It's hard to find a job when you're searching for work outside your local area. Employers are more hesitant to interview out-of-state candidates, and some won't even consider their applications. If you're a job searcher who hopes to relocate but needs a job in a new area to do it, this can seem awfully unfair. But if you're an employer, it often makes perfect sense.
Here are the most common reasons employers are hesitant to consider long-distance job candidates.
1. You're not easily available for interviews. Unlike local candidates, when you're job-searching long-distance, you generally can't come in for an interview tomorrow or even this week. When an employer wants to schedule interviews quickly, this can be a major roadblock. Some candidates get around this by offering to interview over Skype or via phone, but many employers want to meet with candidates face-to-face, feeling that they get a better sense of them that way. Moreover, if you do get an employer to agree to interview you by phone or Skype, it can put you at a disadvantage. Some studies show that candidates come across as less likable on video than in person.
2. They don't want to pay relocation expenses. Many long-distance candidates expect that an employer will foot the bill to relocate them if they get the job. Some companies will, and some won't. But hiring managers often worry that you'll expect it -- and some even assume it will be a requirement. As a result, they sometimes avoid long-distance candidates altogether, as a protective measure for their budget.
3. Sometimes they don't even want to pay interview travel costs. While relocation expenses can total in the thousands of dollars, interview travel costs are much less -- but some employers don't pay those either. That's particularly common at cash-strapped nonprofits or small businesses, and as long as they have well-qualified local candidates, it's hard to blame them.
4. You might not adjust well to the area. Many employers see nonlocal candidates as more of a risk because they don't know if you'll end up unhappy in your new city. You might decide after three months that you can't adjust to the area or that you miss your family and end up moving back. It happens -- and if a hiring manager has had it happen to them or heard stories about it, they're likely to be more wary. Local candidates don't have these risks.
5. They'll feel guilty if it doesn't work out. What if you move across the country for the job and then it doesn't work out? No manager with a sense of compassion wants that on his or her conscience. As a result, many are much pickier about which nonlocal candidates they're willing to consider, and the bar might be much higher to get an interview with them than if you were local.
6. There are plenty of qualified local candidates. This is usually the most important factor in how willing a company is to consider out-of-town candidates. Think about it from the employer's point of view: If they have plentiful strong candidates locally, where's the incentive for them to take on all of the hassles above? After all, hiring isn't about providing a fair opportunity to everyone who might be interested; it's about the company getting a job filled in the way that works best for them.
All that said, for some jobs, none of this is an obstacle. If you're in a field where your skills are highly in demand, employers are more likely to open up nationwide recruiting searches. And the more senior you become and the greater your reputation, the better your chances of being considered even if you're not local.
Plus, if you're searching from afar, there are things you can do to overcome some of these concerns -- such as making it as easy as possible for employer to interview you, paying your own travel and relocation expenses and presenting your move as a "done deal" that's already in the works. That won't completely neutralize the disadvantage, but it can get you a lot closer to being considered.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search and management issues. She's the author of "How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager," co-author of "Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results" and the former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management.
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