Remote Hiring and the Paradox of Choice

Oh, how I love remote work. And oh, boy, I've written a lot about the topic on this blog. We all know the reasons why remote work is amazing; there's no need to rehash at this point.

But I haven't written much about the flipside, particularly the process of being hired for a remote job. If you consider how much more awesome working from your home is compared to a typical open plan nightmare, then a similar multiplier exists in the other direction for how much more frustrating a job search is for a remote job compared to a local in-person job.

Just as the abundance of remote jobs is a dream from a job seeker's perspective, the abundance of the talent pool from a hiring company's perspective leads to some annoying behavior.

There are clear comparisons to be made to the shift to online dating from "traditional" dating. As the pool of eligible participants increases, the value of each individual participant drops. And just as the modern phenomenon of "ghosting" is common in the world of online dating, it's also common in the world of remote job hunting.

It's way more common in a remote job search to go through multiple rounds of interviews with a company and then never hear from them again, for example. Or for recruiters to hound you on LinkedIn until you agree to a phone call, gush about the perfect fit for a role, and then never contact you again about that next meeting with the hiring manager. Follow-up emails go into a black hole. If you get feedback at all, you find out you were rejected for some seemingly minor and arbitrary shortcoming. That's just how it is when the potential talent pool for a job opening expands across a country or across the globe.

Just as I mentioned earlier a multiplier for how much better a remote job is to a traditional job, you will experience general flakiness from hiring companies at a similar multiplier. There's just something about the abstraction and lack of physical proximity between the participants that amplifies this behavior.

And believe me, it's not just employers who are making this difficult, there's no end to the shenanigans that occur on the candidate's side. Both sides are enjoying the benefits while cursing the drawbacks.

So let's file this post under "Advice for a Younger Me." I write this post in the same spirit as posts I wrote years ago like The Many-Worlds Interpretation of Developer Interviews and People Hire Clones of Themselves. The hiring process for software engineers seems so bizarre and arbitrary a lot of the time that it helps to remember that there are reasons for the weirdness that have nothing to do with you, and it's like this for everybody.

It's a brave new world out there. Long live remote work. :)