tend to be highly compatible with remote work, so are a good place to start a remote job search," says Kathy Gardner, senior director of public relations and media at FlexJobs.

 Medical & Health 

Computer & IT 

Customer Service 

Education & Training 

Sales 

Accounting & Finance 

Additional companies hiring

Thomson Reuters

 Salesforce

Amazon

Vitamin T

Vox Media

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.