Jobhunting remotely
December 4, 2016 1:13 AM   Subscribe

This is kind of a broad one. But thanks to life circumstances I find myself having to conduct a long-distance job search. Any advice for someone seeking work in one country while being temporarily located in a different country? I've been a full-time caregiver for a year, so I'm trying to get back into work after a career break. Can Mefites who've done this before share their experiences with me? Anything I should be aware of that I wouldn't already know from the blog posts and listicles that abound on this topic?

Mefites who've answered my previous questions will know I'm returning to the UK after moving back to my home country to care for my father when he was diagnosed with cancer. He died a few months ago, and I will be moving back soon. I would like to have a job lined up to go to as soon as I get back.

My main concern so far is a difficulty in having a natural-feeling conversation over long-distance conference calls or Skype... so far I've had two phone interviews and each time I've ended up inadvertently talking over the other person, or experienced awkward silences as we all gauged whether everyone else was done talking. Each time, we've laughed it off, but I worry about the impact this has on my ability to connect with people.

I've done a lot of reading on this topic and I know for basic things to look out for - make sure to dress professionally, make sure there are no interruptions, make sure my technology all works well.

In general I worry that my location in a different country disadvantages me compared to someone who is local. Do people feel as connected to someone when the only communication is over Skype or email? I also worry a little about my 'backstory' - a one-year career break in a different country (and that too one that a lot of people don't know about and can't locate on a map) can't be something that hiring managers see in candidates everyday - or maybe it is. I don't know. I'm sorry for how broad this question is, but I'm hoping Mefites will have some useful advice for me!
posted by Ziggy500 to Work & Money (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Not to sound unsympathetic but it really doesn't matter if you are disadvantaged or not. These are your logistical constraints. The only way to change them would be to hop on the next plane and starting a local job search...and presumably there are reasons why that's not happening. So instead of trying to change the unchangeable assume you're as solid a candidate as anybody else they are looking at and proceed on that basis. If an employer considers you unsuitable or does not want the logistical complications in the interview process they will not ask you to interview.

I spend a lot of time on conference calls and in skype meetings and the 'problems' you describe are part of the course. You will get little delays, you will get multiple people starting to talk at the same time etc. It is best to actively acknowledge that and proceed professionally and it sounds as if that's happening. If you are worried about anything specifically ask for feedback for any applications that were not successful. But nothing you've described sounds unusual for that mode of communication.

As for the background - be sure to have your story straight. You had to take a sabbatical to honour a family commitment in other country. That is now finished. You are entitled to work in the UK (or whatever your immigration/work permit status is). You're moving back and will be available from date x. You would be a good fit for 'role' because xxx
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:40 AM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would bring this up in the final paragraph of my cover letter where I usually address practical considerations. Agree with the above poster who said to get your story straight. Work out what your narrative is, every situation has multiple possible ways of describing it. You took a year to be with your family and especially your father at the end of his life. You will be back in the UK from X-date and available to work from Y-date. Be clear in some appropriate manner that your housing and other practical issues are taken care of. You are not a relocation candidate, you just aren't available for in-person interviewing at the moment.
posted by Iteki at 7:05 AM on December 4, 2016

Hi! I'm coming up on month four of my new job in the US after spending two years in Australia doing a bit of part time consulting and stay-at-home parenting! I got this job after a six month long job search from Australia.

This is indeed harder for you than it will be for in-person interviewees, and that sucks. A few things I learned/dealt with along the way that may be helpful for you:

- Because I did do some consulting and contract work while I was overseas, I was able to say honestly that I had been working between my last full-time job and my current search. Is that something you can say, or were you full-on for caretaking? (I think it helped me that there was less of a resume gap than there could have been. If this isn't the case for you, it's not a dealbreaker, but consider whether there's anything you can say)
- In all my cover letters/emails, I was very explicit that I was already planning to move back to the US, that I had no visa or other issues anyone had to worry about, and that I wasn't just looking for someone to cover my relocation expenses. This was especially helpful with smaller companies - some of the bigger companies I interviewed with did offer relocation, but the job I ended up with did not and generally speaking doesn't hire overseas candidates or pay relocation. Would have been nice if they did, but saying up front that this was something I was already planning to do, rather than looking for a job to do it for me, I'm guessing helped my case.
- All of my interviews were through personal connections. I highly recommend leveraging your network as much as possible to avoid anyone dismissing you just based on what they see in your resume. If you can get to the interview, that's a good time to explain your circumstances.
- In the interviews, I ended up having to explain a lot more of my personal circumstances for being overseas/not working than I normally would have liked (it involved explaining my husband's nationality, occupation, the fact that I had followed him, and the fact I'd had a kid - basically none of which I would normally reveal in an interview, and stuff they normally aren't allowed to ask me outright). So have your short story - "family circumstances" - but be prepared to explain a little more if you have to. But definitely only start with the short story first.
- Many people advised me to travel to where I wanted a job and plan to be there for two weeks and let companies there know I'd be available for in-person interviews. Due to my circumstances, that was not possible for me, but if it is for you it might help.
- I did a lot of no-questions-asked 4 AM phone and video calls for interviews which meant being fully showered, hair done, and face made up. It sucked. But I went out of my way not to let them know how much of a pain in the ass that was. (Your time zone difference may be easier to manage than Australia and the US east coast)
- Yeah, video and voice calls aren't ideal for interviewing. I made sure I had my headphones with microphone in use at all times (much better sound quality from my end), that everything else that used wifi in my house was turned off so there was no chance of something suddenly deciding to automatically download a huge software update and slowing down my video call, that I'd checked the lighting and ambient noise and everything before I started my call making sure I wasn't backlit or listening to the neighbor's weedwhacker or anything, and that we had established a backup plan for the interview if the primary medium didn't work -- e.g., if the video call kept hanging, that one of us would call the other by phone. Even though they're way more prone to hanging, I do prefer video calls if both our connections can manage it, because it's helpful for me to see the interviewer's facial expressions and manage the back-and-forth of who's talking when.

My cover emails generally took the form of a paragraph or two about why I'm awesome and they should hire me, and the final paragraph saying "By the way, you may notice from my resume that I'm currently in Australia. My family has been planning to move back to the US this year and I am a US citizen with no visa issues to consider. I'm looking forward to returning!" or something like that. Don't explain anything you don't have to at that stage - just tell them why you're still an easy hire for them.

This definitely is not easy and I wish you the best of luck. Feel free to MeMail me if you want any other advice or just want to complain!
posted by olinerd at 9:25 AM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I handled this by moving first and temping while I looked.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:30 PM on December 4, 2016

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