How to get a remote software engineering job

I’ve been a full-time remote worker since 2010.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought big changes to things involving face-to-face contact – like going to an office for work. Since this sea change has gotten more engineers (and employers) to think about remote work, I thought I’d share some tips on how to find and keep remote gigs.

This was written with junior-level engineers in mind, and is more about full-time employment than freelancing. Hopefully it has useful bits for others as well.

The TLDR is, you get remote engineering jobs pretty much like you get other jobs:

  • You have the needed skills and experience
  • You find an open role that appeals to you
  • You apply, and convince the employer that you and the role and the organization are a good fit

I wasn’t looking to work remotely when I landed my first full-time-remote job in 2010. I was just looking for a job.

The economy was still struggling its way out of the recession. I spent every day on my job search for months. I tapped my network. I tuned my resume. I scoured the job boards. I talked to recruiters. I studied and practiced. I applied and interviewed and applied and interviewed. In the end, the best offer was for a remote job with a startup 1000 miles away. They really wanted somebody with my background, and I really wanted a job. I haven’t had an office job since.

Be the best candidate you can be, for the jobs that seem like the best fit.

Highlight everything you’ve done that shows you can work effectively without being in an office.

  • Active in an open source project with multiple contributors?
  • Worked remotely with a team on a freelance project?
  • Have a dedicated work space where you live?
  • Good at written communication, as evidenced by documentation or blog posts or open source issue tracker history?

Show them what you’ve got.

If there’s anything you do that’s a hot specialty or relatively hard to find, highlight it. If an employer needs your skills and they’re having a hard time finding them locally, they are likely to want to hire off-site developers who fit the bill. (That’s how I got my first two remote jobs.)

Finally, communicate early and often with recruiters and HR contacts about your desire for remote employment. Sometimes they’ll say “sorry, no,” and that’s a disappointment. But sometimes you’ll find a historically on-site role that can be turned into a remote one.

That happened to me, and is happening more and more as remote work becomes commonplace.

Good luck!