How to Find a Remote Programming Job

Want to work where you can surf? Want to live where the climate is great or living costs are low? Want to define your own work environment or schedule? Read on!

Last year some changes occurred at a client who provided me with work for most of my working week. I had been working for them more or less remotely for two and half years. It became apparent that the future of the company was not certain and I decided to look for a new job.

I wanted to find an employer that didn’t just tolerated remote work but embraced it as part of its culture. I found two sites particularly useful for searching for remote jobs.

  1. Stackoverflow Careers which is also great for maintaining an online career profile. You can specify an “allows remote” filter through the location search field.
  2. We Work Remotely As the name suggest, they display only remote job offerings.

Initially, after sending out a few applications, I was a bit demoralised as I was used to companies contacting me as soon as I sent them a CV. This is because, until now, I had always contacted companies in the areas I could travel to within a few hours. These companies all required some face to face contact and so the talent pool they could consider was small. Now I was competing against every remote programmer in the whole world. In retrospect my response rate of around 25% was still pretty good. About half were negative responses from companies that were, at least initially, looking for US based people. Some companies did not respond, even when I though I was a particularly good fit for the advertised position.

When I was in the midst of interviews, an interesting company responded by apologising for the delay in getting back and that they would be in touch again soon. I informed them that I was likely to start receiving offers soon. Unfortunately they were unable to schedule an interview until a month later, since they were interviewing candidates in the order in which their applications came in. For the position I soon accepted the whole process was over in a week. This could also account for some companies that did not respond, perhaps having already filled the position. These examples show a very different process but both go to show that it pays to be fast with your application.

Every couple of days new remote jobs would be posted on Stackoverflow Careers or We Work Remotely. I would spend around two hours researching a company, writing a cover letter and applying for each job that sounded interesting. Not every posted job will be both interesting and aligned with you skill set, so for a full time job seeker this would leave a lot of time left in the day.

There are quite a few companies at which remote working is part of the culture.

Most firms have a list of positions they are trying to fill now. If not or you are not in a hurry, you could start working your way into a company by gaining experience with their products. Automattic, for example, hires mostly Bloggers so, if you are keen on them, you should consider starting a Wordpress blog. You could also start helping out with a company’s open source development.

There are some interesting books you can read to inform yourself about remote working from the employee side.

A number of companies are starting to realise that they are restricting themselves by hiring solely from the local talent pool. A company I spoke to in a city of 1.4 million people said they actually know the developers that they want to hire: they haven’t been able to though, since these people are happy where they are.

There are challenges to working with remote teams, but if overcome, the team can access talent from all over the world, which provides at least equal rewards. For some tips on persuading companies to make the change to remote teams you can read the excellent book by the creators of Basecamp, Remote: Office Not Required

Final Advice to Make the Switch

  1. Setup your Stackoverflow Careers profile and start looking there for remote jobs.
  2. Watch We Work Remotely for new jobs.
  3. If you don’t have design skills, get help from someone who does. Your website and you CV provide your first impressions. Make sure they are good ones.
  4. If you see an interesting job post, apply quickly.
  5. Decide which companies you would like to work for, research them and consider getting on their good side by helping out first.
  6. When you apply, write a cover letter that explains why you think you are a good fit for a job and why you are excited about it.