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The situation:

My family and I live in the USA and are planning to move across the country to be closer to our immediate families. As such, I've been job searching and researching relocation assistance as a possible benefit to ask for upon receipt of a job offer, as such a move will be quite expensive.

My question:

Let's say a company doesn't specify whether or not it offers relocation assistance. Assuming they offer a job to me, would I lose some bargaining power to ask for this benefit if I've already told tell them the main reason we're moving is to be closer to family? To put it another way, they know we're planning on moving regardless. Ergo, to me, they might be less inclined to offer relocation assistance with a rationale of, "Well, he's going to move anyways, so no need to cover his moving expenses."

Should I downplay the proximity-to-family narrative as I'm applying for jobs?

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    I know a guy a moved across the country for a job only to have the offer rescinded a day before his start date because Apple bought the company. It doesn't matter if he wanted to move eventually to the area anyway. The fact is, he quit his job, spent money he didn't really have, moved at a considerable expense, only to get himself stranded in an expensive area without a job at all. That's one of the reasons why, if your contract is "at will", you should always try to negotiate a relocation package and/or a signing bonus, and only move once both parties have already signed that contract. – Stephan Branczyk Aug 14 '17 at 21:02
  • In other words, you can easily argue that point if it comes up, and no, you should not lie. They also need to believe you're willing to move to the area, otherwise, they may not make you an offer at all if they don't think you have a good reason for moving. Making job offers is like dating. Nobody wants to make an offer if they think they're going to get rejected. – Stephan Branczyk Aug 14 '17 at 21:09
  • Joe: I wouldn't lie about the reason to move, but it seems not much of a stretch that I would move across the country if I found the right job, regardless of whether my family is close by or not (see @Stephan 's example above). That's the alternate narrative I could play up (which is totally true - proximity to family is what will lead inexorably to our move, but only with the right job offer in hand) – Will Aug 14 '17 at 21:14
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Should I downplay the proximity-to-family narrative as I'm applying for jobs?

Almost every job posting I have ever seen will state something along the lines of "relocation assistance available to the right candidate". If it doesn't have that or something similar as part of the job description, it is 99% likely not going to offer it, and I would not ask.

The reason I would not ask for it is it makes you more expensive to hire than someone local. There are rare specialized exceptions to this, but normally not.

Your best bet if you want or need to move it bite the bullet on the expense or wait patiently for a job were relocation assistance is offered\mentioned up front.

Update based on comments: During the interview process, you should reveal that you will be relocating as part of accepting an offer. This is wise as you do not want to surprise a potential employer with this information.

If you get to the point where an offer is made, you can always ask for relocation assistance. ( Worst they can say is no )

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    The other potential issue is without mentioning it (to a job that doesn't overtly offer it), they'll be unsure of how OP is committed to relocating which makes hiring him a gamble in a different way. – Chris E Aug 14 '17 at 16:42
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    I am surprised by the first part of this answer. I worked for a national laboratory and relocation assistance was almost never mentioned in the job posting, but it was something you could ask for. As a rule of thumb, once you're offered a job, you should always try to optimize your fringe benefits. Your salary cap itself may be fixed in stone because of the current salary of your co-workers, or it may be fixed in stone because a manager has a limited budget, but fringe benefits don't always come out of a particular manager's/department's budget. – Stephan Branczyk Aug 14 '17 at 20:25
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Should I downplay the proximity-to-family narrative as I'm applying for jobs?

No. Your reason for moving won't impact their desire to provide relocation assistance. Either they do offer assistance, or they don't. If they do offer assistance, it's already in the budget.

Be honest about your reasoning. It has a good chance of assuring a potential employer that you will stick around after the move - a concern for employers envisioning big changes for their new hire. Moving to be close to family is a great reason to move. It's a reason every employer will understand.

Look at the job posting and at the company's website. If you don't see any indication, ask about relocation assistance at some point during the interview process (this is the sort of thing to bring up when the company culture and benefits are being discussed). But be ready to stop talking about it quickly if it is not being offered (and if it isn't essential to your move, which I assume is the case here).

  • I've looked at the job posting and the company's website and don't see any mention of it. Are you saying it's kosher to ask about relocation before being offered the job, or only after it's been offered? – Will Aug 14 '17 at 21:06
  • @Will, No, ask after/during the offer! By that, I mean, ask after you believe they're sold on hiring you (based their body language and cues from the conversation). That's when the negotiation actually begins. For instance, it may make things more convenient for the hiring manager if you tell him your exact salary expectation right from the beginning (but it's almost never in your interest to do so). If they think you're going to be too expensive before getting to know you, they're just going to dismiss you out of hand. This is especially true for HR, who's only job is to weed out candidates. – Stephan Branczyk Aug 14 '17 at 21:41
  • ...But this also applies to hiring-managers at the beginning of the interview process. – Stephan Branczyk Aug 14 '17 at 21:42

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