Remote Work—in Name Only

Some jobs listed as work-from-home may not be entirely. How firms may be frustrating candidates. 

The job posting was for a “remote software engineer.”

The posting’s fine print read, “There’s an opportunity for remote work following successful training.”

The job interviewer said, “‘Remote’ at our firm means ‘work two days a week at the office’.”

Welcome to the new age of read-the-fine-print job postings. According to LinkedIn, almost one in five of its paid job postings offers a remote-work option, a huge increase since the pandemic started. And it’s these postings that are attracting about 53% of job applications. But candidates who manage to get through the door say they are starting to notice a change in corporate attitudes. In some cases, the job only becomes remote after the new hire works for a while. In others, it’s actually a long-term hybrid arrangement. All of this can frustrate the very candidates firms may be seeking. “It’s a bad perception to give,” says David Vied, global sector leader of Korn Ferry’s Medical Devices and Diagnostics practice.

To some degree, thanks to a slowdown in parts of the job market, companies are regaining leverage in defining a job as remote. For example, job openings fell 7% last month. But even with the slowdown, it’s still a job-hunter’s market, particularly for those whose skill set is high. At last count, there were more than 11.2 million open jobs, with firms losing potential revenues when they are unable fill them.

Firms know how important remote is to most workers. When the Society for Human Resource Management surveyed nearly 1,700 workers this spring, 48% said they will "definitely" seek a remote position for their next job.  “The advantage of offering remote is huge,” says Jacob Zabkowicz, vice president and general manager of Korn Ferry’s global recruitment process outsourcing business.

Experts say that instead of advertising jobs as “remote,” firms should consider calling them “flexible.” If employees will be expected to come into the office periodically, or only some will be allowed to be fully remote, firms should say so. “Be transparent about it,” Zabkowicz says. But that may be easier said than done: not all job postings offer “flexible” as a category, and many candidates now search for jobs using the key word “remote.”

Vied believes many employers will advertise a job as remote even as they plan to offer that option only to some workers. Companies want to know that they can trust a candidate to work remotely, he says. “That trust is becoming something employers want to be able to evaluate, much like a worker’s ability to close a sale or work well with colleagues,” he says.