Think the job market is hard now? Try searching for a job in another state. Job seekers who are looking long-distance will tell you that the search is exponentially harder when you're not a local candidate.
Many employers won't even bother to talk to nonlocal job applicants. That might seem unfair, but their reasons make sense from their perspective. First and foremost, if they have plenty of well-qualified local candidates, they don't have any particular need or incentive to take on the hassles of long-distance candidates. And there are hassles -- unlike local candidates, long-distance job seekers can't generally come in for an interview tomorrow, often expect travel expenses to be paid by the company, typically can't start as soon as local candidates can and sometimes require relocation assistance. What's more, long-distance candidates sometimes change their mind about moving at the end of the hiring process (or even after they've already accepted the job) -- or worse, have trouble adjusting to the new area once on the job and leave to move back home just a few months into their employment.
So it's not surprising that many employers simply choose not to deal with long-distance candidates. But then where does that leave you, if you're trying to find a job somewhere else?
Finding a job long-distance isn't impossible, but it will usually be harder. Here are five ways to improve your chances.
1. Gird yourself for a longer search. Unless you have a strongly in-demand skill set, or you're very lucky, a long-distance search is going to take longer. Prepare yourself for that in advance, so that you don't become frustrated and demoralized.
2. Explain yourself upfront. Offer some context in your cover letter to explain why you're seeking a job in this particular area, so that employers have some context for your application. For instance, you might explain that you're in the process of moving to their area to join your partner, who took a job there, or that you're from the area and excited to move back where your family is. Offering some type of explanation will help employers see you less as a long-distance candidate and more as a candidate who's in the process of becoming local. Speaking of which...
3. The more that you can make your move sound like a done deal, the better. Employers are skittish about out-of-town candidates for all the reasons discussed above. So the more that you can make the move sound like something that is already in the works, the more you mitigate that disadvantage. Explaining that your move is already in process or specifying a date or time frame by which you hope to be living in the area can help in that regard.
4. Put the new location on your résumé. Many employers read résumés before they even look at cover letters, so take steps on your résumé to fight the out-of-town candidate stigma there too. For instance, you can put "(relocating to California)" directly below your address, or even use a local address if you have friends or family already living in the location you're targeting. (If you do the latter, though, be sure that you're prepared for the possibility that you'll be called and asked to come in for an interview as soon as tomorrow.)
5. Make it as easy as possible for the employer to interview and hire you. Since one reason employers are wary of dealing with out-of-town candidates is the hassle involved, do everything you can to minimize that hassle. That can mean covering your own travel expenses, paying higher prices for last-minute plane tickets, forgoing relocation assistance and figuring out how you can start as soon as possible if you're offered the job.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.
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