Wednesday, October 29

Applying for Work-at-Home Jobs

There's more to finding a work-at-home job than filling out an online form and hitting submit. Work-at-home jobs are highly in demand, so you need to do something to separate yourself from the crowd. A well written cover letter and resume can really help you get ahead.

E-mail: The first step you should take before applying for anything is to set up a separate e-mail account for work-at-home stuff only. I recommend gmail because it has a larger file capacity than most other free services, which can be helpful if companies want to send you training materials or tests - but any Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. will work just fine.

Cover Letter: Next, you want to create a cover letter. It does not need to be (in fact should not be) a long novel or restate all your qualifications. Keep it short and simple. The best thing to do is create a cover letter template and then tailor it for each job you're applying to.

A cover letter should do the following things:

  • Address the company by name. Tell them what position you're applying for with "XX Company." To add a little more, you could even tell them how you found out about the job.
  • Mention any specific skills that were listed in the job posting that you posess. If they were looking for someone who "has experience working with tight deadlines," then you need to tell them specifically that you "have experience working with tight deadlines."
  • Say a few words about your skills that are not necessarily job specific, but are necessary for working at home. I'll say more about this below.
  • Let them know that you actually want the job. This may sound obvious, but people are always mass-applying to lots of different positions, just hoping to get a hit on one. Let the employer know you're truly interested.
  • If possible, mention something you know about the company or its reputation. "XX Company has an excellent reputation and I'm excited to have the opportunity to join your team."
  • Save the cover letter as a plain text file. You can do this by choosing "Save As" in Microsoft Word and choosing "Plain Text" from the drop down box next to "Save As Type" at the bottom of the box. This allows you to easily cut and paste the letter into the online form boxes and it will look neat and uniform.

Resume: Your resume is the most important element of applying for a job. Often you won't need the cover letter, but you'll almost always need the resume. If you're just starting out and you have no work-at-home experience or at least none in the field you're applying for, then you want to play up your skills and abilities and play down your work history.

There are lots of resume writing services out there who will create a resume for a fee. If you truly feel lost creating one or you have just been looking for months and months with no luck, then this service might be useful for you. But I urge you to go it alone at first because you often don't need someone to create something for you, particularly when you're paying for it!

Here's what you want to put in a resume:

  • Make sure your contact information is included, particularly your e-mail address. You'll find that most work-at-home employers will contact you through e-mail.
  • Make a bulleted list of your skills. Highlight things that are important for work-at-home positions: ability to work well independently, efficient, self-motivated, coping with deadlines, prioritizing, adapting to new procedures, organized, etc. Also highlight skills that are specific to the job you're looking for. If you want to do transcription, for example, include your words per minute. You can take a free typing test here to determine this.
  • Make a bulleted list of your techinical skills. You're working at home, which usually means you're on your computer. Let the employer know what your abilities are: MS Office, applications like Pagemaker or Photoshop, certain databases, etc.
  • Next, include your employment history. Just do the two or three most recent or most relevant to the position for which you're applying. List the company, the dates, location and your primary duties. Again, try and tailor them to skills and duties relevant to the job for which you're applying.
  • Finally, add a piece on your education. Do the highest level only, whether it's college or high school. Add a couple of points about what you studied or what you learned.
  • Save this as a plain text file.

I recommend that when you're emailing your application, you copy and paste both your resume and cover letter right in the body of the e-mail. Include a line in your cover letter saying something like "I invite you to view my resume below." Often employers will not open e-mail attachments and it's to your advantage to give them the resume right there in their inbox. This is why saving them as plain text is key - especially your resume. All those bullets will really get jumbled up when copied and pasted into online forms or e-mails otherwise.

Make a list however you like to do it - writing on a piece of paper, Excel spreadsheet, etc. that details which companies you've applied to for which position and when. Also make a note of what they've said, "You'll hear from us within 2 weeks," "No e-mails, please," etc. so you know which course of action to take. That will also help you keep track of where you've already applied because you may be doing a lot of this!

I've said this many times already, but I truly believe the number one way to find a job working from home is by hanging out (virtually, of course) with those who are already working at home. That is why I always recommend checking out and starting in the Telecommuting Moms folder. Work Place Like Home is also a great forum. There are always new jobs being discussed on there. These are not simply job postings (although those are on there). These are other moms saying, "Hey, this company I work for is hiring," or "What do you know about this company?" and then those who know are chiming in with information.

As I've said before, I spent every night for a couple of months on those boards, just researching, getting ideas and learning from those who were doing what I wanted to do. It's way better than going it alone and doing Google searches for working at home.

If you're working at home now, please let us know what steps you took to get your job. I'm always interested to hear how other moms made things work for them!


Bridget said...


I love your blog and check it regularly.

I am currently doing phone work with West at Home. I really enjoy the flexibility of being able to choose my own schedule. I feel truly blessed to be able to work in my home office while my children are quietly playing in the next room or napping. No gas costs to factor in!

I did some mystery shopping over the summer, but quickly tired of all the fast food! LOL

Thanks for yesterday's post about Deed Collector. I applied right away!