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Thursday, August 26, 2010

why long-distance job searching sucks and what you can do about it

A reader writes:

I am looking for a position in another city. I am applying for positions that I am well qualified for and would easily be asked for an interview if I was local. However it seems I keep getting turned away because I am out of state. I have stated in my cover letter that of course I will pay for all relocation costs but this does not seem like it is enough. Why I am not given a chance at these positions? It is quite frustrating. Any advice?

You've got to keep in mind that even local job-searching is really hard right now. In fact, I'm not so sure that you can assume that these are positions you "would easily be asked" to interview for if you were local -- not because I know anything about your qualifications, but because no one is having an easy time getting interviews right now, local or not.

But yes, the bar can be higher if you're not local -- although it really depends on the position. For entry-level jobs, a lot of employers will focus only on local candidates because there's no shortage of good ones, but for higher-level positions, most companies will consider non-locals. (And the higher level you go, the more that's assumed.) Are there some that won't? Of course, just like you can find some companies using other bad hiring practices too, but that doesn't mean they're the majority.

(That said, if I were choosing between two great candidates who were equally qualified in every way and I needed a deal-breaker, I'd go with the local person over the long-distance person -- because (a) they can generally start sooner and (b) if it ended up not working out, I'd feel a lot less guilty firing someone who didn't move for the job. But it's rare that two people are really so equally qualified.)

In any case, there are a few things non-local job-seekers can do that will help:

* State in your cover letter that you are planning to move to to the area soon (and possibly explain why, if your reasons are ones you’re willing to share, as that can make employers more comfortable moving forward with an out-of-state applicant). For instance, you might say, “I am in the process of planning a relocation to California to join my partner” or whatever your reason is. State explicitly that you don’t need relocation assistance.

* On your resume, list your contact info like this:

Joe Smith
Relocating in October to Seattle
(555) 555-1212
jsmith@email.com

But overall, keep in mind that the job market really sucks right now. Being long-distance does make it harder, but you've also got to factor in that a lot of good people aren't getting interviews right at home either.

22 comments:

Travis said...

I wanted to write to back up what AAM advised. I found out in March of 2009 that I would be relocating to a new city (I was engaged to doctor who just matched into her residency program) and had to find a job. I was fortunate, though, because I currently had a job 7.5 hours away, and instead of just relocating outright I decided to stay put and apply from a distance to maintain a paycheck. I applied for positions where I felt I would easily get an interview given my experience, but no dice. I thought, not unlike the person who wrote, that it was because I was an out of state candidate so in my cover letter I explained my situation. I even told employers that I would happily pay my own expenses to drive or fly up to interview. When my fiancee moved permanently and got us a place, I continued to stay where I was at but I used our new address as the address on my resume, thinking that if I was contacted for an interview they would expect that I would have to make some kind of arrangement with my current job and I would have driven all night just for the opportunity. Didn't work. It wasn't until I had bit the bullet and moved that I got a job (a mere five days before our wedding). So what I'm trying to say in as many words possible is that I completely agree with AAM that you should be open with employers about your situation (when you are relocating, that you will pay for expenses to interview, etc) but it's rough out there and even those choices/concessions might not work. Good luck with your search and keep at it!

Anonymous said...

I used a friend's local address when applying for jobs. It gets more attention from employers. You've got to back it up though--be willing to fly out on short notice for interviews, and be prepared to start within in two weeks, which may mean living somewhere temporarily until you can establish a permanent home. In other words you really have to act like you already do live there. You can't apply with a local address and then tell the employer that you need time or reimbursement for relocation.

I've also tried the apply-from-a-distance method and it works too, but it takes A LOT longer.

Rossana Kelton said...

I live in a State with little jobs in my area of expertise. I have been to interviews 4 states away in which I was not reimbursed for travel (rental of car), meals, etc. I have also experience the no relocation issue. I also had another problem which was the fact that after I was interviewed (4 or 5 times plus a test), the organization did not fill the positions at all. The positions are still open and unfilled. One company wanted to fill the position right away due to the opening of a new location. I checked this week and this organization didn't place any candidate in any of these positions that I had been interviewed for. It is very interesting that companies are spending money posting job openings in Monster or Careerbuilder and that money is going to waste because those positions are not getting filled. I have even noticed that after a phone interview, positions get re-posted as if they are not interested in hiring anyone. I also noticed that some of these positions are open for months without being filled. I believe there is a lot of apprehension to the commitment stage of the deal.

Xay said...

I just finished a long distance job search and I agree with what AAM advised.

I didn't use a local address for the job search because I am currently employed and I didn't want anything that looked confusing and contradictory. Fortunately, the city I am relocating to is a 4.5 hour drive from where I live now but I still made a point of stating in my cover letter when I would be available for in person interviews and scheduling interviews with multiple companies (if I had already had or been offered a phone interview) when I was in town. I was offered travel assistance for one interview but for the most part, I used prearranged trips to schedule in person interviews. I also tapped into every networking opportunity available so I could learn how the hiring market works for my field in that city.

It took 4 months and my family moved up before I did so my son could start school on time, but I ended up with two competitive job offers and I start work in a couple of weeks.

Sarah G said...

Talk about timing -- I'm giving notice tomorrow (which I've planned for a while now), and then taking the plunge and moving in with friends in the new city 1000 miles away. I've been saving money a long time for this move, and feel I can do it financially. It's stressful to take the risk, but my current job is all-consuming which makes it tough to search for another, let alone long-distance. All these comments give me confidence that I'm making the right decision.

Kristin said...

I recently relocated to NYC from the midwest, and while I had some phone interviews before I left, my resume didn't really get much attention until I had a New York address. If possible, try to save up a few months' worth of money, then just move and temp while you're looking for a "real" job. I just did that, and it worked out really well.

Anonymous said...

One thing to add to my comment above about using a local address: make sure you update your social media sites to match your resume! You don't want your LinkedIn profile saying you live in San Antonio if your resume says you live in Seattle. It's a little thing and probably no one will notice, but it's not wiorth chancing it.

Anonymous said...

I moved from Seattle to the Bay Area two years ago (I'd been laid off from my Seattle job and wanted to be closer to my partner anyway). I didn't use his address; I was up front about still living in Seattle, but I made sure to address my plans to move very directly in my e-mail/cover letter.

The most important thing, though, was reaching out to my network in the Bay Area - friends, college/grad school classmates, former coworkers & clients, etc., because ANY job search is easier when you use your network, but ESPECIALLY if it's a long distance job. My final 3 companies I was considering all were companies I'd reached through my network.

I even ended up getting a relocation package, which was a nice surprise. Many companies were up front that relo wasn't an option but my (now-current) employer didn't bring up the topic, so getting the package was a really nice bonus.

Anonymous said...

One other thing I did (I'm the Seattle-to-Bay Area person above) was to come down for a week at a time a couple times and arrange meetings/interviews when I was visiting. If you can get face-to-face time, it can only improve your chances.

christie said...

I've been job hunting for two years from the East Coast for a job in California and obviously since I'm not there yet and it's been two years, my job hunt has been extraordinarily unsuccessful (I've even tried networking). I've had a few calls, but those were from people who failed to read my cover letter and resume, which I write exactly as AAM explained. As soon as they realized I wasn't local, they said, "oh, well, let us know when you live here." These are not entry-level jobs, either.

It doesn't help that I live in an area where there are next to no opportunities for what I do, so applying for jobs here is futile, too.

I've even tried applying to jobs in the nearest city (about an hour and a half away) and still...nothing. It seems that if you're not local, you're screwed. And if you live in an area where there's no opportunities, you're double screwed. So here I am, totally underemployed, stagnating, and bored out of my mind with nowhere to go (except to pick up freelance opportunities as I find them).

I suppose the fact that my grad school is located in San Francisco and right now I'm attending online, but would really love to finish my last two years in a classroom setting isn't even enough of a reason (among several others) for employers to believe I want to relocate.

So frustrating. So for now, I'm just saving as much money as I can (and waiting for the economy to improve) until I'm comfortable relocating without a job because that seems to be the only way I'll get one in another city.

Anonymous said...

I love this advice as I am also looking for work in a city a couple hours away and it has been an extremely extremely frustrating expereince.

Question for everyone: If you put a local address and your resume still has that you work at your other job in the other city, how would that look to employers? Any ways around his?

Amy said...

Another thing that could be working against you is that if recruiters are searching in a resume database with the parameters of "within 50 miles of zip code 12345", your resume isn't going to show up in their results unless you do borrow a friend's local address. Just something else to consider...

Anonymous said...

I am going through this same thing. What I did is used a local address and paid for my own travel.
Employers were curious about reason for moving so I was upfront about the fact that I was relocating to be with my fiance. They seemed to accept that as a good reason but you do need to hve a good reason because they WILL ask.

I was lucky enough to be able to book at least two interviews per trip so it wasn't a complete waste but again this was pure luck and 100% dedication on my part. For the past 3-4 months I've done nothing but constantly apply for jobs, revamp my resume, read job books and of course surf blogs like this one.

Right now I have had final interviews with two positions. One of them told me that I would get an offer early this week but no offer has come so I'm really worried. (if anyone has any good reasons why it's taking so long please comment to help me feel better) I also feel like I am a top candidate for the other one but still no feedback... I do know that they have checked my references. It is a large academic institution so I know they can be slow sometimes but AAM if you're reading please reassure me.

In any case, it can be done but you have to set aside the budget for it. You also need to decide whether you are willing to go forward without a job or wait until you get an offer... I set a deadline for myself and decided that I was moving with or without one because I'm tired of being in limbo and the travel costs are killing me. Of course if you decide to do this then you need to have the savings to back it up.

You need to make this part of your move budget because I have spent at least 1000-1500 on travel for interviews. Hotwire is my best friend for finding hotel deals when I need them. The good thing is that when I plan in advance the airfare is only 150-175 but one time I had a last-minute opportunity that I felt like I couldn't pass up and that plane ticket set me back $500!

Anyway I know this is stressful and I do symphatize with your situation. I can't wait to see the other comments and hopefully success stories on this issue because I am feeling very nervous as a wait on one of my offers to come through...

Anonymous said...

Me again (post above)... sorry for all the typos. I was typing very fast but IRL I know how to spell. lol

Travis said...

If you end up moving for a job SAVE YOUR RECEIPTS! You're allowed to deduct moving expenses if you relocate for a new job. I don't know exactly how much or what expenses, but go here for more information: http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc455.html.

GeekChic said...

I've done all of my job hunting long distance (on 4th job now) - in fact for most of the job searches I wasn't even in the same country.

My cover letter always specified why I was looking to move to that area and work for this specific organization or (in one case) a more general why I was looking internationally. I also specified how I was legal to work in their country.

I never had much trouble though it did take somewhat longer to get jobs than friends looking locally (between 12-18 months). I have also never paid to go to interviews (either the employer did phone interviews only or paid for me to travel). I would have been perfectly happy to pay but it was never brought up.

Relocation assistance only came with this last job. The other jobs weren't senior enough to generate this offer of help (and I didn't expect it).

All that said, I did my looking before this recent downturn so I have been fortunate. Good luck to everyone job hunting.

Anonymous said...

RE: Anon @ 8:06, when I used a friend's local address, I simply wrote "2000-2010" on my resume, instead of "2000-current". No one questioned whether or not I was still employed in another city.

Anonymous said...

You can also use Google Voice to get a free local phone number that automatically routes to your phone number. I had already relocated from NJ to NC before my job search. Since I want to stay here, I didn't want to look like a carpetbagger.

Anonymous said...

This could not be more timely, as my husband and I are seriously considering a move to Florida for a number of valid reasons, and I have had several interviews but as yet no job offer. (The most recent position I submitted an application and resume for, with a letter stating I would be in the area, was filled before I arrived--yet the position is still listed as open!) Perhaps my next step should be to use a local address and spend more time there, as it is only a 2 1/2 hour flight. I am concerned about age--I am closer to 60 than 50, and am apprehensive that that might be a problem.

Anonymous said...

As a recruiter, my biggest fear is that I received a resume from a candidate who hasn't taken into account how stressful a relocation is and that "available ASAP" isn't ASAP when you're moving from five states away. Relocation is a serious commitment and stressor, as is starting in a market where you've never been, have no network or support when you arrive, and have to tie up loose ends and find a new place to live. I do my best to accomodate candidates who are willing to relocate, but often it turns into a headache of "I can't start when I said I could," and work product suffering becuase a candidate has moving issues. Taking a candidate who lives a town away sort of becomes a given.

I am okay if you use a local address, even if it's just a friend's. At least that way I know you have someplace to stay and at have a network in the city. Being able to crash at Aunt Tilly's for a month means at least you have a network and an emergency place to stay. If I find you also have an address in another city, it's not the end of the world, and I don't consider it being "lied to." Perhaps others feel differently, but if it's the address you would live at while getting started, I see no harm.

Letting me know that you are moving anyway is also a huge help. At least I then know you are doing your homework and maybe already have an apartment picked out and have been packing. I highly recommend mentioning these things when applying.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 1 Sept:

I can appreciate your sentiments. How would you recommend the following situation then? My wife finished grad school in December, but there's basically no future for her in the city where we moved for grad school. Without being specific, it's basically a rather technical field where the employers can't really expect to find many home-grown candidates.

I can work pretty much anywhere, and my company has been made aware of my status from hire onward, and they are going to keep me in a telecommuting capacity after we move away. We already have tentative plans to basically send my wife out ASAP when she lands a job, and we can afford to continue paying the mortgage while we rent an apartment and so forth.

Basically, what it boils down to is that we're definitely capable of making the move in a hurry, and we definitely do want to move. If we wanted, we could move regardless of whether or not she found work, but given how far apart various potential employers, it's not something we'd be like to do without an offer on the table.

So all that said, how do we best convey that message of preparedness and reality to prospective employers?

Ask a Manager said...

I think the key is in your first paragraph: "a field where the employers can't really expect to find many home-grown candidates."

When this is the case -- where local candidates are hard to come by -- I think it's a whole different ballgame.

When there are plentiful local candidates, that's when it sometimes isn't worth an employer's while to deal with non-locals. But in your wife's case, if the employer doesn't have that luxury, they're presumably planning on conducting a more nationwide search.