About the author

Darren Cronian, the author of this guide, has spent eight years securing remote jobs and building a successful freelancing business. His goal is to help people escape the office. Read more >

The first hurdle you’ll encounter is the remote job description—a document that can often feel written in a foreign language. It’s vital to take time to read through the listing and make notes based on the advice below.

Let’s break down how to read these descriptions with a discerning eye so you can figure out what the employer is seeking and how to position yourself as the ideal candidate for your perfect remote job.

Remote Job Descriptions: What Employers Are Really Looking For
The Structure of a Job Description

Job Title

The job title isn’t just a label; it’s a clue about the level of expertise required. Words like “Junior” or “Entry-Level” indicate that the role is for those with less experience, while “Senior” or “Lead” suggests the opposite.

Don’t just skim this; understand what level of responsibility is required.


This section is your roadmap to what you’ll be doing daily.

Look for action verbs like “manage,” “coordinate,” or “develop.” These verbs give you a sense of the tasks you’ll own. For example, if it says “manage client relationships,” prepare to be the point person for client interactions, which could include troubleshooting and regular check-ins.


Here, you’ll find a list of must-haves for any applicant. But remember, these are often aspirational; you don’t need to meet every single one to apply. However, if a remote job description asks for “5 years of experience,” and you only have 2, your chances are likely slim unless you have something extraordinary to offset it.

Preferred Qualifications

These are the “bonus points” of a job application. If you have them, great—you’ll stand out. If not, it’s not a deal-breaker. However, these can often serve as tie-breakers between equally qualified candidates.

Company Culture

Phrases like “fast-paced environment” or “team-oriented” aren’t just fluff; they indicate the work setting and behavioral expectations. If you prefer a structured, 9-5 job, a “fast-paced, agile environment” might not be for you.

Some companies want flexibility, and if you want a more strict working schedule, don’t waste time applying.

Decoding Keywords

Hard Skills

When a job description asks for specific software skills or certifications, take it seriously. These are often the first filters in an automated applicant tracking system. Your resume might never reach a human if you don’t have them.

Soft Skills

Terms like “excellent communication” or “highly organized” are common but crucial. In a remote setting, these skills are your lifeline.

Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and decreased productivity. If the job description emphasizes these, expect you’ll need to demonstrate them in your interview.

Performance Metrics

If the job description specifies goals like “increase quarterly revenue by 15%,” it’s telling you that this role is results-driven.

You’ll be expected to meet or exceed these metrics, so think about whether you have evidence of achieving similar results in the past.

Reading Between the Lines

“Self-Starter” or “Proactive”

These terms signal that the company expects you to take initiative. In a remote setting, you won’t have a manager looking over your shoulder. You’ll need to manage your time and prioritize tasks without being told.

“Flexible” or “Adaptable”

These keywords could mean anything from being willing to work odd hours to accommodate a global team to being able to switch tasks at a moment’s notice. If you’re uncomfortable with unpredictability, this might not be your role.


In a remote job, minor errors can snowball into big problems. Being detail-oriented means you’ll need to double-check your work, proofread emails, and test software changes before pushing them live.

Questions to Ask Yourself

1. Do I understand the core responsibilities? You need to do more research if you need help explaining the job.

2. Do I meet most of the requirements? If you’re lacking in one area, can you compensate for it in another?

3. Can I see myself in this role? If you can’t picture yourself doing the job, there are better fits.

Tailoring Your Application

Your resume and cover letter should echo the keywords and phrases in the job description—but not mindlessly. Use them in context.

For instance, if the remote job description emphasizes “strong written communication,” don’t just list that as a skill. Instead, say, “Developed written guidelines for project workflows, improving team efficiency by 30%.”

Understanding a job description is more than just reading it; it’s about dissecting it to understand the employer’s needs and then reflecting on how your skills and experiences meet those needs.

By doing this, you’re not just applying but making a case for why you’re the perfect fit for the role.

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