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I'm a software developer about to graduate college, and I have been getting quite a few calls about jobs which are both local and far, far away from me. I'm not sure when I should bring up that I can't leave my current location (my significant other is attending graduate school, and we've just signed a lease, for example). Should I tell the interviewers right away that I can only work for them if I work remotely, or should I go through the process first? I lean more towards the former because I'd feel really bad wasting interviewer / recruiter time that could be spent elsewhere, but this is something that's new to me. How do I approach the situation? I would really like to work for some of these places that are asking me to go through their process!

  • Are you applying to jobs that specifically list that they allow remote work? And is this an absolute "No I will never relocate no matter what the offer" or "I would prefer to work remotely, but am willing to reconsider if the right offer came up"? – jmac Apr 8 '14 at 0:47
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I would approach this by deciding (on a case-by-case basis, if necessary) your own answer to this question:

Why would I consider going through this effort if I know the job is for another location?

There are a few answers I can think of.

A. I am hoping that if they really like me, they'll let me work remotely.

This one is fairly easy. You should just mention this up front and avoid wasting their time. The reason I suggest this is that I've never found an example where a company was willing to accept remote workers but didn't know it yet. They either know that they can hire remote workers, and are prepared to do so, or they want everyone on site.

So, let them know up front and let them tell you which they are.

B. I like the company so much, that if I get the job, I'll take it and move, in spite of my restrictions.

In this case, you should take the interview, and you really don't need to mention anything up front. Instead, you need to start figuring out how you'll handle your obligations so you can move.

In my experience, if you aren't local, companies are prepared for it to take a little while for you to wrap things up and move. Some are more flexible than others. Some will make it easy for you to do so with relocation assistance, some will leave you on your own. But either way, they know that this will come up in the conversation. You can have it early, but if you know you want the job, you don't really need to.

C. I am hoping that if they really like me, and I tell them I can't move, they'll blow me out the water with an "offer I can't refuse".

See B. However, I believe this to be fairly unlikely unless you are in a very specialized industry. Hiring is an optimization task for most companies. They go outside their local area when they know it can pay off. And it pays off when the expected value exceed the additional cost: interview travel expenses, relocation, additional screening time.

The expected value is based on the average candidate. In my experience, companies are unlikely to perceive your individual value as much higher than the average for your role, so it's unlikely they will go to extraordinary lengths to hire you.

D. There aren't any conditions under which I can imagine taking the offer.

It's flattering to be asked to interview, but if your case falls in this category, be honest and skip it.


Summary: It sounds like you really only fall into category A. As I said above, I can't see any reason to not just mention your conditions up front. Both of you are fairly fixed in the matter, and you are unlikely to gain anything in negotiation by not revealing your intentions.

  • Thank you. I appreciate the breakdown and showing me other things I wasn't even sure about yet myself. I definitely fall into category A at present. – Seiyria Apr 8 '14 at 1:25
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Yes, absolutely. You tell them immediately - in fact, you tell the recruiter before you even get there - say you cannot move for some time and that the recruiting company will have to accept this. Those that do not want a remote worker then do not need to waste their (and your) time in interviewing you for a position that you will never take.

Forget negotiating or anything like that, unless you're really hot property (eg some CEO candidate that ends up "working" from home 5 days a week...) then you have to fit into their requirements, and if they don't allow remote workers then there will be no position for you there.

Once you have revealed this information, the ball is in their court. If they still want you for interview - go for it (and remember you may go to some that said, "come to interview anyway" only to find they have a 100% no remote work policy, or that even the interviewer will be surprised you came - big companies often screw communication up like this), but if they've asked you to come, its entirely their responsibility to suggest a suitable solution.

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Software developers can be very rare, especially specific skillsets. A lot of employers are willing to pay whatever it takes to hire certain skillsets, which is why they've taken the initiative to contact you, instead of the other way around. If there are more than two people contacting you, that's a sign that your skills are in high demand.

You should first try to make it clear where you live and that you're not moving because of your significant other. Sometimes employers hope that you're willing to move if the pay is high enough. Some even offer living space and hope that you'll take it. Make your situation clear, but don't negotiate the conditions until they bring up the topic of pay. That way, they won't be rudely surprised.

You hold the edge in negotiation here, so request what you like.

You can negotiate for probation, meaning that either of you can leave on short notice. Employers tend to like this in countries where it's expensive to fire a poor worker, and when they're worried about the performance of an unrecommended employee.

If those jobs are within uncomfortable travelling distance (e.g. a 1-2 hour commute), negotiate a very high salary which you're willing to take to do that job. Best case, you'll get that very high salary but have to wake early and sleep late. However, don't be insultingly high. Request a comparable salary to people with uncomfortable working conditions, like offshore engineers.

If you're doing probation, you can ask for partial remote work. If your expected salary is $5k/month, ask for say, $3k with two days per week working remotely. And then request the proper $5k/month salary at the end of your probation (which means that they approve of your performance). That's an extremely good deal to many employers because they get 'free labor' and no risk. You're also playing the 'free trial' sales tactic, and people are very reluctant to switch after a free trial.

  • Thank you for the information. In my email I've made it very clear of my situation and that I have the intention of following through their process if they are willing to accept remote work, by answering all of their questions in addition to telling them that I can't really move. – Seiyria Apr 8 '14 at 2:42

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