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How I Got My First Fully Remote Job

Several years have passed since I started thinking about becoming completely location-independent.
How I Got My First Fully Remote Job

Several years have passed since I started thinking about becoming completely location-independent.

Only at the beginning of last year did I set a goal firmly to achieve it.

The aim is just as simple as having a remote job with a salary that allows you to afford living not only in emerging(degrading) countries. One of my previous jobs was remote but didn’t allow as much flexibility as I wished.

At first, I didn’t know which way to go exactly so I just decided to try and to see what would work best.

My first idea was to join an existing remote team. It could be a great mix of advantages of a remote job, reliability, and great experience. I was aiming for European and US remote-first startups.

I’ve got a huge problem: I’m really bad at interviews. Passing interviews is a special skill, I have almost no experience in.

Unfortunately, I’ve almost never got prepared for any interview in my life. And I’ve had almost the same number of interviews as the number of my former jobs.

No matter whether I’ve always been too lucky or probably not too bad, this time I needed appropriate preparation.

I’ve made up a set of daily tasks consisting of:

  • Screening several job boards and adding suitable job posts to my shortlist
  • Preparing CVs and cover letters
  • Preparing for classical coding interview
  • Preparing for an iOS-specific interview
  • Preparing for solving whiteboard coding problems
  • Working hard on my half-pet half-production project to boost real-project skills and have something to show in case of need.

The remote jobs market turned out to be incomparably more competitive than I had ever imagined. Almost any job post gets more than 50 proposals during the first day, and more than 100 during the first week. Usually, job boards tend to hide the exact number of proposals, so that number is probably even higher.

That means that you should be really impressed to get a response. Cover letter, CV, and background should be somewhere in higher quantiles. I’ve found a very nice service to build up an attractive CV blazingly fast: resume.io.

Another annoying thing is that nobody is in a hurry except you. Once I got a response only after 1,5 months after I stopped searching already.

Unfortunately, a “remote” job post does not always mean internationally remote. It can be remote inside the origin country or city. Sometimes candidates are required to be onsite a couple of days per week or month.

Legal issues are one more reason why companies sometimes won’t hire you if you are not US or EU resident. It’s very likely to be a stop signal though there is no real reason for employers to avoid international contracts.

Just imagine how disappointing it is to be on the short list among over 100 proposals and then find out about a mistaken remote detail in the job post.

I’ve written a huge number of letters (probably more than ever) and got several responses and invitations to an interview, but frankly nothing very successful. Usually, the processes got stuck at some stage.

I decided that my approach is not efficient and also started applying to companies that offer relocation.

The relocation was not matching my initial plan, but I got rather disappointed in remote opportunities and started considering relocation to be not as bad.

The conversion of my proposals went noticeably higher and I’ve managed to get rather deep in the hiring process of one of the companies.

It took me about 2 weeks to pass 4 steps: HR, tech-lead, test task, one more technical interview, and management. I failed the last one, where we were talking about management processes and, yes, salary. I’m quite sure that the main reason was my unrealistic salary expectations.

I was pricing their average domestic market, while they probably had special prices for relocating employees. That’s my guess based on glassdoor numbers. Anyway, that was the kind of hiring process I got great pleasure from.

I’ve also applied to Toptal. It’s a body shop company, that resells remoted developers hourly based to somebody else.

I’ve passed HR, coding test with timer, and failed coding test with timer and screen sharing. I was rather close but didn’t have enough time to debug the error for one of test cases. If I have succeeded I would have a ~20 hours test project as the last step.

If you are interested in Toptal, be aware that the first coding test tasks have a difficulty level above the average. Significantly higher than hackerrank tests at booking or badoo.

Shared screen session tasks are easy, but you are limited to ~10 minutes per task. That means that you do not have time to think over the problem. The solution should come to your mind immediately and you will have time just to write it down at once, almost without any time for debugging. So my advice would be to train hard before trying.

I stopped searching when my friend suggested me to take part in an ongoing project that was a kind of dating service based on nearby events. It was my first full-time freelance job and the experience was so amazing that I got completely dragged into the freelancing world and have been staying there till now for more than a year now.

It turned out to be a good trigger for my efforts to mobilize in that direction and after a year I can confidently say that it was worth it.