Have you ever been in a long distance relationship? You swear you will stay in contact with that special someone, travel to visit each other as often as possible, and convince yourself that it will work. And while some long distance relationships do work, the overwhelming majority do not.
The same holds true with a long distance job search. Many job seekers in Texas are discouraged by the lack of response from companies in Portland. Those living in LA struggle getting noticed by hiring managers in DC. Why is this? A few reasons:
- The hiring manager/company has been burnt before by long-distance applicants. At a meeting of employers who recruit at ND in April, they all mentioned a common problem with relocating employees, after 1-2 years on the job in a new city, a majority of employees state they want to return home to be closer to family/friends in a particular city. This type of delayed ‘homesickness’ cause employers to favor local candidates.
- The onboarding time is considerably less with a local candidate. Not only can the individual interview in a more timely fashion for immediate hiring needs, there is no relocation/adjustment time to a new city. I know of a Chicago ad agency who received resumes on a Tuesday, interviewed on a Thursday, and the employee started the following Monday. That scenario cannot happening for the applicant who is living 1000 miles from the job opportunity.
- Local pride is a minor reason, but a reason nonetheless. In today’s bad job market, there is pressure to hire local talent to help with the local economy and job situation. This pressure many not be as prominent in larger cities, but in smaller cities there are efforts to encourage companies to hire locally.
Knowing this, what is one to do when conducting a long distance search?
- Use a local address: do you have a friend or relative in your target city who would allow you to use their address as your home base on applications? If so, you may want to try listing their address instead of your out-of-state one. This practice may seem unethical to some, and I only recommend this if one is serious about moving to that particular city, or, if a move is imminent (ex: you will be moving in a month’s time so you want all correspondence directed to your new address, or, if you want to test the hiring waters in that city (ie: you need to know if the industry is not hiring or if an out-of-state address is causing you to be passed over) before making the jump.
- Plan a two-week barrage on your target city: network, apply for jobs, and then plan a two-week stay in your target city. Use this time to aggressively follow-up with contacts and job leads. By physically being in the city, you give yourself a better chance of an employer pulling you in for a screening interview or a networking contact introducing you to additional contacts.
- Network: out-of-state candidates are much more likely to be interviewed when they are referred to a hiring manager by a contact. I hired an individual from California (to South Bend), but this person was referred to me and she made a job hunting trip to South Bend. The combination caused me to give her a screening interview and she wowed the hiring committee.
- Crash on your uncle’s couch: if you are dead set on moving to a particular city, one tactic is to move to the city and give yourself a timeframe to make it there (do I hear Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York”). For example, head to St. Louis, stay with a friend, grab a part-time job, and give yourself 3 months to make it or you pack up and head back home. I did this with my move to South Bend and I was never more motivated to apply, network, follow-up than when I had no safety net to fall back on.
The bias against long distance candidates is neither right nor wrong – there are legitimate reasons on both sides of the argument. That said, it is a reality that job seekers must face. Knowing it is out there and some ways to combat it increase your chances for success.