One of the things I was most surprised by when I got into the jobs business over a decade ago was the prevalence and practice of age discrimination in hiring right here in the USA. Oh, sure... we're not like some overseas markets where job ads explicitly demand youth, or a particular gender, or beauty(!), in the applicant, but there it is...
If you don’t already live in the area, you’re at a disadvantage when competing for a position against local job seekers. Relocation is expensive and time consuming, and if there are enough applicants nearby, firms might not find it necessary to look at anyone beyond commuting distance. Even if you’re willing to relocate and fund the transition entirely on your own, it can be difficult just getting your foot in the door.
Fortunately, there are simple techniques you can use to keep yourself in the running. They range from the simple and direct to the subtle and risky, but they might make the difference between getting on the short list and losing out because of your ZIP code.
First, be certain you’re actually set to move. You’ll have better luck convincing potential employers you’re willing and able to relocate if you aren’t tied down to your current area said Jan Nickerson, senior search consultant at Find Great People, an executive search firm. Renting your home is preferable to owning it, since the process of selling a home is itself expensive and time consuming, she said. If you already own a home, get ready to sell it, and prepare as much of the process ahead of time so you can go through with the sale when necessary, she added. If you can prove that you’re mobile and able to move quickly and easily, you’ll have an edge.
Once you can demonstrate that you’re able to relocate, be completely upfront about your willingness to do so. Career counselor Robin Ryan, author of “Over 40 & You’re Hired” and “Winning Resumes,” recommends directly stating in your cover letter that you are ready to relocate and willing to pay for it.
“Many companies are simply not willing to pay to relocate employees anymore, so they discount far-afield applicants,” Ryan said. “In this tough economy, when high-paying jobs are so scarce, employers aren’t buying people’s homes anymore, and some will not pay any moving expenses. So if you are willing to pay for your own move, you must immediately communicate your willingness to do so.”
Ryan suggested stating in your cover letter that you are “able to relocate quickly and easily at own expense.”
If you’re looking at a specific firm or have a specific region in mind for relocation, you can highlight your willingness and enthusiasm by focusing on that region. Research the area, and really get a feel for your potential future home. Make it clear that you’re not just willing to relocate but that you’re eager to relocate specifically to that area.
“Be prepared to move, and do your due diligence,” Nickerson said. “If a person has already researched that the local area meets their needs, whether that’s educational needs for children, medical needs, cultural needs, religious community or cost of living, it shows great seriousness on being prepared to relocate.
“I had a candidate who made it clear at the first on-site interview that he and his wife had already been online and she had already picked out five houses she wanted to look at [in the area],” Nickerson explained. “[The hiring company] offered to pay for her [to accompany him] on the second on-site interview, because it wasn’t about the money. She wanted to experience the look and feel of the area herself. She hadn’t been there before, and that demonstrated great willingness to relocate.”
You can also obfuscate your location in your application and on your resume. You can simply omit your address and only offer your e-mail address and phone number. It might encourage recruiters and hiring managers to focus on your qualifications instead of discounting you because of where you live.
If you’re very bold, you can offer local contact information, even if you don’t live in the area. Frank G. Risalvato, a recruiting officer at Intre-Regional Executive Search, suggested using the contact information of a friend or relative who lives in the area.
“It depends on the individual’s comfort level with how aggressive they want to be with their tactics,” Risalvato said. “One of the more common tricks is that they’ll try to find someone, anyone in the particular area. If they’re looking to move to New York or New Jersey, they’ll have a niece in New Jersey, and they’ll put that person’s address on there to give them a local residence.
“Of course, that can backfire. It’s one of the risky techniques, and it all depends on the situation,” he said. “For a young or single professional, playing around with addresses is a lot easier to get away with. As you start climbing up the ladder, you become a director, CFO, treasury manager, plant manager, any number of those things; then you might want to work with some of the other techniques. Trying to hide your address or ZIP code might not be the best approach. If it’s discovered and you don’t handle it right, it can start raising suspicion of what else you’re hiding.”