Can you successfully job hunt remotely? How does it work in a virtual world? Richard Haxby, managing director of MathWorks, shares his thoughts.
Drawing on his experience of recruiting for new staff at MathWorks, Haxby spoke to me about the nuances of searching for a new job remotely.
‘It is worth noting that if a company is actively recruiting in the current environment then they are likely to be solid and secure’
– RICHARD HAXBY
Is searching for a job remotely more difficult?
In many ways, the actual job search itself has been little impacted. Researching and applying for jobs entirely online has been the norm for some years now.
At MathWorks, for example, as we’re looking for multilingual staff, our candidates can be from anywhere in the world. Given this, our outreach and preliminary candidate screenings are conducted entirely virtually, with physical interviews taking place in the later stages of the hiring process.
But whereas in the past jobseekers could get a feel for a company by visiting its office and meeting its staff, that is of course now not possible in the short to medium term due to the current restrictions. So, there is added pressure on the jobseeker to get a feel for whether the company is a good fit for their skills using only information online, which brings with it some uncertainty.
What would your advice be to anyone looking for a new job in STEM right now?
Many may think that this is not a good time to move jobs, but in fact there are some really great opportunities being offered by some excellent companies at the moment. And it is worth noting that if a company is actively recruiting in the current environment then they are likely to be solid and secure – in other words, some ideal characteristics to look for in an employer.
But it’s true that the traditional dialogue with potential employers has changed somewhat, given the limitations on travel and physical contact.
In addition to important questions to ask such as ‘How will you help me develop, personally and professionally, to help me shape my career?’, ‘What are the opportunities for learning new skills?’ and ‘How does my job contribute to the company’s business goals?’, candidates should feel empowered to ask what they can expect as a result of the new remote working environment.
Good questions to consider include ‘What is your new onboarding policy?’, ‘How will I join a team remotely?’ and ‘What support do you provide for working from home, whether technical, health or lifestyle?’.
How can remote jobseekers make themselves stand out to employers in a virtual environment?
Working from home is an ideal time to boost your CV. Now is the perfect opportunity to bolster existing skills or learn entirely new ones, thus making you more attractive to employers.
There has been a massive increase in free online learning options recently, with many platforms offering a multitude of options. Coursera is one such popular example, where MathWorks provides a course on practical data science with MATLAB. EdX and Udemy are other great platforms.
You can easily allocate the time you would have spent commuting to brush up on or secure certification in technical skills or foreign languages. You could take free onboarding courses for a potential employer’s base products, or indeed learn a new interest or cultivate a hobby that will benefit you in your personal life.
Can you learn much about a company and its culture remotely? What’s the best way to go about it?
In the past, a job search would naturally entail a web search of the company, a review of its website and so on. But the little extra time freed up by working from home can be used to conduct a fine-tune job search and learn more about the company.
For example, potential candidates can look to build an online network by joining like-minded interest groups relevant to the company. They could also start following potential employers’ staff on social media for a look into how healthy and well-performing the company is, and how its customers interact with the brand and talk about its products online.
In your opinion, what will be the most valuable skills to employers on the lookout for new hires right now and as Covid-19 passes?
As much as Covid-19 and working from home has impacted how we work, the actual skills that employers look for have not changed at all. The ideal candidate is strategic, creative and focused, and shows a strong work ethic.
Exceptional persuasive verbal and written communication skills are a must, especially in today’s working-from-home environment where many more conversations have now moved to video and email.
But above all, the candidate must be positive and have an approachable can-do attitude that positively benefits the team as a whole. At MathWorks, for example, we focus on our culture and how we can continue to build a single multinational and multicultural team while still celebrating each individual’s strengths.
Are there any tools or resources in particular that can help remote job seekers?
We have had great success with finding new talent on LinkedIn, so a well-defined and interesting profile here is a must-have. Another resource for candidates is Glassdoor.com, which provides reviews of companies from existing and past staff that can help candidates narrow their focus and plan for what to expect during the interview process.
Potential employer websites are also a great source of information. Review their homepages and newsrooms to see what the company is doing on the technology, business and community front.
An often-underestimated resource is media outlets, which provide an independent view into a company, as well as industry news and expected trends, all of which can be invaluable when speaking with interviewers to showcase your knowledge.