6 Times Being an Out-Of-State Job Applicant Helps (and Hurts) You

Applying for a job in a different state

When clicking submit on an online job application, you’ve probably stared straight into your computer screen and wondered whether your application would ever be seen.

These uneasy feelings are compounded when you apply for a job in another state. Even if your resume lands into human hands, something as simple as your mailing address could hold you back.

Join the club. About 86 percent of millennials — and 77 percent of employees overall — say they’re willing to relocate for work, according to a 2017 Bamboo report.

3 times being out of state could hurt you

When submitting your application for an out-of-state position, you’ve probably reconsidered including your home address on your rockstar resume. Some applicants even worry about the area code of their contact phone number.

Hiding your location from hiring managers might get your resume chosen from the stack. But it will be revealed during the interview process.

Here are three scenarios when living out of state might prevent you from getting a job.

1. The job and city are in high demand

If you’re using big job boards with little results, you might already be aware of a simple phenomenon: The more widely shared a job post, the more applicants it attracts, and the harder it is to score an interview.

These days, you might see application tickers noting how many views a job post has received, or even how many applications it has garnered.

Applying for out-of-state jobs

Image credit: LinkedIn.com

So if you’re living in a smaller city and looking to make a move to San Francisco, New York, or somewhere in between, realize you’re not alone.

Human resources managers might be concerned that even if you’re the better candidate, you’re also a riskier one. You’ll be making a big move and having to juggle your new living situation with your new job.

To make yourself more attractive, you could use your cover letter to show you have a handle on the new city. You could mention, for example, that you already have a new home lined up. You might even cite examples of times you adapted to new surroundings in the past.

2. The position is entry level

Companies expand their budgets to hire senior employees; some are willing to go far and wide to bring in the right leaders. For entry-level roles, however, a human resources team might not want to devote part of its budget to flying in and hosting out-of-state job interviews. New graduates with general skillsets are easy to find locally.

“Nobody wants to be on the hook for the expenses involved with funding your relocation if the relationship doesn’t last,” said Tyson Spring, founder of Elever Professional, an executive search firm and staffing company.

If you’re a new or recent graduate, you could erase a company’s concerns over cost by offering to pay for your moving expenses.

3. The role requires local knowledge

If you want to work for the state government, many states like Colorado require you to have been a resident for at least a year. In the private sector, you might see similar requirements on job descriptions or learn about them during a first interview.

Even if no requirement exists, you might be penalized for a lack of familiarity with a city or region.

“The tech scene in Austin has a far different culture than the tech scene in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area; the New York advertising and media culture differs dramatically from Los Angeles,” Spring said.

“This is not to say that people can’t make the switch,” he continued, “but when faced with two very similar skillsets, the off-the-resume attributes start to come into the assessment.”

Spring added that a candidate’s network and knowledge of a given city could make a local candidate a better bet. The stronger network might make the new hire more helpful with recruiting and employee referrals, for example.

Strengthen your connections in the city where you’re hoping to live and work. You can do this by joining a national association tied to your field and attending conferences. You might also look through your LinkedIn connections to see if any of your college classmates ended up working in your preferred city.

3 times being out of state could actually help

Many job applications will ask you if you’re willing to relocate for the position. That reveals your status as an out-of-state applicant right away.

Here are three scenarios when that status might help your case.

1. You offer unique skills or experience

The scope of your desired role should tell you a lot about whether the hiring manager will prefer a local candidate. If you’re hoping to work for a national corporation that happens to be housed in Portland, Oregon, for example, you won’t be expected to be an expert in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, they might even value an outsider that adds diversity to the team.

But there will still be a cost to bringing you on board.

“In instances where relocation is budgeted [for], your chances of being hired are probably just as good as someone local,” said Tiffani Murray, a human resources consultant. “The reason for this is that the company has already decided, through researching … the market for talent, that they may have to look outside of the city for the best hire.”

Having unique experience or skills can push you over the top. When applying for out-of-state roles, ask yourself what helps you stand out from the competition. If you’re a content marketer who can also code webpages or design infographics, for example, that might set you apart.

When you discover whatever it is that’s unusually useful about your background, highlight it in your application. Make the case that it’s worth paying for at least the travel expenses required for an in-person interview.

2. You have connections to the city

Understandably, hiring managers are put off by out-of-state applicants who say they’re willing to shift their entire life to take a particular job. They’d feel especially guilty if you moved across the country only for the job to not work out months later.

When possible, being transparent about your interest in a job and your ties to the company’s city can help your case. Maybe you tell the hiring manager about your nearby friends or family, your past trips to the city, or that you’re moving with a significant other who’s already found a job.

These sorts of reasons for relocating give a company the impression that you know what you’re getting yourself into, that you’re ready to lay down roots. That lessens their risk of hiring an out-of-state applicant who sours on the new city and decides to quit the job.

If you don’t have ties to the city, don’t worry. You might also try to use the opposite to your advantage. If you’re leaving San Francisco for the lesser-known Santa Fe, for example, you might pitch yourself as someone having big-market experience who can help drive innovation.

3. You can cover your moving expenses

If you’re feeling bold, you can offer to cover your own moving expenses, helping reduce the company’s cost of hiring you.

I have secured entry- and mid-level jobs in big cities on three separate occasions, in part, by explaining to the hiring manager that I:

  • Was planning to move to their city anyway
  • Was able to cover my moving costs
  • Was familiar with the region
  • Had family or friends nearby

Being a relatively recent graduate furthered my argument. The companies knew I was green and ready to pay my own way toward more professional experience. But you don’t have to be in your early 20s for this strategy to work.

Consider covering the following details in your killer cover letter:

  • When you’re relocating
  • Whether you have ties to the city
  • What experience you can bring from other cities

You might wait for the company to ask whether you’re willing to finance your move, in case they make the offer first. Just ensure that you lay out the timeline of your move. A company might be willing to wait on you if you’re paying your way to town.

Start applying for out-of-state jobs

When you’re an out-of-state job applicant, you don’t just have to prove you’re right for the job. You also have to prove you’re right for the area.

Unlike local candidates, you’ll have to show you can adjust to the cost of living and a potentially different salary in a new state. It’d be wise to perform your own research on the job’s pay, the state’s taxes, and your possible living situation before even applying.

If the math makes sense and the job description is a match, it’s up to you to put in the work to make the job happen.

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