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Tech Career Insights: COVID-19 FAQs: Finding a Tech Job in a Remote World
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COVID-19 FAQs: Finding a Tech Job in a Remote World

25 March 2020, by Robyn Luyt

Trying to find a job during a global health crisis may seem scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in South Africa, our talent advisors have been helping dozens of software makers navigate the remote world of interviewing, offer negotiation and onboarding, and we know that many of you are trying to do the same. To help you do this, here are the questions that our team have answered in the past few weeks.


Concerns around job market trends or COVID-19

Are companies even hiring now?

  • Yes, companies are still hiring. In fact, we’ve seen some companies take this as an opportunity to become more active and find great team members.

How are companies approaching hiring during this time?

  • We’ve seen some companies move their hiring to the remote setting while others are taking extra precautions when doing interviews in-person.
  • The best way to find out what the company you’re interested in does would be to ask your interviewer what kind of measures they’ve put in place given the current situation.

Will the company I am interviewing with survive?

  • That’s a good question. We think this is something to consider even when the economy is more stable.
  • Smart companies are making moves to buffer their business against economic downturn.
  • It would be a good idea to do as much research on the company as possible and consider speaking to someone who already works there to find out as much as you can.
  • You can also ask your interviewer: “How are you navigating these challenges as a business?”

Should I start my job search now or wait until COVID-19 passes?

  • If you’re looking for a job right now, the outbreak definitely doesn’t have to stand in your way.
  • Some companies are using this difficult time to shine and have exciting opportunities to offer.
  • We also see a lot of companies setting themselves up so they can interview remotely.
  • While interviewing remotely is, of course, different, it’s absolutely possible to do this effectively.

All my friends are being retrenched. Has there been an increase of candidates on OfferZen?

  • So far, the number of candidates on OfferZen has stayed more or less the same.
  • We are, however, watching the monthly trends as the situation evolves.

Is OfferZen doing anything to help developers who are being retrenched find work?

  • Yes, we have set ourselves up so we stay fully functional and continue to help software makers find great jobs.
  • We are also helping companies navigate the situation by collaborating with companies to share insights on how they are setting themselves up for remote work and hiring.
  • And, tech community members are working with us to create and share as much blog content as possible on COVID-19, the economy, and remote work.
  • If you know of anyone who is looking for work in tech, you can most definitely refer them to the platform.

On interviewing remotely

Are companies even doing remote interviews?

  • Yes, they are!
  • Some companies were doing remote interviews before COVID-19 while others are new to the remote interview process.
  • Keeping in mind that some are still figuring this out as they go, this is an opportunity for you to stand out: Show that you’re willing to be flexible and accommodate the situation, and prepare questions that help you understand what your new workplace will be like.

What should I do if the company I’m interviewing with wants me to come to their office but I want to do it remotely?

  • It’s totally reasonable to ask a company to do the interview remotely. The best you can do is to explain your concerns This is especially important given that South Africa is now in lockdown.
  • What really helps is showing the person you’re interviewing with that you have a good alternative suggestion. For example: make it clear that you’re willing to set up the meeting over Google hangouts/Zoom/Skype and take ownership of sharing the link etc.
  • If this doesn’t work for you and the company is not flexible, then that’s something to consider when comparing your opportunities.

How do I approach a remote culture fit interview?

  • Prepare your questions extremely well: You need to think a lot more about what aspects of company culture are super important to you so that you can specifically ask those questions instead of hoping to get a ‘gut feel’.
  • Chat to future team members: Ask to set up calls with other members of your future team to get a good feel for who you’d be working with. This might require more time from your side in terms of individual calls, but it’s definitely worthwhile.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions to make sure that you definitely have a good understanding of the company’s culture.
  • Be open and transparent: express your passions, concerns, likes and dislikes during the interview to make sure that the company also has a good understanding of who you are and how you would fit into the team and the company.

How do I prepare for a remote interview?

  • Your setup will be online so you’ll need:
    • A strong internet connection (bearing in mind load shedding schedules)
    • A quiet place to do the interview
    • Your laptop charged or plugged-in
    • To wear headphones so you can block out distractions
    • To turn off notifications so you don’t get distracted. Also make sure your background is uninterrupted and free of anything embarrassing! Pro-tip: Some conferencing platforms, like Zoom, have virtual backgrounds you can apply.
  • Make sure you have the right meeting link: At least 15 minutes before, find the interview link and make sure it is the correct one.
  • Join the meeting at least five minutes early: This would be the equivalent of arriving early for an in-person meeting.
  • Test the connection before you start your interview: Ask the interviewer if they can see and hear you clearly.
  • It will be harder to read social cues: A tip: Wait a few seconds longer after someone has stopped speaking before you start so that you can avoid interrupting them.
  • Check your load shedding schedule before the interview: If load shedding means you’ll lose connection, contact the interviewer and offer to reschedule.
  • Be camera ready: It can be uncomfortable speaking to an avatar so make sure you’re appropriately dressed so that you can keep your camera on for the interview.

What kind of mindset should I have for a remote interview when compared to an in-person interview?

  • You can think of it as very similar to a face-to-face interview, especially in terms of the content and the kinds of questions you’ll be asked.
  • A big difference is that it is harder to read social and body language cues over a video call than face-to-face.
  • Another big consideration is the environment you have your interview in. In a remote interview, you are in control of how you set yourself up so make sure you have a quiet space, a good internet connection for the videofeed, and an uninterrupted background.
  • You’re also more vulnerable to distractions on remote interviews so turn off any computer notifications and your personal phone so that your attention stays on the interviewer.
  • Loadshedding could also be an issue. If you lose connection with your interviewer, contact them right away explaining the situation and offer to reschedule your interview as soon as possible.

How do I make my interview ‘stand out’ when I can’t do it in-person?

  • A tip would be to prepare even more questions than you typically would for the interviewer. You can ensure that the question part in the interview is more structured than it would be during a face-to-face interview. So have a piece of paper next to your laptop with your questions and feel free to reference it during the interview.
  • Stay engaged and don’t go silent. It’s a lot more noticeable during a remote interview than during an in-person interview. So keep eye contact as much as possible, acknowledge the conversation, and ask questions. Remember, it’s a two-way conversation.
  • Show that you’re passionate and self-motivated. Similar to an in-person interview, you should prepare examples of projects, hobbies, or initiatives that showcase your excitement for your work or personal life.

How do I do a technical (whiteboard) interview remotely?

  • You would prep for the same kind of content as an onsite whiteboard interview. You should also consider what your interviewer is looking for in a technical interview.
  • But the actual remote process would depend on the company and what tools they use to assist with this.
  • Some companies might ask you to use specific software, so be sure to ask beforehand about this so you can download the software.
  • If possible, set up a second screen or use a split screen option. Keeping the video feed on the one screen, and the whiteboard component on the other screen. This helps because you won’t have to scroll between screen views.
  • Think aloud as you would during an in-person technical interview. Remember to share your thoughts, your concerns, how you’re working on the solutions, and where you think something will or won’t work.
  • And don’t be hesitant to ask them questions while you’re working on the task.

If I have to self-isolate myself, how do I get interviews?

  • Companies are still reaching out to candidates on OfferZen – so you should still get the opportunity to interview.
  • You can do your interviews remotely or consider implementing social distancing during an in-person interview (when lockdown ends).
  • If the person you’re interviewing with hasn’t communicated anything about the measures that their company is taking during this time, you can definitely ask them how they are approaching interviews.

What if I don’t have a laptop and need to do a remote interview?

  • You can still do your interview over a video call on the phone. Just make sure that you communicate this to your interviewer.
  • Also make sure that you have charged your phone, have enough data (or a strong wifi connection), and hold the camera at an appropriate angle.

On getting offers remotely

How long will it take to get hired?

  • This is very company-dependent. Some companies are set up to handle remote interviews and processes, which means that their timeline would stay the same.
  • For others, this is uncharted territory, so it could potentially add more time to the overall hiring process.
  • Your best approach would be to have an open discussion with the company about what their hiring timeline looks like now and how they’re adapting their process to make hires during this time.

How do I discuss sensitive topics like salary over a remote call?

Would a company really hire someone that they haven’t met in person?

  • This is very company-specific.
  • In light of the impact of COVID-19, we think that some companies are likely going to be more open to doing their entire hiring process online whereas some might opt to wait until lockdown or the virus passes.

I haven’t seen the office. How will I know if it’s the right workplace for me?

  • It might be worthwhile to ask your interviewer to give you a virtual tour of the office if that’s possible. That would then give you a good idea of the physical space.
  • If you’re willing to go into the office, you can implement social distancing while you’re there [once lockdown ends].
  • You can also prepare specific questions for the interviewer around the workspace so that you can figure out which factors would work or not work for you.

How do I assess if the offer is right for me if all the interviews have been remote?

  • This is actually very similar to having in-person interviews. The biggest factor that would need deeper analysis is culture-fit and ‘gut feel’ around the company. You can do this by asking more in-depth questions and ensuring you have talked to other people in your future team.
  • And if all of your interviews have been remote, you’ll at least be able to compare apples with apples because all of the opportunities are on equal footing.

On starting a new job remotely

Can companies do onboarding remotely?

  • Some are definitely equipped for this, whereas others are slowly figuring out how this might look for them.
  • It’s going to take concentrated effort from not only the company, but also from you to make the onboarding process work.
  • Make sure there is a clear plan in place, and not just a “take it as it comes” approach. Think about regular check-ins, daily and weekly goals, and how you will get to know the team.

How can I make the most out of my first few weeks as a new-joiner while being remote?

In general, you want to do your best to connect with as many people as possible, make yourself visible and learn as quickly as possible. Here are some tips to do this:

  • First, make sure your remote work set-up is primed for productivity.
  • Add your profile picture to all your online communication tools so your team can put a face to the name.
  • Make the effort to introduce yourself over Slack, email or video call to as many people as possible in your company.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, especially at times like these when things are a little uncertain.
  • Join in on banter or excitement. Don’t forget that building connections is not all about work and that you can connect with your teammates on social topics too.

I’m worried about integrating with my new team. How can I build relationships remotely?

  • Schedule 1:1 video calls with your team members. This is a great way to get to know each other.
  • Make sure you show your face during meetings. Don’t turn off your video – it’s really important that team members see you every day.
  • It’s not just about work. Ask your team what they’ve been watching on Netflix or doing over the weekend – these are easier conversations to bond over.
  • Be visible – don’t be afraid to ask questions, or communicate more than you usually would. It’s how your team will come to see you in the virtual world.
  • Don’t be afraid to be fun and be yourself – If it’s appropriate in your team, use gifs, emojis and other multimedia to add your personality to your messages.

If you have any more questions about finding a tech job in an online world, feel free to leave a comment and our team will get back to you!

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