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I’m a seasoned engineer struggling to get a remote gig. What am I doing wrong?

Revise your résumé, work your contacts, and follow up, says Maynard Webb.

I’m a seasoned engineer struggling to get a remote gig. What am I doing wrong?
[Photo: ThisisEngineering RAEng/Unsplash]
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Editor’s Note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at dearfounder@fastcompany.com.

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Q. I’m an experienced engineering leader but I live in an area that doesn’t have a lot of high-tech companies, so I’ve been forced to work for companies that have jobs here. Given COVID-19 and the acceptance of remote work, I’m inspired to work for great tech companies that might not be in my geography. I’ve been in touch with several that had open positions, but I’ve been uninspired by the silence that I’ve received. Sometimes my résumé wasn’t even acknowledged, and if I did have a conversation the follow up was spotty at best. I have not received any explanation about why I didn’t get the job or any advice on what I can improve. What am I doing wrong and how can I get better?

 –Engineer trying to make a move

 Dear Engineer,

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I commend you on your job search and trying to find better opportunities for work as well as trying to improve yourself. I’m sorry that you are facing this kind of treatment. I think it’s ridiculous for companies to treat people this way. Talent is the most important asset any company has—it should invest more in improving the recruiting process.

I wouldn’t leap to any conclusions (there’s not enough information to draw from) except to realize how many people are interested in these jobs. Don’t let any of this shake your confidence or resolve. In other words, keep trying and don’t take the radio silence personally.

As an experienced technology leader, you are one of luckiest people on the planet when it comes to searching for a job. I believe this will end well—with placement in a great company—but we first must figure out all the puzzle pieces.  

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Is it possible there is something wrong with your résumé? Run spell check and make sure there are no errors. Read it carefully to see if any words were misused. These are things that spell check may not find. I can’t tell you how many résumés we see that have “there” instead of “their” or “hear” instead of “here.” These small errors can cost you a job.

 With résumés, less is more as hiring managers are scanning for key words. Make sure your key words are in there. Take out anything superfluous. Résumés are supposed to inform the reader about who you are and show your secret sauce, but this must be done succinctly and crispy. Think of a résumé as a way to inspire someone to want to have a discussion—it’s not a vehicle to share your life story. You want them leaning in when they read your résumé. After all, these people may be reading hundreds of résumés and they have no option other than to quickly determine if the candidate is worthy of an interview.

Connections always help. Can you have someone make introductions for you? Résumés sent cold may not make it to the top of the pile. You have a much better chance if someone recommends you. Many companies have employee referral programs; this is a good way to get noticed. A recommendation from an employee, board member, or other respected party will be helpful.

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Have you tried to follow up? It is worth doing so as feedback is invaluable. Ask them why they passed and what you can do to improve. That said, use your judgement, you don’t want to be a pest in your reach out. At Webb Investment Network, we try to tell everyone we don’t hire or fund why we didn’t think it was a fit and we ask them to check in with us from time to time and keep us posted on where they end up and what they do. Staying in touch like this works; we can make mistakes in passing and perhaps we can all get a second chance.

I sincerely believe that companies can do better in how they treat people. Candidates who don’t have good experiences with companies will tell others who could decide not to apply. Companies would be well served to treat everyone with dignity and respect.

Keep knocking on doors and eventually one will open.