I would like to not wear pants.
May 26, 2015 2:12 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a new job that is telecommute. That is my only reason for leaving. How do I address in interviews since "looking for a new challenge" doesn't exactly fit?

I am looking for a telecommute job - that is my main reason for leaving my current position. Working remotely is not at all allowed at my current job. Only programmers are allowed one day a week at home, everyone else must be here during the day. I have asked and others have asked. Mgmt will not budge.

I am trying to find out how to address this in interviews, since it doesn't seem to fall under the typical "looking for a new challenge" bit.

I don't know if it's reasonable to say:
"I find that I am more productive in an environment where I can control the noise level and in-person interruptions. I can deal with digital interruptions, such as IM and email, much better than in-person interruptions."

To provide more information to you - I would NOT say the following in an interview unless asked and would be much more tacful and as professional as possible - I find it hard to handle the constant stream of coworkers discussing things in the aisles (and laughing loudly and the up/down of their voices that doesn't get canceled out by noise canceling headphones). Or random people stopping by and interrupting me (regardless of headphones - that has never stopped anyone).

I have been able to work from home occassionally here, such as when waiting for a repair person or snowed in. So I know that I am able to do better at home, however a regular schedule of work from home is not allowed at this job.

A possible true reason for leaving is I would like to work with more diverse clients, as I only work with in-house currently. In a previous position, I worked with external clients and enjoyed the variety. But i'm afraid they'll ask me why I don't go back to that company (it was a start up and has terrible work life balance - 60 hour weeks are the norm). I was able to work from home sometimes for that company.

I've put in a bunch of applications the last two weeks and hopefully start hearing back for at least phone interviws soon and it just occurred to me this morning that maybe "well, i want to work from home" isn't the best answer to why i'm looking, but it is the reason I am looking.

I am not interested in relocating. I don't mind travel, doing video chats, or having to make phone calls. I really just don't want to work in an office anymore.

throwaway: askmejob2015 AT gmail
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
At the risk of giving a concise answer to a long post, I would simply say, "I'm looking for a position that allows telecommuting [permanently|occasionally]". If your potential employer views that as a negative, making you think you have to hide that, then I'd suggest that employer is not someone you want to work for. Your proposed "I find that I am more productive" doesn't indicate anything about telecommuting. A direct statement will be parsed more accurately.

Ask for what you want from an employer. You don't really need to justify it - they either believe that employees can effectively telecommute (in which case it doesn't matter why you want to do it) or that employees can't effectively do their job remotely (in which case you don't want to work there).

If they aren't able to provide a good response to your request in an interview, then you definitely won't get a good response when you start working there.
posted by saeculorum at 2:17 PM on May 26, 2015 [8 favorites]

First, I'd make sure that you only apply to jobs that specifically denote that they're telecommuting jobs. I wouldn't apply and then ask them if they're open to someone working from home for this position.

I know you can't reply except through a mod, but one thing I would consider is if you are open to working on-location but in a non-cubicle office, i.e., somewhere where you can shut the door and be in your own space. I would suspect that those would be more common.

Finally, the following popped into my head: "I want to give 100% focus and effort to my job, and I'm looking for a work environment where that's possible. Although I'm not unsociable, I find that I'm looking for a work environment where I am not distracted by a lot of office chatter and gossip. I'm not a crank -- I can work with co-workers -- but at heart I'm mostly a buckle-down-and-get-the-job-done kind of guy/woman, and I'm looking for a work environment that supports that outlook on job performance."
posted by WCityMike at 2:19 PM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

I absolutely think that you can use "Looking for a new challenge and wanting to expand your client interactions" as an answer to why you are looking.

Frankly, I think the work from home thing is a great answer to the trick "What's your greatest weakness?" question. Your answer can be that you work much better in a home environment than in an office and that you are looking for a position where, after an initial in-office acclimation period, you can transition to 50% or greater work-from-home time. If they don't ask that question, they will certainly ask something like "What are your questions and concerns about the position?" where you can offer the same response.

It might be a dealbreaker with some companies, but the confidence of stating your preferences up-front is a big plus in interviewing.
posted by 256 at 2:20 PM on May 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

If it's a company that encourages/allows telecommuting for a large percentage of its employees, I think there's nothing wrong with saying, "I really like that you guys encourage telecommuting - I feel like that's a work style that really clicks for me." If they ask for more about that, you can explain how you're more productive at home, etc., and if they don't just follow it up with all the other stuff you like about the company. I mean, if they're advertising a job as being available for telecommuting, they probably don't need to be convinced that telecommuting is a good thing.

For companies where not many people telecommute I think you're going to have a much tougher row to hoe.
posted by mskyle at 2:30 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I just interviewed and got a job and my question took the form of "Can you VPN into the LAN?" and when they said yes I asked " Is telecommuting occasionally an option?" The answer was yes we can sometimes work from home. Rather cagey but found out they wanted to assess my work before committing to this option. And have me get to know the team as well.

Got the job and after 2 weeks am WFH 2 days a week. YMMV.
posted by shaarog at 2:34 PM on May 26, 2015

Update from the anon OP:
To clarify, I am only looking for jobs that are 100% telecommute and that state such in their ads, so it's not that I'm asking for this in the interview, but rather, when they ask inevitable "why are you leaving?" I want a better answer than "no pants".

The answers so far about how to frame it are the kind of thing I'm looking for in the context of talking to an interviewer who already knows the position is remote. Thanks!
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:34 PM on May 26, 2015

The first question I asked about my new (remote) gig was whether remote was OK, since the job description itself didn't specify it. After I got an answer of "yes, for the right person," I proceeded. Voila: new job!

Get that question out of the way first, don't apologize for or try to justify asking it either.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 2:37 PM on May 26, 2015

when they ask inevitable "why are you leaving?" I want a better answer than "no pants".

I think the answer is still, "I'm looking for a position that allows telecommuting; my current position does not allow it." Again, the company doesn't really care why you want to telecommute. This is a very reasonable reason to leave a company. It's akin to saying that you're looking for a position closer to home.
posted by saeculorum at 2:42 PM on May 26, 2015 [12 favorites]

I am looking for employers that recognize that and reward productivity and a record of accomplishment and work with their employees to put them in the best possible position to deliver on goals.

My current employer doesn't provide the flexibility or the working environment that supports my ability to work to the best of my ability. I'm looking for an employer who does, based on what I've read and seen you seem like employers who do.

I know that I work best when I am able to give maximum focus to the job at hand; telecommuting has been the best environment for me to do that and so I'm interviewing with companies that provide that level of flexibility to their employees.

Those are my suggestions
posted by brookeb at 2:44 PM on May 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

To clarify, I am only looking for jobs that are 100% telecommute and that state such in their ads, so it's not that I'm asking for this in the interview, but rather, when they ask inevitable "why are you leaving?" I want a better answer than "no pants".

brookeb has it, I think. Although I might keep it simpler and just use the second paragraph, and say something along the lines of, "I am looking for an environment in which I'm able to be most productive and excel at my work, and I find that a telecommuting job allows me that kind of flexibility and attention to excellence." Or something like that. I think the idea is to show that this is better for you, and will in turn be better for the company as a result of your increased productivity and (implied) overall job satisfaction.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:03 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

When a potential employer asks you why you're leaving your current job, you should always try to frame it as being about why you're excited about the NEW job. One of the things you're excited about about the new job is that it allows telecommuting. Presumably you can come up with other things to say that you're excited about? But it's OK to say that you're excited about telecommuting.

And try to be relentlessly positive about your current employer - you don't need to say, "I don't like my current employer but they won't let me telecommute." You say, "My current employer is great, but I'm really excited about X, Y, and Z at [new company] and I'd very much like to telecommute full time. Don't say, "I hated working 60 hour weeks at [startup]," say, "I hear [new company] has a great attitude towards work-life balance and I really appreciate that in an employer."

Just spend as little time talking about what *you* want as possible (beyond what you need to do to find out if they can meet your needs/expectations). Talk about what you can do for them, that's what they really need to know.
posted by mskyle at 3:04 PM on May 26, 2015 [10 favorites]

"I am looking for a position that utilizes my skills, offers a variety of interesting clients, and allows me to telecommute. I find that I work best under these circumstances."

I think it puts the telecommute in a wider list so you don't seem like you're an antisocial weirdo, while still being completely straightforward.
posted by vunder at 3:45 PM on May 26, 2015

Who cares if "I want a new challenge" isn't the real reason? What makes you think saying a version of "no pants" is a good idea or even necessary? Interviews are about selling yourself. Save honesty for your therapist.

"I've been at X company for X years now, and I'm looking for a new challenge where I will be able to gain news skills in Y and use more of my Z experience." If you say, "Because I want to work from home" or any variation of that, I don't think you sound very interested in the actual job.

Based on your followup clarification, you aren't asking for advice on finding jobs that are remote, so mentioning that you want these jobs primarily because they are remote is unnecessary. Talk about why you want the job for all the other reasons it's a good job. At some point, yes, you need to make it clear that not only can you work remotely but you feel it's a working environment where you will thrive -- otherwise, dude, do not dwell on it. These jobs are much more than the fact that they can be done remotely.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:23 PM on May 26, 2015 [7 favorites]

I think that these days, looking for a job that allows teleworking is as reasonable as looking for a new job because you're relocating to a different city. It's a huge, make-or-break thing for a lot of candidates and you're certainly not alone in wanting that.

That said ... a lot of companies are still pretty hesitant to hire new people on a 100% telecommute basis. You might, depending on the job and your skills and how much of a pay cut off of the base butt-in-seat pay rate you're willing to take, need to agree to some level of in-office time initially. If you do this I'd suggest you get it in writing so that everyone is clear on what the expectations are and that the long-term intent is to be 100% remote. That is a negotiating point that you would want to bring up once you get through the initial get-to-know-each-other stages of the interview process, though; it's a salary negotiation phase item, not a courtship phase item.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:54 PM on May 26, 2015

> "Because I want to work from home" or any variation of that, I don't think you sound very interested in the actual job.

I'd respectfully disagree with this. I think it's honest and it makes it clear why you're looking for a new job (which is always a question in the back of the mind of the person across the table). Someone who left because they wanted something that their old company just couldn't provide is someone who is likely to stick around, if the new company can just provide that one thing. That's the implicit deal you are putting forward. "Give me what my old company was giving me and this one other thing that they couldn't, and I'll do for you what I was doing for them..." presumably on an open-ended basis. That's a good candidate.

"I'm looking for a new challenge" is just a polite way of saying "I got bored at my old job" which is sort of a mixed message. It puts a pleasant a spin on it, and it's understandable as a motivation, but it's sort of a dangerous tack to take if you're making a lateral rather than upwards move. If the jobs aren't substantially different, what's there to keep you around? (If the jobs are substantially different, of course, this is a great thing to say. But someone looking for the same job, only telework-capable, might not be.) It's not a deal-breaker or anything, but it's not doing you a ton of favors either, IMO.

All else being equal, if a company is hiring for long-term stability, someone who loved their job but had to leave it for a reason outside the control of their previous company (e.g. the classic one is "needed to relocate to a different city for family reasons"), is going to seem the stronger bet, and less flighty, than someone who just left the competitor down the road because the work wasn't doing it for them anymore. Wanting a telework job, if you frame it right, can be one of those former reasons rather than one of the latter ones, and I'd think about explaining it that way.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:10 PM on May 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

Old-fashioned though it may seem, I think leading with 'I want to work at home' is still a red flag, even at companies that encourage telecommuting. You gotta do better than that.
AppleTurnover said it best.
posted by LonnieK at 6:58 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

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