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  • Working From Home – A Guide to Virtual Employment

    To be able to ace an interview for a remote a.k.a. work from home position, as a job seeker it’s recommended that you take a different approach to the interviewing process when compared with applying for an in-office position.

    The reason for the change in strategy is primarily due to the thought processes, concerns and needs of the hiring manager as you’ll see they are not the same when compared to a typical hire.

    What employers want in remote employees

    For a manager, hiring remote employees come with a lot of concern. Anyone who has been in a position of responsibility can tell you that managing employees twenty feet away is complex.  Thus, keeping atop of someone 1,000 miles away is a whole new stress factor.

    With different concerns, comes different priorities and, for a hiring manager they are going to look for the following traits while interviewing you:

    • Autonomy – If they’re not in the office, can the manager be confident that you can and will do the work without them overseeing every detail?
    • Experience Working Remotely – A transition from an office environment to a home-based office can be a shock to some employees. If they’ve never worked from home before, that means there is a chance of them not liking it and leaving the company. While nobody can be sure an employee is going to stay at a firm, the risk of an experienced home office worker leaving the job prematurely is significantly less than someone who is working from home for the first time.
    • Reliability and Responsibility – While there are “employee work” tracking software systems that exist, utilizing them too heavily can give clues to the employee that their manager doesn’t trust them which sours the relationship.  Therefore, the honor system must be utilized (note: some exceptions do exist when companies have HR departments).

    This can make managers feel a bit powerless and raise their stress level. So, during the interview, subtlety tackle that issue by describing yourself as “reliable” and “responsive” at some point during the course of the interview.

    • Communicative – Managers want employees who will be communicating with them on a regular basis as opposed to having to chase an employee down every time they need a piece of information.

    The most successful at home employees are the ones who make sure that their manager is kept abreast of their progress and is always available when needed.

    The moment effective communication flow stops, a manager begins to question that person’s reliability and responsibility. If this happens, the relationship can go downhill very quickly.

    During the interview process, simply asking the hiring manager how often they would prefer that you contact and update them would be highly recommended.  It’s a simple question, but puts to rest a complex concern on the part of your future boss.

    Phone and Skype vs in-person interviewing for home office jobs

    Phone interviews will be just as important as in-person interviews and potentially a final in-person interview will be replaced with a Skype meeting. While most applicants are accustomed to interviewing on the phone, many make a common mistake when interviewing via web cam which is not a deal breaker, but is a small mistake that should be easily avoided.

    Often, the inexperienced will, by habit look at the computer screen during the conversation rather than at the camera making it appear almost as if they are looking at themselves in a mirror and not engaged in the other person or overall conversation.

    Negotiating salary and company expenses

    When you go to negotiate salary, negotiate in the same manner you would if you were an in-office employee and, if you get what you ask for that’s great, but if you get a little less, you still come out ahead.

    If your job requires travel to client sites, make sure that the employer reimburses gas mileage.  Also, you’re going to need basic office goods, determine how the company pays for things like internet and phone.

    If you’re given a corporate credit card, use it responsibly.  More important than anything, when tax time comes, use an accountant if you plan to write off part of your rent as the last person you want to show irresponsibility and unreliability is to the U.S. government.  They can do a lot more damage to you than any boss.

    When working from home, stay active and make sure you get exercise.  It’s very easy to gain weight and slack off.  Ensure that you have periodic changes in environments even if it’s sitting on a park bench. Otherwise, your productivity and ability to execute will decline. Physical and mental health are even more highly correlated when working from a remote position.

    Ken Sundheim is the CEO of KAS Placement Sales and Marketing Recruiters, a sales and marketing recruiting firm specializing in staffing business development and marketing professionals around the U.S. Ken has been published in Forbes, Chicago Tribune, AOL, Business Insider, Ere.net, Recruiter.com, Huffington Post and many others. He has also appeared on MTV, Fox Business News and spoken at some of the country's leading business schools on HR, job search and recruitment.

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