May 19, 2021

How to Think About Remote and Work from Home Opportunities

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Episode Highlights

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Of all the professional topics that are being discussed in conjunction to COVID19, remote work flexibility sits at the very top of almost everyone’s list.

Remote work and WFH flexibility as recent as a year ago had been tough to find, but that all changed the second society collectively “sheltered in place.” In a short period of time, companies and job seekers are being forced to reconsider location and physical attendance at offices. Remote work has become one of the top three talking points during the recruitment process, and that trend won’t slow down any time soon.

Matt Hernandez and Jeff Smith took a moment to discuss how the market has adjusted to remote work. They pondered how candidates should think about assessing remote work opportunities during their job search. They discussed how the rush of remote opportunities has changed the market in dramatic ways. Finally, they gave a list of things to consider as a job seeker as it relates to remote work.

Episode Transcript

Welcome everyone to the Careerwell video series. First and foremost, thanks for tuning in. Today’s topic that we wanted to talk about is something we’re all kind of dealing with right now and depending on when you watch this, maybe three years from now, people will forget what this felt like, but obviously a very hot topic: remote work and how kind of the landscape of the idea of work from home has changed during the pandemic. So to dig into the details, we have our very own Matt Hernandez joining me. Matt is a lead recruiter here at Hirewell, he is thankfully on my squad in managed recruiting.

 

He is on the front lines of dealing with this exact topic, not only with our customers but with our candidates.  And he’s here today to give us the deeper dive into what’s going on out there. So nice to have you here, Matt. 

 

Nice to be here. Thanks for having me Jeff. 

 

Excellent. Excellent.  Well, I wanted to break today’s segment down into a few kind of key topics and we’re hoping that these kind of little pieces of information will be useful for you as a job seeker, as you kind of navigate the waters of negotiating remote work and also kind of what we’re seeing on the customer side as well.

 

So, topic one: now versus the pre COVID world, like companies that were previously a hundred percent onsite or even a hybrid model have definitely moved to a more flexible work from home by necessity and by legislation sometimes.

 

And I think they’ve probably reaped some rewards of that flexibility.  What are you seeing out there in terms of the market for work from home and the types of opportunities that have opened for customers by implementing those strategies? 

 

Yeah, absolutely.

 

I mean, I think back into 2020 when all this started, you know a day or two remote was glorious. I mean, it was great. A lot of people really enjoyed that and I think that for the most part, people were – the talent pool was local. If companies in Chicago were looking, they’re looking at Chicago because they did have some  requirements of being onsite.

 

And now I think companies have had to adapt to not only the current times, but as we’re getting back into maybe a return to the workforce model, candidates and clients are at the forefront of trying to decide what makes the most sense for them. I think being a hundred percent remote

 

you’re  seeing a lot of the candidates love that. And as you talk to them, they want that moving forward and it might not work for everybody in terms of,  hey, being a hundred percent remote all the time or having to go into the office. So it’s definitely a real challenge. I think as you begin to start to align on the opportunities that both the interests and the clients have of what makes sense, but the companies that were

 

pre COVID flexible and even now moving more towards a hundred percent remote policy, they’re winning. I mean, they’re taking advantage of all the best candidates, local, non-local, and I think that just elevates not only the culture but the ability of the teams and the resources you can have.

 

So, I do think it’s a win-win  but there are companies that aren’t going to be a hundred percent remote and that’s okay too. I think going into the office a couple of days a week, I definitely miss it. You know seeing the Hirewell team, collaborating, be with everybody, going to lunch, grabbing a burger, whatever it is.

 

So I think for the most part it’s going to work out, but if companies can continue to have a day or two remote or even predominantly remote and then most of the time something that allows them to  the best candidates in the market.

 

Yeah, totally. You mentioned something super interesting and it’s the idea that the companies that had already implemented some of these procedures at the beginning or prior to coronavirus were in some respects, ready to help assimilate folks into that structure versus folks or companies that didn’t have that structure of a policy have kind of had to learn how to do it on the fly.

 

I think it’s important for candidates to understand that the pendulum will swing the other way at some point. I think it’s foolhardy to think that 100% remote structures are going to be the end all, be all wave of the future because at the heart of any business is human interaction and it manifests itself in different ways.

 

So the other thing I heard you say was everything doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  You have to be able to evaluate each individual situation and say, all right on the totem pole of things that I want as a candidate, this company aligns with my values, it has a cool product,

 

like I love the person that I’d report to, does that sway you to go into the office three days a week? We can’t answer that, but it’s something that you need to come to grips with as a candidate to open your net as far as possible. 

 

Sure. Yeah, I mean candidates but even current employees. I think we look at it as a recruiting process but in terms of companies not allowing for candidates to either live in any place or be more flexible in their mode standpoint,

 

I mean a lot of people are moving on to Chicago and companies might be losing their talent to other opportunities that are a hundred percent remote. So I think  there’s a lot to consider when it comes to the culture of the team but the companies that were able to have a flexible model pre COVID, they didn’t miss a step in terms of productivity, optimizing their team’s ability to work remote.

 

And I think they were winning. I think now for the most part, people are getting used to logging into the VPN or having everything remote but it’ll be interesting to see how individuals make decisions because you know the interactions are a lot different. You’re interviewed, you’re hired and you’re working all through remote technologies and it’s different. I think you lose out on a little bit of the intimacy that you’re able to get from the team when you are going in a day or two, or just having some of those kinds of daily interactions.

 

Yeah, absolutely.  Super interesting thoughts. Topic two. 

 

You know now that we’re in this environment and by we, everyone, right? The globe is in this for the time being remote or at least somewhat remote culture.  We’ve actually spoken to a ton of candidates that hadn’t ever really worked a significant amount of time from a remote capacity and 

 

I think you’ve said it before, I had fantasized a little bit about how nice it would be to work from home. 12 months later, I’ve talked to a lot of those folks and I feel like a sizable portion of them actually miss the day-to-day interactions and learning opportunities that in-person work provides.

 

And I raised my head when you said – I mean, me included, I’m here now because I just kind of missed the view maybe. I don’t know. Are you seeing the same thing? And do you think that companies who don’t want to go all the way remote still stand to take a chance? 

 

Yeah, no. I mean, I can definitely identify with that.

 

I mean, your view from the desk a little bit better than mine but  I think it’s still good to kind of be in the office. But I think back to when I was able to work remote pre COVID or even at the beginning, like it felt like I wasn’t working, even though I was working tirelessly all the time. It just felt different to me.

 

And I was able to even have a day or so remote and you kind of felt removed a little bit from what that actual core work feeling was. But I think the great thing is a lot of people are figuring out that they can be productive,  they are able to optimize things, but I do personally feel like they’re missing out on a lot of learning experiences.

 

Like I learned a lot from just listening to other people in the office or you know, “Hey, I had a tough time with a candidate or a client” and the support of the Hirewell team being there to just kind of talk about it. How do you email an entire conversation to somebody and say, “Hey, what should I do?”

 

You almost have to be there and kind of freely talk through it, just get up and walk to someone’s desk. So  I’ve definitely missed out on a lot of that because you get into your zone and you’re in your bubble and are you really applying yourself in a lot of ways?

 

You know, I don’t know. Being too comfortable can definitely hurt everyone on both sides of the companies and the candidates. So it’s definitely. Something to where like you should be okay with going into the office a day or two, if the commute is acceptable, but there’s just a lot of office space that’s not being used.

 

And I think that for people to only want to go a hundred percent remote, it changes the dynamic a little bit of just the internal culture. 

 

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of managing two teams at two companies.  You all, obviously up until the pandemic, we were onsite pretty much every day, having a good time, fighting our battles together, getting good work done.

 

And then prior to Hirewell, I had a remote team and just personally speaking as a manager, it’s very difficult to manage and make sure that everyone is feeling supported, is productive. There are dynamics that make that onsite, those onsite interactions really, really valuable.  Again, as we continue to have this discussion, this isn’t a situation where I feel like

 

over time one side is going to proverbially win over the other side. This is going to come down to everyone’s personal threshold as to what makes their clock tick, so to speak. And when I talk to candidates, I say, look, if working remotely is like a priority number one, tell the hiring manager, tell the recruiter, tell them that like right off the bat because they’re going to be able to carve out the types of things  and the types of opportunities that will be of interest. It will limit that pool.

 

and I think it’s our job to tell folks about the pitfalls of that. I think that it does, it all feels rosy when you haven’t done it, but then when you’ve been secluded for 12 months and you haven’t had the human interaction, I think – yeah I’m not saying, I’m not going to speak for everyone, but for me, I was very much missing that stuff and I do feel like I’m more productive when I have kind of the best of both worlds.

 

 So the third topic. So the companies that were either set up or have run to like a hundred percent either hybrid or fully remote model, super picky, very, very picky because they can – I mean some companies are choosing globally but at a minimum for US-based companies, they’re looking in the United States in sum. They’re not just to your point, they’re not just looking

 

in Chicago land anymore. So it’s kind of this other side of the coin of the entire conversation that like, and we’ve talked about a few times. Candidates, you need to understand that when you limit your search to only remote a hundred percent of the time, it decreases the inventory of the jobs available and it increases your competition because those are the jobs that everyone is going to be going after.

 

So our customers always have, unfortunately, the next candidate mentality. And fair or not, that is the way it is and there’s always going to be another person applying. So what advice do you have to that candidate pool out there who has looked at this as an opportunity to say I’m never going back into an office again?

 

I mean it opens things up. If you were to look at Chicago market, I’m not sure, maybe there’s 10k, 20k people on a technologist standpoint operating in the city. When a company locally was to find a candidate that they know is good, they moved on them and it gave the parameters of it knowing what’s good and what’s not.

 

And like, I think now, you know, companies are looking at candidates and like, “Oh, well, we’ll just find the next one.” Or you’re dealing with all 50 States and I think I noticed that it gives them the inability to make a decision. And when you know your limitations and you’ve interviewed 10 candidates, you wither it down to three finalists,

 

they make the decision and they’re happy with that and they’re content. I think companies that are looking at a hundred percent remote, they were like inundated with this potential of candidates that are out there and that is limiting your ability to just act when they see something good. Obviously you’re missing out on great candidates, but on the flip side, I think on the candidate side, it is a little bit of a different model as well, because they’re a little bit more picky.

 

They’re a little bit more passive in casually looking, casually looking for things across the whole United States. It just takes a long time to really not only understand who you’re dealing with, but the team that they’re hiring. You get certain understandings of what companies here are in Chicago that are the best culture or technology.

 

When you’re looking remote, you don’t really have any of those data points. So it kind of puts the candidate in a position of like, well, I’m not really sure. So it’s unique for sure on that side. And I think both candidates and clients are limiting themselves and opening things up at the same time, but it just becomes harder to choose, which in itself doesn’t really result in the best situations.  

 

Boy, you talk about the black hole of recruiting. As you open it up nationwide and the candidate in flow, just for candidates out there who haven’t seen the back end of an applicant tracking system, you know for a job that would have attracted 73 applicants locally to Chicago, if that’s opened up nationwide, you’re probably looking at 500 applicants.

 

You put that across 20 open jobs, you can see how it becomes unsustainable to review all of those applications pretty quickly, right? So these are all just little tips and tricks and again, there’s no right or wrong way to do this. If you’re really interested in remote, make sure that you’re being honest about it as a candidate and if you are out there applying, make sure that you’re employing some of the tactics that we’ve talked about in video series in relation to networking, making sure that you’re not just applying and hoping to get a response. Network your way in try and find some common ground with like the job poster or somebody internally.

 

There’s nothing wrong with that. In this day and age networking is the key to the castle. So you just have to do it that much more because your competition is that much stiffer. 

 

Yeah. I mean the network thing is a good point because I have friends and colleagues that have gone off to other places and like most of them have been either in Chicago, they have a hub here, or maybe they’ve gone and they’ve opened up offices in other States but you kind of lose the ability to have some of those networks because your friends are going so many other places.

 

It’s kinda hard, you know, how do I background check this company? This hiring manager? Is he or she good or not good? What does that look like for me? You’re kind of guessing in a lot of areas. There’s a lot of uncertainty when you opened things up nationwide and it’s not a bad thing, but you kind of lose out of the data points that you’ve already gathered from the network or local and it’s definitely a hard thing to navigate when making a decision. Do you look at something a hundred percent remote?

 

Do you want to go in a day or two a week? Looking at things a hundred percent remote, you kind of don’t have that opportunity to bond and just go out for a beer or lunch or anything and that can be totally great for you but me personally, I definitely think that’s the best way to grow is to surround yourself by great people and interact with them frequently. 

 

Well look, I think first I thank you for your insights because I know you’re talking to a lot more candidates than I am nowadays. Look, work location and it’s correlation to overall happiness, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, right?

 

It’s a completely subjective topic and each individual has to make their own choices as to what happiness means for them professionally. I think the upside of the pandemic is it shown almost everybody in the professional world, I don’t want to speak for everybody, but most folks have gotten a view

 

into what it feels like to work remote, even a smaller portion of the time, all the way up to a hundred percent of the time. So then from there it’s up to you as a candidate and as a perspective job seeker to just say, all right, for this particular role I really think that the manager seems cool,

 

it’s a great product, it’s to home, yeah I’m willing to go into the office. Because it seems like that is intrinsically intertwined with like why the culture is good. Conversely, that exact same thing can exist in an a hundred percent remote opportunity to invariably as a candidate, just have to trust your gut, right? 

 

Totally. Yeah. No, I mean, you bring up some good points there and there’s not a one size fits all but I think that the market’s hot right now. A lot of opportunities. We’re seeing tremendous growth, a huge bounce back from last year and I think having opportunities is great but then just figuring out what makes the most sense for you

 

and allowing you to be the most successful because you can work in a new environment. Maybe your company was more onsite and then they transitioned to remote but you’ve had the chance to prove yourself, your work ethics and all those things. You might not get that same dynamic when you’re a hundred percent remote and it might sound great and be a shiny new object.

 

So it just kind of depends, like you said, what makes the most sense for you? How are you going to be successful in the team that you’re surrounded by? So definitely some good points here. 

 

Awesome. Well, again, we hope that this was helpful. Continue to check out the other videos in the series. Check out the website careerwell.io if you haven’t already. Thanks again, Matt for joining us and happy hunting out there everyone.  

 

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