The Long-distance Job Search: Getting Past the Zip Code Filter

“I’m willing to move for a job but am afraid I’m being weeded out simply because my address isn’t local. What can I do to increase my chances of success?” Meredith from Orlando, FL

It’s true. In today’s competitive job market, recruiters rely on technology, including filtering by zip code, to prioritize the résumés they receive. This makes it more difficult for people who are looking to relocate, or who simply need options outside of their current market, to successfully conduct a long-distance job search.

The good news is that with some determination and hard work, it is possible to prove that you are a candidate worth considering, regardless of where you live.

Your first task is to outsmart the computer so that your application gets in the hands of the recruiter, and for this, you have several options. You can choose to leave your address off of your résumé and provide an explanation. If you are looking to relocate to a specific city, you might put on your résumé, “Moving to Tucson in December” or “Desired Work Location—New York City.”

Using the local address of a friend or family member may seem appealing, but do so with caution. Not only are you starting out on shaky ground by bending the truth, but the employer may want to schedule an interview at a moment’s notice because you appear to be a local candidate.

Some online application forms will allow you to choose a location. By selecting one specific location, you are showing the recruiter that your job search is focused and you are a serious candidate. Selecting too many locations or applying for too many jobs within the same company may scare recruiters away.

The next task is to explain your relocation honestly and concisely in your cover letter. Explicitly state where you live now, when you are considering moving and what you bring to the table that should make the recruiter want to meet you. Keep this to just a sentence or two—the more you focus on it, the more they will. And, as with any cover letter, stating why you want to work for that company in particular or why you want that specific job is always a good technique.

Employers may be leery of candidates who are willing to just pack up and go because what’s to say they won’t do the same thing in another coupled of years? From the moment you craft your cover letter to the moment you accept an offer, be sure to articulate the primary drivers of your move. Is it an opportunity you can’t find in your current city? Have you always dreamed of working in this industry or for this company? If you are moving for personal or family reasons, you don’t need to go into a lot of detail, but you should still cite it as a reason.

As with any job search, networking can take you a long way. Reconnect with former classmates or colleagues who live in that area or work for that company. Reach out to the local chapter of a professional organization that you belong to or want to join. Leverage social media to meet people and learn more about the city or company.

Lastly, try to make the experience of interviewing you as easy as possible. Proactively offer to do the preliminary interview via video conference or offer up specific dates that you will be in town and available for interviews. The days of getting flown in for interviews and put up at swanky hotels are long gone for many professions, so be prepared to pay job search expenses and possibly relocation expenses yourself. You may wish to state this in your cover letter or during interviews, but only if you truly do not expect the company to pay any of those costs.