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I am currently job hunting for jobs on the West Coast from my residence in the Midwest. Would I have a better chance of getting a job if I moved to Seattle (where I want to work) than I would applying from the Midwest?

Some changes in by my employer have made me concerned about my future with the company. As a result I've been considering a move from the Midwest to the West Coast (Seattle). I've put myself on the job market, but a lot of the interest I'm getting is coming from companies in my current area. I'm worried that if I don't have an address in the city in which I want to live, I may miss out on a lot of possible opportunities from companies that can't afford/won't bother flying candidates in for interviews. Though I have a few month's living expenses saved, I'm also concerned that if I "up and move", I may not find a job in a reasonable amount of time.

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    Create a cover letter indicating you are going to relocate and don't expect them to cover the expenses. – user8365 Apr 3 '13 at 1:08
  • Because it was getting close votes, I edited the question to make it fit with the standards of the site (read the FAQ). If you don't like my changes or want to brush it up a bit, please edit as you'd like. – jmac Apr 3 '13 at 3:59
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    I removed the specifics about your situation from the question to make it more applicable to all. This is a good question that should be answerable without the specifics. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 3 '13 at 12:51
  • There is nothing more true in finding a job than IT IS FAR EASIER TO FIND A JOB IF YOU ALREADY HAVE ONE. That trumps being located in the same city by orders of magnitude. – Dunk Apr 3 '13 at 14:25
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Executive Summary

Budget for several flights to Seattle for interviews, prepare yourself to be ready to move as much as possible without hindering your current lifestyle, and write a good cover letter.

From the Perspective of the Employer

Distant candidates are problematic for two reasons:

  1. Interview Costs
  2. Start Date

If the company is on a strict budget, they won't want to fly you out to interview. If they do select you, then it may take longer for you to start since you need to move. And there's always the chance that after you move, you may not like it.

All of these can be worked around if the employer is willing.

Preempting Objections

To have your location not be a hindrance, as suggested by VM Brasseur you should definitely write a cover letter. The cover letter should address both issues.

Interview Costs

I will be in Seattle from Date X to Date Y, and Date X' to Date Y' for interviews. If those dates are not ideal for you, I am flexible and willing to work out a schedule so that we can meet up face to face.

This is much cheaper than moving there, and will have the same result -- you will be available for face-to-face meetings at your own cost, so they don't have to worry about it.

Start Date

I am available to start work from Date Z.

Let them know in advance when you can start work (factor in the notice period at your current job, and the time required to put your stuff together for a 2-week business trip to Seattle). The details can be worked out later, but you are telling the employer up-front that you are already thinking about when you can start to eliminate that concern before they can bring it up.

Economics

If you move now, you will need to decide where to live. Since you don't know where you will be working, either you will limit your job selection based on where is easy to commute to (limiting your choices), or you will need to move when you find a job (which will cost more money and take time).

If you budget for several plane trips out for interviews, and then for a week or two in a hotel or furnished apartment while you do apartment hunting on the weekends, you will have more flexibility for less money (and if it doesn't pan out, you aren't limiting your options of returning home).

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    You only listed 2 reasons when you said there were 3. – acolyte Apr 3 '13 at 14:33
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    Excellent point @acolyte -- I corrected it. Originally I had concerns about whether someone would like the new city (if you are moving somewhere you've never lived, you have a chance of hating it and leaving quickly). However, this isn't really a huge concern to the point of start date or hiring budget, so I removed it and tried to edit out all the "three" portions. Sorry I missed one! – jmac Apr 3 '13 at 23:28
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I'm unsure what you mean by "putting yourself on the job market," whether that's simply marking a yourself as "looking" on LinkedIn/Dice/etc. or whether you've been actively searching and applying for positions.

If you're applying, it goes without saying that you should only be applying for positions within Seattle. So we'll take that one as a given.

Not having an address in the city where you wish to work is NOT usually a problem, as long as you take a few measures to make sure everyone's well informed and expectations are set correctly on the hiring side of the equation.

When you apply, DO include a cover letter. In my opinion, this is always important. The resume tells people what you can do/have done. The cover letter gives them a glimpse at who you are. Unless they're just looking for bodies to fill open slots, they're going to care what sort of person you are. The cover letter gives them that first impression.

In your situation a cover letter is absolutely essential. When applying, tell the companies that you currently live in $midwest_city but you would like to move to Seattle. This will preempt any questions they may have when they look at your resume and see you live a couple of thousand miles away.

Many tech companies won't mind paying to fly you in for an interview if they find you to be a strong candidate. This is considered part of the expense and investment required to find the right person for the job. Also, many companies have a distributed workforce now. This requires having the infrastructure to support remote employees, including a robust online meeting system. Therefore it's possible they wouldn't even feel the need to fly you in until your first week on the job.

Naturally, each company will have its own processes. There's no way to tell what you'll be dealing with until/unless you apply and they give you that first call.

It sounds like you're in a situation with your current job where you can take a few months to give the above strategy a try. If it works out then not only will you have a job in Seattle but you also may get your new employer to pay for some of the relocation expenses. If it doesn't work in three months or so then, well, at least you'll have three more months of money in the bank to pay for your move.

Bonne chance!

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    $midwest_city you can always spot the PHP programmers :) – Codeman Apr 3 '13 at 19:50
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    No, you can't. ;) #PerlorGoHome – VM Brasseur Apr 3 '13 at 23:55
  • $midwest_city = Get-CurrentLocation; #Powershell works too – alroc Apr 4 '13 at 0:38
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While you do not necessarily need to live with in the city living within a reasonable commuting distance is a plus when applying to a company.

There is a significant expense in the recruitment and screening process. The majority of the time, candidates from out of the area will not pan out. There is the usual percentage that do not meet the basic requirements of the position, then there are those just wanting to get offers that they can leverage or just testing the waters that have no intention of actually moving, and then there are those that would like to move but just do not have the motivation to actually make the move. This adds up to make it difficult to get a company to seriously consider a candidate from out of the area.

What can I do to improve my chances?

Take a "vacation" to the area you want to relocate. Before you go, research some professional interest groups in the area schedule your vacation to overlap their meeting times. Use those meetings to network with people and get a reference within the company. Getting a referral into the company often times can get you through the HR roadblock. One of the best ways to find people in a position to do that is through user group meetings. If you have a user group in your area get involved with that group too so that you can talk about your shared experiences.

While in the area meet with recruiters and contracting companies to help get a feel for the market. Meet with several recruiters, but do not sign any agreement unless you are willing to commit to working with them. Chances are several will want to work with you so do not settle for a position that meets you minimum requirements. Shoot for the stars you just might get them. If you are asking for too much they recruiters will let you know, even if it is just by not bothering to return your calls.

While you are there find a place to live. When companies want to talk with your one thing they will want to know is that you have someplace to go nearby and that you have actually thought about it. If the area is large you might want to have several different places in mind in different parts of the metro area. Knowing the costs in these areas can help make your transition much smoother, and being able to talk about them with the company can help demonstrate your commitment to relocate.

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Draw out a plan of how you'd manage the move, find a place, get in touch with recruiters and network before deciding one way or the other. Do you have family on the coast that may be a useful resource? Consider just how you'd do the move and if there are any big events in that city that may impact your move. For example, in early July, Calgary has their annual Stampede and this would be a terrible time to try to find a hotel room as there are thousands of people that come here for the big event that not only happens on the Stampede grounds but also involves lots of other activities in the city as there are free pancake breakfasts and various parties that are rather infamous to some extent.

Do you know which recruiting firms you'd want to use? From what I remember when I worked in Seattle years ago there were plenty of different firms that would place .Net developers and thus you have to be careful about how many do you want to be using as well as how often are you wanting to stay in touch with all of these. Robert Half, Excell, and Volt would be a few of the bigger firms though I imagine there are more than a few small ones as well.

Thus, I'm saying spend a few hours planning out what you want to do if you decide to move and what you plan to do if you decide to stay where you are. Then compare the pictures of each to see which seems like it suits you better for a direction to take and move forward that way.

  • Agreed, definitely reach out to recruiting firms. For a company looking to employ directly, the fact that you're on the other side of the country can only be a drawback. When dealing with a recruiter, though, they need you as much as you need them, so it's in their interests to help overcome these drawbacks. – Carson63000 Apr 3 '13 at 3:42
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A caveat: I'm a bit of a dinosaur for the tech world and the personal experiences I cite were about 25 years ago.

To address the title question: In my experience, it is easier to get a job when you live in the city you want to get a job in. I grew up in a rural area. A year after finishing my computer science degree I was still living "at home"; I had a part time job teaching computer skills to adults, but it didn't pay well enough to allow me to find my own place to live. So I started searching for a full time job anywhere I might be able to find one. I sent out over 100 resumes over several months and did not receive a single interview. After about 6 months of searching, I began targeting the two closest metropolitan areas to where I lived, but still no luck.

I had stayed in touch with some of my college classmates who had relocated. They assured me that if I came to one of their areas I would be able to find a job quickly. A couple were willing to put me up on their sofas while I job hunted in one of the metropolitan areas closest to where I lived. I quit my part time job, packed up my car, and started sleeping on their sofas. Within about 6 weeks, I had gone on about a dozen interviews and received two decent job offers (not counting a temp job I turned down and another company that said they wanted to hire me, but the contract they were bidding on and wanted me for went to a competitor).

  • For entry level software devs, you would be correct, as there's usually no shortage of those in any major metro area. For experienced devs with specialized skills, most employers I've found have been willing to fly folks in for interviews. – James Adam Apr 3 '13 at 18:47
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While the original question is more for US-based people, I just thought to add my experience in Finland (Europe). I applied to my current position from 800 km (500 miles) away, right after graduating, and it was no problem for the company.

The only difference, I would assume, with Finland compared to most other European countries is that we have quite liberal support for work-based relocation. That makes the often necessary process much easier on both parties. The person gets a distance-based sum for all visits during the interviewing process (three times for me), which more than covers the transportation and food.

Upon successful recruitment, you will get relocation support for 4 months, based on the current monthly social support allowance. For me, it was about 3000 euros after taxes - in addition to my salary! I believe that money is meant for paying the rent deposit, basic furniture, and such. But of course you are free to use it in any way you wish.

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