3 reasons you’re not getting hired for a remote development position

I’ve hired many remote freelance developers over the years and have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to applications. I’m going to show you 3 mistakes developers often make when applying to remote positions that you should avoid at all costs.


1. Your Resume Is Boring

As a developer why are you still sending PDF resumes? I find more value in reading a candidate’s cover letter, and then looking at their portfolio, to be the best indication of a good fit. In the development world, actions speak louder than words. That’s why I put more importance on the cover letter and prior work of the individual. If you must have a resume, there’s a few things you should be conscious of when submitting it with your application:

  1. Bullets — I hate these things. Stop putting a million bullets with “skills” at the top of it. I’ve seen some where that section runs the entire first page, and I’m not building an armory so I don’t want your bullets. Instead, limit it to the top 5 skills you think are most applicable to the position you’re applying for.
  2. Can Do Attitude — What is this phrase? Why do people still use it? If you’re one of them, stop it, now.
  3. Interpersonal Skills — Similar to the above, this is another word that is used too often but has no real value to anyone. If you tell me you have interpersonal skills then convey it in your cover letter with your writing. Show me.

What to do instead

Be conscious of the person’s time and assume that they have to go through a pile of other applications. You have a minimal amount of time to make a good impression on them with the items you’ve sent. You don’t want them reading fluff on your resume when they should be looking at your good work.


2. Your Portfolio Needs Resuscitation

As a developer, your portfolio is your most important asset. That’s why I cringe when I see portfolios that look like the candidate’s grandma put it together. Here’s some things to consider before you decide to send that portfolio link.

Great example of what not to do with the top part of your portfolio. (Credit: Alex Cornell / Link)
  1. It’s not eye-catching — Some of you will say, “I’m a back-end developer. I don’t need to show off any visual skills.” Fine, but, understand that the people doing hiring you in some places don’t think that way. If you catch someone’s attention with some nice visuals, chances are they‘ll want to explore more so it’s a good first impression. If you feel you don’t have the skills for front-end, find a front-end developer friend to help, or start off with a theme to build on top of. It’ll be worth it. Here’s a purposely created example of what not do with your portfolio. If it looks anything like this, change it, now.
  2. Unnecessary images and bios — I don’t see a stock image and I don’t want to read about your hobbies and interests and. Just being honest. You’re diverting attention away from the stuff that matters: your work! This goes back to design, find a way to bring attention quickly to the parts that give value to the reader.
  3. Where’s the work? — Surprisingly, I’ve seen this before, a portfolio that talks about skills and accomplishments but no proof of them. Your portfolio is not meant to be an extension of your resume so make sure you actually put real links to work, whether it be a website, Github, or Codepen. Make sure the proof is in the pudding.
Don’t use images and graphics like this. (Credit: Alex Cornell / Link)

3. Your Cover Letter Sucked

Keeping in mind that the person hiring you is probably going through a bunch of proposals. You need to make sure that the first interaction this person has with you is a lasting one.

Here’s some things not to write in your initial message to your potential client or employer:

  1. “Please find my resume and cover letter enclosed” — That’s played out, don’t use it.
  2. “Dear Hiring Manager, etc etc” — Too generic, try to find a name, if you can’t, just say Hi or Hello, don’t overthink it.

What to do instead

  1. Mention why you are applying for the position and what motivated you.
  2. Why you think you have the skills and experience they need.
  3. If you’ve done remote work before, make sure you mention that right away. It is definitely a big plus.
  4. Examples and direct links to the specific projects or code which relates to the position. This is a big time saver for the employer since you’re taking them straight to the stuff they want to see: Your work! They will definitely appreciate this when they see it, I know I do.

Keeping all these pointers in mind will increase your chances of getting noticed when applying for a remote position. Just remember to always keep things short and sweet. Be conscious of the time of the person whose reading your application.