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How to Show Your Ability to Work Remotely as a New Grad

Ray Bixler

The COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed the workplace. The big change is the declining use of traditional workspaces or headquarters and the necessity for remote working -- a trend that was picking up steam even before the pandemic. Technology has enabled the rise of working from home -- or anywhere really -- for all or some of the time.

There was a 159% increase in the number of people telecommuting in the U.S. between 2005 and 2017, according to Flexjobs. Early adopters include Automattic Inc., better known for its signature platform, WordPress, and app integration tech firm Zapier, both of which bill themselves as global remote companies, with no offices and with teams working worldwide.

Now, as the economy begins to slowly reopen, more companies are making remote working permanent for part or all of their workforce. Facebook plans to allow half of its employees to work remotely within the next five to 10 years. Twitter says that, where it makes sense after the pandemic, it will allow employees to continue working from home permanently. A recent Gartner survey found that 74% of CFOs polled expect to move previously on-site employees remote, even after the worst of the COVID-19 crisis has passed.

What Concerns Employers about Remote Workers

But working remotely comes with some challenges. For one, remote workers operate without direct oversight from supervisors and managers or in-person interaction with co-workers. Employers are also aware that there can be a lot of distractions when working from home or elsewhere. Yet, in a survey published in May, research and advisory services firm Valoir found an average reduction in productivity among remote workers of only 1%.

Other concerns focus on soft skills in a remote environment. For example, without in-person supervision, can an employee be counted on to self-motivate, manage their time efficiently in order to meet deadlines and communicate and interact well with team members and co-workers? In Buffer's 2020 State of Remote Work survey, 20% of more than 3,500 remote workers polled around the world said their biggest struggle was communication and collaboration with others. An equal proportion struggled most with loneliness. Another 12% said distractions were their top issue, and 7% said staying motivated was their greatest challenge.

[Read: Resume Mistakes to Avoid]

Showcase Your Remote Worker Skills

Today's employers want to be assured that new remote hires can be counted on to be motivated, productive, good communicators and collaborators. You can improve your chances of being hired by highlighting these soft skills:

Prepare for Your Video Interview

You'll most likely be interviewed for your new job via a video call. Even though it's not in-person, you should still look your best and dress appropriately. In addition, make sure the space that's visible to your interviewer(s) is orderly, quiet and professional-looking -- not the garage or the backyard. This matters to employers, especially if your prospective job will involve talking to customers and suppliers.

Show Off Your Remote Tech Skills

A video interview is a great time to promote your remote-working technical and communication skills. Familiarize yourself with the features of tools like FaceTime, Zoom, Skype and other tech before the actual appointment so that your call will go more smoothly. For example, you may be asked to share your screen and present documents with the interviewer or view and speak to several interviewers at once via a grid view of participants. Before and after the interview, when communicating with recruiters or hiring managers, make sure your emails and text messages are clear and your grammar is perfect.

[See: 15 Best Remote Working Jobs.]

Talk About How You Stay Productive and Focused

Remote working means no in-person supervision. Tell your interviewers about how you motivate yourself to start new projects. Are you good at creating and staying aligned with a schedule and deadline reminders? Be prepared to talk about how you prioritize when working on multiple projects and deadlines. Cite examples of these work habits and soft skills that you learned and employed at any internships or previous positions. Because distractions are a top concern for remote workers, talk about how you can easily limit interruptions in your home or shared workspace.

Demonstrate Your Collaborative Skills

Since you'll be a remote worker in your new job, you won't be interacting with colleagues and managers on-site. Still, your prospective employer will want to hear your tactics for reaching out to and collaborating with team members for assistance. Talk about how you use technology -- e.g. chat, instant messaging, Slack, Skype, Google Docs, etc. -- to collaborate, clarify issues or confer with co-workers and supervisors.

[Read: Jobs After College for Recent Graduates.]

Be Ready With Your References

As a new grad, your experience with remote learning can come in handy on your job interview, especially if you can relate how you stayed motivated to complete assignments and collaborated with others via technology during the pandemic. When it comes to asking for references, reach out to professors who you've worked with via online learning tools and who may be able to convey your competencies for working remotely. Be ready for reference checking to take place online and make sure you keep up-to-date email and cell phone information for your references.

Chances are, you've already honed your remote skills with virtual learning or social Zoom calls during this pandemic. Increase your chances of landing a position by demonstrating your ability to excel as a remote worker.

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