Further Questions: Any Tips for Out-of-Area Applicants?

Here’s final question in a series of six from the reader who asked when candidates shouldn’t applyif current employment status matters, how the initial selection of candidate works, for some cover letter hooks that worked, and if knowledge of specific tools was important. This week I asked people who hire librarians:

How much does the geographic location of the applicant matter to you? Any tips for out-of-area applicants?

Petra Mauerhoff

The geographic location doesn’t matter when we are trying to find the best candidate for the job. As long as the applicant is legally permitted to work in Canada and has the proper qualifications, we want to hear from you.
Since our organization is located in a medium sized town, all the folks with library related education tend to know each other or at least know of each other. When we post a position requiring library related qualifications, we can generally guess whether or not we will have local applicants.
The most important thing for applicants who are not located within driving distance to our office is that they need to be comfortable interviewing either via phone, skype or video conference. When I’m trying to set up an interview via distance an answer such as “but I don’t own a webcam” doesn’t show a lot of flexibility. The onus is on the candidate to make this happen.
Also, don’t have the interview situation be the first time you are actually using this technology. An improperly positioned camera can be distracting and the focus should be on the interview, not on the technology.
If the candidate is from out of the province, it is important that they not only try to gain some understanding about our organization before the interview, but also try to familiarize themselves with the structure of public library services in Alberta in general.
The basics for interview preparation remain the same, no matter what your geographic location: do your homework and show in the interview that you have taken the time to learn as much as you can about our organization, its context and the position for which you are applying.
- Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System
J. McRee Elrod
In the case of SLC, location is totally irrelevant, since our cataloguers work from home. It is important to have a bank willing to accept deposits of out of country checks without a large fee.

I know of a case where an American applying for a Canadian job failed to mention that as a result of marrying a Canadian, he was immigrating. He was not considered since the employer did not wish to deal with the increasing difficulties of immigration.

It would be wise to mention, I think, a willingness to move, and to be interviewed by Skype prior to the move.

- J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
Nicola FranklinAs a recruiter one of the things I find frustrating is that my clients can sometimes put their own convenience above their search for the best candidate for the job.  Given two equally qualified, experienced, etc applicants, they will almost always chose to interview the one who already lives locally to the one from further away who says they are willing to relocate.This statement is generally (although not exclusively) more true in the private sector, and less so in the public/government sector (where their equal opportunity guidelines may insist that they interview all applicants who meet a certain minimum standard, irrespective of where they are located).I guess this selection makes it easier to arrange interviews, avoids the need to pay expenses (or explain why they don’t do this), and there is also the thought of someone asking for relocation expenses and/or not being immediately available to start.  Hiring a new member of staff is generally a risky process (a lot is invested in time and money in the initial search, and then in induction and training, and in lost productivity until the new person gets up to speed), and employers always worry that a new hire won’t stay long enough to ‘pay back’ that investment.  Anything that reduces that risk or avoids risk factors is something hirers are generally keen on, therefore.If you are applying for jobs located outside reasonable commuting distance (that could be anything from 30 miles away to out of State or in a different country), then you need to reduce or avoid these perceived problems as much as possible.  Include information in your application pack or cover letter to reassure hirers,  For example, tell them you have relatives locally you can move in with immediately, while you look for somewhere to live.  Tell them you have Skype and are open to having a video interview as a first stage.
State up front that you are keen to relocate to the area at your own expense (and preferably that you know people there).  Employers are always worried that someone who moved just for the job may find it too lonely without friends and family, and leave again quickly.Don’t forget to include all the usual information to demonstrate what a great match you are to all the essential (and as many desirable as possible) characteristics they have put in the job specification.  Most employers will only go to the lengths of arranging telephone or skype interviews or calling someone to travel a long distance for a candidate they are sure is a pretty good fit on paper.
- Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.
Laurie PhillipsWe are academic, tenure-track, faculty, so we intentionally do national searches and geographic location has little or no bearing at all. In our most recent search, we Skype-interviewed someone who was out of the country and, if it had come to an on-campus interview, we would have had a discussion with the provost’s office about it. We pay all of the expenses for candidates to visit campus and the university pays a good portion of the hiree’s moving expenses.
- Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans
Marleah AugustineWith part-time staff, it is not as much of a concern unless we hire university students who plan to go home for extended periods. For full-time positions, we are always willing to consider applicants who plan to move to our area but are not currently here. Phone interviews are the norm in that situation, although we LOVE seeing an applicant travel here for an in-person interview. It’s much easier to get an idea of who the applicant is in person.
As for tips, do as much research about the area as you can. Show that you’ve looked into what the library offers. Of course this goes for anyone applying, but when you’re in the area you tend to learn a lot by osmosis; when you’re at a distance, it takes a bit more work to do that.
- Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
We do not, generally, pay for relocation, so the location of the applicant doesn’t matter to us, if the applicant doesn’t expect to be reimbursed for moving expenses.
- Jaye Lapachet, Manager of Library Services, Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP
Marge Loch-WoutersWe do national searches for our open positions with the understanding that if the candidate moves forward to a final four-five interview, we cannot help with the cost of a trip (wish we could, but we can’t). We have hired a number of out-of-state; out-of-region candidates. I do always look to make sure throughout the process that they understand that while this is an amazing opportunity professionally, it is in a location that is slightly isolated (2-3 hours to a large metropolitan area) – and it’s WI so it is likely to be cold and snowy and dark for significant chunks of the year. Many candidates, in their cover letter, make the case why they want to move into our area (family; want to be in the Midwest; love nature and the outdoors) that give us clues to the fact that they can happily work here and reach their potential.
- Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library

Dusty Snipes GresThe most important question for an out-of-area candidate is, “How much do you want the job?” It is important to bear in the mind that most libraries are operating with limited and reduced budgets.  Travel and moving reimbursements are usually the first to go the way of cuts. Most libraries are well aware of the expense of looking for a job and offer alternatives: telephone interviews, web cast interviews, Skype, and similar tools. But – sooner or later – there will be the need for a face-to-face interview and there may be a good chance that the applicant will have to pay some or part of the travel.

I am more than willing to spend the time and effort on the preliminaries, and to offer what financial assistance the library can afford,  if I know that the person is willing to pay all or part to come for the interview. I am more than willing to offer the position to someone who is prepared to move. I do need to know there is commitment. And, part of the commitment is knowing whether the candidate really understands the area. Several times we have had final interviews where the person really didn’t know what rural meant, until he drove through miles of farm land and saw no malls or shopping centers. That was the deal breaker and not on our side.

Looking for a job is frustrating and time-consuming. Now, more than ever, the candidate needs to be open-minded about where the job is and what the job entails. The smaller the library the broader the job description. Bear in mind that the hiring library is also frequently in a position where the library desperately needs help, has a very limited budget, a limited time-frame to fill the position, and locally a limited or nonexistent candidate pool. Willingness to travel and willingness to move and expand horizons may get you a job.

- Dusty Gres, Director, Ohoopee Regional Library System

Sue HillIn an ideal world I would only hire staff who live within easy walking distance or a short bus ride from our office.  However life is not that simple.

A reality check is essential for both the hirer and the applicant at all stages of the process.

As a recruitment agency I would advise candidates to think carefully about the ramifications of a move before making their application.  It is disappointing for both the hirer and the candidate if a job is offered and then rejected because it did not make sense to make that move.  Equally a long commute can be disruptive to your personal life affecting family relationships and friendships too.  Life in a new city can be lonely. There should be more to life than work and a very long commute although there are times when it is necessary.

When making your application you need to show that you are prepared to move.  I often advise using the address of a friend or family member in the city where the job is located as some hirers have a policy of not looking at applicants who live outside a certain mileage range. If you say you already live there it may mean you won’t get travel expenses when you are invited to interview so you could just indicate that you have accommodation pre-arranged at that address.  If a clear plan to move is indicated within the application then as a hirer I would take that candidate more seriously than one who said ‘I am prepared to move anywhere.’  Invariably those who say that are not.

If planning a move or a long commute then you will need to give careful thought to the effect that either of these may have on your nearest and dearest.  Child or dependent care need to be considered as does the career of your partner.  Not all jobs are replicated globally and so you may need to research the possibilities of appropriate work for them in the new location.  Another consideration is property rental and purchase costs.  These often vary between cities and you need to be sure that you can afford to live in the new location. An alternative is to work Monday to Friday and return home on the weekends.  That can mean two sets of living expenses as well as the travel costs so it makes sense to take a sound look at the economics and the availability of Monday to Friday bed and board.

For more senior roles relocation expenses are sometimes offered by the hirer.  If these are essential to your ability to make a move then you should clarify their availability at the outset of the application process.  If you are planning to move abroad be realistic about your language skills.  Perhaps the working language of the company is English, but when you need a plumber at 2:00 am you can be sure you will need to speak the local language!

- Sue Hill, Managing Director, Sue Hill Recruitment

Melanie LightbodyWe don’t discriminate against out-of-area applicants. That said, my personal experience is that the more the person is tied to the area the more likely they are to work out as a candidate as well as an employee. The last two times that we’ve called out-of-area candidates for our professional positions there was about an 65% chance they’d either turn the interview down immediately or bow out later.

Recently, I hired an out-of-area candidate who worked for about three months before heading back to their home area.

Here is my tip: Use that cover letter to give a sentence or two with very specific reasons you are interested in the particular job for which you’re applying.

I have also seen candidates successfully use personal reasons to show interest. In these cases though the candidates were highly qualified for the positions they were seeking.

- Melanie Lightbody, Director of Libraries, Butte County

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight. 

If you’re interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

And thanks to YOU for reading! 

Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware That jaups in luggies; But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer Gie her a Comment!

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2 Comments

Filed under Academic, Public, Other Organization or Library Type, Cataloging/Technical Services, Public Services/Reference, Further Questions

2 responses to “Further Questions: Any Tips for Out-of-Area Applicants?

  1. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

  2. Pingback: Job Hunting 300 Miles Away | INALJ

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