Location, Location, Location – The Reality of Applying for Out-of-State Jobs

I received the following email the other day from a reader: 

“Hi Dave,

I’m wondering how to approach the job search from outside New York.
I’ve heard so many different answers on this, most saying it’s nearly
impossible to land a magazine job without actually being in the city.
But I’ve also heard of others who manage to land interviews without a
New York address. What’s the real deal?

I currently live in Tennessee, but am relocating to New York at the
end of next month. Will employers ignore my resume because I do not
have a New York return address even if I’m willing to travel for
interviews between now and my move date?”

This is a great question, and one that I come across often. The short answer is that yes, it is difficult to characterize yourself as a serious candidate for a magazine job in NY if you don’t currently live here. First, there’s the prevailing sentiment that everything outside of New York is barren desert and that no other work experience will translate. If you get past that hurdle, however, there is still the challenge making it clear that you can and will make yourself as available as needed. When we post jobs, we need them filled yesterday, so waiting a month for an out of state candidate to pack up, find a place to live, and relocate isn’t exactly what we recruiters are hoping to do. And relocation assistance? For most companies, and except for executive-level positions, giving you money or resources to help you move is so 20th century.

Basically, when I see a resume that I like, there are two things I want to know when it comes to location: that you can come in to interview within 48 hours and that you can start work 2-3 weeks from an offer being accepted. If both of these criteria are met, we’re good to go.

So to give recruiters what they’re looking for, there are two strategies you can employ that can greatly help your chances.

1. Keep it vague. Don’t list your address on your resume (which many resume experts say you shouldn’t be doing anyway.) If you only have your work experience, a phone number and an email address, you’re not screaming to the recruiter that you’ll need special handling. If you go this route, when a recruiter calls you for an interview you don’t want to surprise them with your relocation saga. You need to be able to schedule an appointment and make sure you can get there. It’s OK to say that you’re in the process of relocating and that you’ll be there in a couple of days to interview. Just make it clear that you’re handling it. 

2. Cover (Letter) it. If you list an out of state address, or if it’s clear from your work experience that you’re currently employed in a different locale, open your cover letter with the following statement (or a close approximation): “Though I am currently located in Tennessee, I am immediately available to interview in New York with 24 hours notice, and will relocate at my own expense to begin work in 2-3 weeks should an offer be extended.” Don’t get flowery with your language. Just state the facts that we want to see. If I see a resume with an out-of-state address and there is no mention of relocation in the cover letter, I assume it’s something the candidate either can’t/won’t do or something the candidate just hasn’t put enough thought into.

So yes, there is hope for landing a job when you’re not a local. Just make sure that you are being clear in your intention and your availability and – I can’t stress this enough – be honest. Don’t promise more than you can deliver in terms of your availability. If you keep these tactics in mind, your location shouldn’t stand between you and your next job.

Questions or comments about this topic? Let me know below – I’d love to hear from you!


13 thoughts on “Location, Location, Location – The Reality of Applying for Out-of-State Jobs

  1. This is great as I am actually thinking about leaving New York to go back to Houston. I have family that I can stay with over there to make my transition smooth, but would like to wait to relocate once it’s confirmed that I will be hired.

    1. Ah, wish I could edit comments! Anyway, I left out half the story. I’m simultaneously looking for jobs in New York as well so I don’t want to move before giving it another real try in the city.

      As you know, I’m currently revamping my resume and portfolio, so I’m taking stock in both cities as far as opportunity and comfort level. So far Houston seems to be winning out (cost of living, abundance of family and friends, an art/design community that is beginning to grow) but I feel I can’t give up on New York just yet, especially when I’ll have a new body of work and a beefed up resume to show potential employers.

      My previous job search here has been discouraging. While people love my portfolio and reflect that they like me in the interview, my resume seems to be what drives them away. The one I had before was sparse and quite sad to look at.

      Even if I do get a job opportunity here, I will only stay if they meet my salary/benefit requirements. It’s one thing to have a job, it’s another thing all together to have a job that will help me pay for rent, bills, student loans, etc and save up for my future in the process!

      On that note…

      Say I move to Houston and work there for a few years and feel the need to move back to New York because I don’t see myself working on projects that excite me. Would an employer still feel that I’m coming from the “barren desert” even if I do have previous experience in New York?
      Would they question my decision to come back after leaving as some sort of indecisiveness?

      1. Fyza –
        First, not everybody has the “barren desert” mentality – I know first hand that things happen in big ways outside of NY and LA. But that said, even the most provincial recruiters and hiring managers are not likely to think that the New Yorker in you can “wear off” with a year or 2 out of town. I left New York a spell, and when I came back I didn’t find that employers were any more interested in avoiding me than they had been before.

        1. Ahhh – three years old but this is JUST the type of advice I was looking for after scrolling through many pages of unhelpful advice on applying to jobs out of state! THANK YOU HR DAVE!

      2. Its funny that you’re trying to move to Texas, I’m in Dallas and DYING to move to NYC…. I’ve been applying like crazy but I’m trying to figure out ways to show I have the upper end so I can *finally* make that move and get a job.

      3. Hi Dave,

        I found this to be helpful I do have a question though. I had my resume up on Indeed.com and I had actually forgotten about it for awhile.

        A couple of weeks ago I received an E-mail from the HR Manager regarding this resume, she stated they were very interested and would like me to interview with them. I am currently an Executive Director of a Mid-size non-profit. I have been thinking about moving on as I am not sure that there is much more I can do for the organziation. So I went to the Interview, I should mention I am currently located in New England and the Company is located in Texas.

        I flew down did the interview and have a 2nd interview scheduled. This position is also in Top-level Management it is as an Assistant Director of Operations for the Southwest.

        My question is I have been told that because they recruited me and I did not seek out the position they should be paying for my move, is this correct?

        1. There’s not really a “should” here, though I can say that most companies will offer some kind of relocation assistance in this situation since, as you say, they came to you rather than the other way around. If they took care of the expenses (flight, hotel) for the interview, then it’s a pretty good sign that they know they’ll need to ante up for relocation. But it’s not a sure thing.

          You’ll want to figure out how badly you want the role and whether relocation assistance is a deal breaker for you in the event that you’re offered the job, and put this into your overall compensation conversations with the company. If you’ve already had some conversations about salary with them (which I’m assuming you have since you’ve already flown to meet them,) it’s not to early to at least ask about whether relocation comes into play. You can email the HR Manager saying how excited you are about the company and role, etc. and ask whether relocation expenses would be covered in the event that you’re hired.

          Again, I assume that the answer will be yes since 1) they came to you knowing you weren’t a local candidate and 2) it’s a top level management position. But it never hurts to ask. And you should definitely know whether a “no” response will affect your interest in making this move.

          Thanks for writing in!

  2. Thank you for addressing this topic! As a journalist in Denver, I can’t tell you how many applications I have filled out for publications in New York. These are some great suggestions I can’t wait to apply to my job search.

  3. I didn’t realize postal addresses were outdated on resumes!!

    But it makes sense and I’ve updated my resume accordingly.

  4. Just a note to military spouses: don’t be discouraged about your job search when relocating with your service member. These are great techniques, they will work and there are plenty more strategies.

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