Your CFO job is in Chicago, but your top candidate is in Atlanta. She has a child who’s a sophomore in high school, and her mortgage is $200,000 underwater. She loves your company and the career opportunity, but can’t get herself over the relocation hurdle.
Sound familiar? Unfortunately, for many recruiters, it’s an all too familiar scenario as they go to market for top talent. Seventy-six percent of employers surveyed last year reported that relocation is still an issue for candidates. Moving for a job can be a tough sell—so how do you turn a “no” into a “yes” with a rockstar candidate when relocation is the only thing standing in your way?
It’s not completely hopeless. Last year, 44 percent of workers said they’d relocate for the right job, and data from 2011 reports that interstate residential shipments were up significantly from the recession, suggesting Americans might be more open to moving for out-of-state jobs. Plus, general job satisfaction remains low, with the majority of employees in the U.S. and Canada unhappy at work.
Despite these encouraging trends, a rigid approach on your company’s part will not put you fully in the game for relocating top talent. In order to successfully compete, your company needs to look at each case individually, rather than trying to fit every candidate into your standard relocation policy.
Candidate objections to relocation can usually be placed into one of three categories: personal, financial or professional. What follows are examples of these objections and how your company can work to overcome them.
“My son is a junior in high school, and I really don’t want to move him before he graduates.”
“Your job is a perfect fit for me, but we’re a two-income family.”
These are probably the two most common personal objections a company will face when recruiting an out-of-town candidate.
To deal with the first scenario, many companies are adopting extended remote working relationships for new employees, allowing them to delay fully relocating until after their child graduates. These accommodations often last for a year or more.
In the second circumstance, employers should consider the option of contracting with a career counseling firm to provide job search assistance to the trailing spouse. Also, executives at your company should be encouraged to open up their networks to trailing spouses to assist with their job search.
“I’d love to take the job, but my house isn’t worth what I paid for it.”
“On the face of it, you’re offering a nice increase, but the cost of living in Philadelphia is 30 percent more than in Charlotte.”
The prolonged depression in the housing market continues to be problematic for both employers and candidates. Over the past few years, many companies have either instituted or increased the loss-on-sale provisions in their relocation packages to ease or eliminate the financial burden that an underwater mortgage has on a candidate.
In terms of the cost of living difference, companies need to incorporate this information into their offer. At the very least, understand it’s an issue and use this information to determine whether it’s realistic to pursue a candidate.
“Your company is owned by a private equity firm. I’m worried about the company being sold early in my tenure and my being out on the street.”
“The role you’re offering is appealing, but what are my potential opportunities with your company after this first role?”
These issues aren’t unique to relocation scenarios but can become more important to candidates when they’re being asked to pick up and move.
Private equity-backed firms are in a bit of a quandary on this issue. On the one hand, you want the talent; on the other, if someone needs a large amount of assurance on job security, then he or she probably isn’t suited to a PE environment in the first place. For the right candidate, offer an appropriate incentive to participate in a successful transaction on the back end.
The second issue comes up more frequently with earlier-career executives who are looking for intermediate or long-term career growth. Providing these types of candidates with specific details on your company’s career development practices will help them understand why your company would be a good place to hang their hat for the next 10 years.
While the financial challenges associated with relocating a new hire will hopefully dissipate as the economy continues to improve, the personal and professional challenges will only increase. As a company contemplates conducting a national or global search for a new executive, these issues must be addressed early on in the process to increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.
If your approach is flexible enough to address the unique issues confronting each candidate, there’s no reason not to expect rockstar candidates to accept your offer, whether they’re right around the corner or halfway across the country.
John Touey, Principal at retained executive search firm Salveson Stetson Group, has 20 years of experience providing executive search, human resources and management consulting services to organizations in the healthcare, financial services, utilities, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals industries. Follow him @JohnTouey.