What to Know When Applying for a Job in Another City

One of the best things I did as a twentysomething was move to a new city where I knew not a soul. It was a point in my life where I wasn't tied down to any person or any place. I could go anywhere. It's an amazing opportunity to be able to pick a new city and hit refresh. But it can also feel like an uphill battle explaining your out-of-state address to hiring managers.

Recruiters always prefer local candidates. It makes sense. There's less risk involved in the hire. The company doesn't have to worry about relocation costs, moving plans falling through, or the other logistics involved in getting acquainted to a new city.

But now more than ever, your home base is less important than where you're willing to go for work. Technology and globalization means that most teams are working across time zones anyway. You just need to know how to sell yourself convincingly. Here's how to do so...

relocating for work
relocating for work

1. Focus Your Search

When you're open to anything, anywhere, it can quickly start to feel overwhelming. It's important to narrow your focus before you begin your search. I recommend focusing on one or two potential cities or one specific type of job.

The key here is that you need some sort of parameters for your search. With a lot of moving parts, you risk your application coming across as random and broad.

If you're set on a city but not an industry or type of position, set your job alerts only on that city. Then take the time to tailor each application to your skill set and relevant experiences.

If it's more important that you land a position in your field, tighten up your presentation of your most relevant accomplishments to date.

When I moved from Virginia to Boston for a job transition, I was working in admissions and could directly tie my responsibilities to what higher ed employers were looking for in an assistant director of admissions. It was a pretty easy sell because my location mattered much less than my skill set.

2. Make a Personal Connection

We all know how frustrating it can be to submit your application to the black hole and never hear back again. If you're applying from out-of-state, it's even more important to connect with a human being.

Recently in a Facebook group I came across someone who was visiting a new city and planned on showing up unannounced and dropping off her resume to a few HR departments. My suggestion was that rather than showing up without an appointment and risking her resume being filed away, reach out and set up an appointment beforehand.

Set your sights on someone at the level you're interested in, not the head of the department or firm. Directors, managers, and executives are likely to be much too busy to accommodate such a meeting request.

For instance, if you're interested in a marketing coordinator position, research employees on LinkedIn with a similar title. Send them an email offering to take them out to coffee or requesting 20 minutes to chat over the phone about their role with the company.

Once you make that personal connection, you have an "in." That person can vouch for you when/if there's an open position or keep an eye out for openings should one become available.

3. Listing Your Current Location

It's no longer necessary to list your address on your resume. Instead, make sure your email address, phone number, LinkedIn profile URL, and any other personal portfolio sites are highlighted at the top.

If you are required to list your address on the online application form itself, then go ahead and do so. Some people list a friend or family member's address, though I'm not a fan of fabricating anything on application materials. There's always the chance this could come up in the interview process.

Rather, if this is something you think your prospective employer will question, bring it up in your cover letter. State your intentions to relocate and give a specific date by which you plan to do so. This will encourage hiring managers that you plan to relocate regardless of whether you get a job with their company.

4. The Interview Process

Don't expect any company to fly you out for an interview or pay for relocation costs. Sure, it's a great perk if they offer to do so, but if you really want that job it's on you to show up for it.

You've got to be flexible.

When I was in my last semester of grad school in Michigan and applying for jobs back on the east coast, I had to be ready to book a plan ticket on less than a week's notice. Yes, it was a sacrifice at the time, but I only did so for the job I knew I really wanted. And hey, I got it!

Your flexibility and willingness to accommodate their schedule shows a lot about how serious you are about working for such company.

5. Be Ready for a Quick Change

Lastly, you've got to give the hiring manager the signal that you'll be as available to them as the candidate down the street. Don't let your long-distance courting serve as a barrier in any way.

That means being clear (and realistic) about when you can start a new gig. Maybe you'll have to bunk up with someone temporarily before finding your own digs. And maybe it means you'll have to break your lease in your old city. Regardless, if you're serious about a job you need to have a plan in place before you receive an offer. 

Tell me about a time when you've relocated for work. Was it a smooth transition? What were some things that surprised you about the process?