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Opportunity Sign (Alex Slobodkin/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Opportunity Sign (Alex Slobodkin/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Overcoming the gap when applying for jobs long-distance Add to ...

The Question

I’m looking to leave my current city and I’ve been applying to a variety of jobs across the country without much luck. I’m wondering if the distance between me and the new position is a factor in not being selected? A fair number of jobs have indicated an ASAP start date, which seems to give an advantage to local applicants (since moving across the country would be hard to do quickly). Also, I wonder if the unlikelihood of having a face-to-face meeting or the lack of local connections if a factor. Additionally, I am considering whether I need to state in my cover letter my willingness/enthusiasm for the city to clarify this point, or is the fact that I’m applying enough of an indication that I’m willing to relocate?

The Answer

Employers usually do prefer local candidates. This is because (as you suspected), it’s easier to schedule in-person interviews on short notice, there are no relocation costs, and local candidates generally bring greater local insights to the job. But it is possible to land a job in another city. It’s just a greater uphill battle, so you must be strategic.

Start by narrowing down your search to one city. Doing so will allow you to: 1) know cost-of-living variances in your new city, 2) manoeuvre local salary ranges (which can vary from city to city), 3) calculate moving expenses (companies typically only relocate candidates on its dime if qualified local workers are not available), and 4) better gage local job opportunities in your field.

Next, focus on your presentation. Employers often receive hundreds of résumés a day. They simply can’t read each résumé. You may have 10 or 15 seconds to capture their attention as they scan your résumé for key words. With an out-of-town address, you should definitely clarify that you are relocating, and that you are willing to come into the city on your own for an in-person interview. Consider getting a local cell phone number too, and be available during your target city’s business hours (e.g. taking a call at 5 a.m. in Vancouver, if necessary, from an employer in Halifax).

Out-of-town employers may not be familiar with local companies listed on your résumé. For example, your current employer may have a stellar local reputation, yet be unheard of in other parts of the country. In which case, add in small descriptors about the companies on your résumé, so recruiters and employers can recognize your experience for what it is.

Your hunch is also correct about local connections. They can help your search; so start networking to create local contacts virtually. Work with a local recruiter who specializes in your field. He or she can help you get local market insights so you can tailor your résumé to highlight your most highly sought after skills. Join a professional association in your target city and engage with members to get the inside scoop on industry activities. Network with key decision-makers via social media too. Create smart conversations that put you on their radar.

Finally, consider temporary or contract work, which may allow you to move to your new city first, as you continue to look for a permanent position.

Julie Labrie is the vice-president of BlueSky Personnel Solutions.

Do you have a question on careers, labour law or management? Send it in to our panel of experts, which includes career coaches, a recruitment expert and an employment lawyer: careerquestion@globeandmail.com . Please be advised that while The Globe and Mail may publish your submission, your name and address will be kept confidential.

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