How to Conduct a Long-Distance Job Search

Helpful tips on how to land a job before you move.

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Want to make your job search even tougher? Try applying for a job in another state.

As difficult as the job market is for most people right now, it’s even more difficult for job-seekers who are searching long-distance. There are already loads of highly qualified local candidates who aren’t getting interviews because employers are swamped with so many of them—so when you add in the inconvenience of being a long-distance candidate, we’re talking about a serious disadvantage.

And the reality is that long-distance job candidates generally aren’t as convenient for employers: You’re typically not able to show up for an interview later this week or stop by for an impromptu meeting with the decision-maker who’s about to leave for vacation, and you generally can’t start as soon as someone who’s local.

[See 10 Ways to Annoy a Hiring Manager.]

Plus, many employers see non-local candidates as more of a risk. What if you move across the country for the job and then it doesn’t work out?  No manager with a heart wants that on their conscience. Or, what if you decide three months into the job that you can’t adjust to the area? Local candidates don’t carry these risks.

For all these reasons, the bar is higher for long-distance candidates—but it’s not insurmountable. Here are eight ways to increase your chances of landing an out-of-town job:

1. First, know it won’t be easy. As challenging as a local search is right now, a long-distance search will be more difficult and probably take longer, maybe a lot longer. Prepare yourself for that and don’t get discouraged.

2. Explain yourself in your cover letter. Sharing your reasons for wanting to relocate in your cover letter 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.”

3. Put it on your resume too. Don’t rely just on the explanation in your cover letter in case the employer skims and misses it. On your resume, directly under your address, include a parenthetical note that you’re soon relocating to __ (fill in the city). For instance:

Joe Smith


(Relocating in October to Seattle) 4. Eliminate the added expense to the employer. State explicitly that you don’t need relocation assistance, and that you’re glad to travel for an interview at your own expense.

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5. Consider going a step further and using a local address. Many out-of-town candidates use the local address of family or friends who live in the area. But be prepared to explain when you’re called and invited to come in for an interview “tomorrow.”

6. Use your network, now more than ever. Finding an insider at a company to help open doors for you is always useful in a job search, and it could be crucial when you have to overcome the obstacle of being long-distance. Now’s not the time to be shy: Go all out on LinkedIn, take advantage of your college’s alumni network, and leave no connection explored.

7. Be as flexible as possible about travel and start date. If an employer wants you to interview next week, you might need to suck it up and pay the higher fee for a last-minute plane ticket. And you should start thinking now about how you can arrange the logistics of your move to be able to have an early start date; you don’t want to tell employers that it’ll take you six weeks to relocate, when they have other candidates who can start immediately.

[See How LinkedIn Can Transform Your Job Search.]

8. Consider relocating now. This isn’t always an option, but if you have the ability to relocate before getting a job, seriously consider it. You’ll generally find it much easier to get hired when you’re in the same city as the employers you’re targeting.

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.

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