Working from home — in the comfort of your pajamas or whatever you choose to wear — is a major perk, no doubt. But you shouldn’t romanticize that idea to the point of overlooking questionable hiring practices or remote-work policies with potential employers.
The availability of remote jobs has been steadily trending upward over the past few years. The pandemic has surged that trend.
The Penny Hoarder created strict guidelines for jobs we include in our Work-From-Home Jobs Portal. With remote listings cropping up all over, we recommend you use these best practices when searching for remote work yourself, not only to ensure the companies are real but to evaluate whether the jobs are worth pursuing.
Is the Remote Company Legit?
First thing’s first: You need to determine that the job listing is at a real company.
Use these tips to determine a company’s legitimacy.
- Didn’t apply anywhere? Don’t send “recruiters” any information. Fake recruiters reach out via email or over the phone to ask you for your personal information about a job opening at a recognizable company. Don’t share anything with them if you haven’t requested to be contacted.
- Job boards are helpful, but don’t stop there. Scammers can make convincing listings and post them on third-party websites. They can use these fake listings to harvest your information and groom you for more scams. When you find a job listing through a third party like Indeed, always check the hiring company’s website for the original listing. Apply there instead.
- Research the company. At this point and as far as you can tell, the company looks real. But are they reputable? Glassdoor’s company index can be a helpful tool to see what current and former workers have to say. You can also verify the company’s website URL with the one listed on its Glassdoor profile. No Glassdoor profile? Check for social media accounts. For a deep dive, consider searching media outlets for reports on lawsuits, major layoffs or other factors that could affect the quality of your job.
If you’re still on the fence, don’t be afraid to contact the company’s HR department directly and ask them if the listing you’re looking at reflects a real opening at the company.
5 Other Remote Hiring Practices and Policies You Should Avoid
Just because you’ve confirmed that an employer is real doesn’t mean they treat their workers ethically. Here are some trending hiring practices you should be skeptical of.
- Independent Contractor Status: Also known as 1099 worker, this designation means you aren’t an employee of the company and won’t be eligible for any benefits. It’s not inherently a bad thing, but some employers misclassify their workers as independent contractors to avoid paying benefits and taxes. Misclassifying workers is illegal, but it isn’t always caught. If a job listing sounds very similar to a typical 9-to-5 arrangement but says you’ll be a 1099 worker, you may be at risk of being misclassified.
- Bring Your Own Office: You shouldn’t be shelling out a ton of money for equipment that a company requires you to have to work from home. Ideally, they should provide you with everything you’ll need or reimburse you for any upgrades. Even if they say they’ll reimburse you, mind how those expenses add up, especially if you haven’t received a job offer in writing yet.
- Pay Per Minute: A remote call center listing might state that you have the “potential” to earn $15 an hour — with that figure being calculated based on how many minutes of phone-time you log. Really, you’re earning 25 cents per minute. Sure, it’s theoretically possible to speak with a customer for an entire hour nonstop, but it’s highly unlikely. All the time spent prepping, emailing, getting hung up on? Unpaid.
- Background Check Fees: According to the Federal Trade Commission, a company asking you for money during the hiring process is a clear hallmark of a scam. But in some instances, a real company may ask you to pay for your own background check to keep their hiring costs down. Of course, if you do pay and the background check doesn’t come back squeaky clean, you won’t get hired — and you’re out of however much it cost. This practice should be at the top of your list of deal breakers.
- Software Fees: Some companies will require you to use their software or platform to do your work, then deduct fees from your paycheck for accessing their software. They do this by convincing you that you’re a business owner and that fee is just a cost of doing business. Bottom line: If you’re hired by a remote call center or other outsourcing firm, they should be paying you. Not the other way around.
These five practices may not be immediate indicators the job is a scam, but they might be a reason to move on and keep job hunting.
Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, entrepreneurship and unique ways to make money. Read his latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.