Further Questions: Any tips for out-of-area applicants?

Every other week or so, I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question(s) are:

Any tips for out-of-area applicants? How much does the geographic location of the applicant matter to you? Bonus questions: does your workplace offer to cover any aspect of moving costs? What kinds of things should candidates from out of the area ask about/pay attention to in making their decision to move for a new job?

headshot of Greg Currie, who wears a chambray button down shirt and is unsmiling in front of a bulletin board

Gregg Currie, College Librarian, Selkirk College: My library is in a rural area, so almost all applicants are from somewhere out of area.  The location of the applicant doesn’t matter that much, but they do need to express some interest in living our area. Rural living defeats lots of city people, so I tend to be wary of candidate from say, Toronto, who makes no mention of why rural British Columbia is appealing to them. 

If you are applying to a position far away, always good to include a line or two of why the location, as well as the job, is appealing to you.

Candidates should pay attention to housing availability, and commuting times. Is there transit?  If you have to drive, are you comfortable driving in the winter?

Sadly, while my relocation costs were covered, we no longer have funding for the moving expenses of new candidates, at least at any level below senior administration.

Headshot of Hilary, who wears rhinestone cats eye glasses

Hilary Kraus, Research Services Librarian, UConn Library: As an academic librarian, my institutions have generally done national searches, which means we get candidates from all over the country (and sometimes internationally). I’ve heard concerns raised on some hiring committees about whether applicants are really willing to move, whether there may be other family in the mix that would impact their decision (like a two-body problem, where there’s a partner who is concerned about employment in the new location), or whether they’ll back out at the last minute over the relocation issue. I find this frustrating, because it involves making a lot of assumptions about a candidate’s situation and their honest level of interest in the position. I also think local candidates sometimes get a bit of a boost because it’s less expensive to invite them to campus for an interview. It’s not fair of hiring committees to consider where applicants are currently located, but it happens. It definitely helps applicants if they explicitly state something that appeals to them about the move: an interest in the region, reasons why the institution appeals strongly to them, or an enthusiasm for the job that committees can interpret as overriding any concerns about relocation.

From the candidate site, I would recommend doing a lot of research before seriously considering an offer that involves a big move. What’s the cost of living look like? Is there affordable housing to rent or buy that gives you a decent commute? Are there jobs if there are other family members involved? What about schools or other services if you have kids? If you part of a cultural, faith, hobby, or other specific community and those connections are important to you, will you find that in the area where the job is located? What’s the political climate–or even the actual climate (hurricanes? extra hot summers? big snow storms?). And of course, does the job cover any relocation costs? I’ve had a mix of experiences with that, and moving long distances is incredibly expensive and stressful.

Anonymous Federal Librarian: For those that are applying to federal libraries, my only advice is to make sure that you will be happy living in the area where you are applying. Although there are U.S. federal libraries all over the world, most of them are in Washington D.C. or the surrounding area. D.C. is an expensive place to live, and so before even applying to the job, thoughtful consideration should be made to determine if living there is realistic or right for you. Before the pandemic I would say that it was much harder for candidates outside of the DC region to be hired. Our interviews used to be conducted in person with the occasional candidate given a telephone interview. Now all our interviews are virtual, so it makes it much easier. Most of the candidates that apply for the positions where I have been on the interview panel or lead the panel have been in the DC area. I think it’s because of the wide pool of librarians in this area. There are a ton of libraries in the DC area, not just federal libraries, so we get a lot of locals who apply and are qualified. We have offered to people outside the DC area, but we usually get turned down. I don’t know if it’s because of the high cost of living or they just decide not to move, but it has happened. This may have led to a bias against those applying from other areas of the country, but I have made sure to check any bias I may have and evaluate each candidate no matter their location. As for relocation expenses, rarely will you find a government library position that will pay for relocation expenses. The overseas positions yes, that’s expected, but if the job is in the U.S., they will likely not pay for relocation. Positions that will pay for relocation will always state that in the job posting on USA Jobs. The salary for all federal jobs is also posted publicly. Assume if you are offered you will start at the GS level for which you applied at Step 1. You should always look at the locality pay, for example there is an almost $15,000 difference between what someone who is a GS-9 step 1 in Cincinnati makes vs someone in DC. DC will pay more, but it costs more to live here. There is a lot of information on the internet about relocating to D.C. and that is what I would recommend to any candidate interested in relocating here.

Julie Todaro, Dean, Retired :

Any tips for out-of-area applicants? The world of work has changed for out-of-area applicants for so many – given possible online interviewing modes and methods – who can now review a broader range of applicants who might not have been able to travel for the hiring process for whatever reason. In fact, in today’s hiring processes, parts of the process can move more quickly reducing the opportunities for things like advanced travel timelines for reduced fares, allowing for multiple vetting of applicants by more within the organization and applicants can now have multiple opportunities to illustrate their competitiveness! With that said the geographic location of an applicant does not matter to many organizations at all – and – in fact many employers realize their pool is enriched if distances offer:

  • applicants with unique experience or experience and knowledge of different clientele,
  • an applicant pool who has had different educational experience (from programs with different curriculum), or,
  • an enriched workforce with a broader representation of applicants.

With this in mind, applicants might want to:

  • state upfront why they might be different from existing employees,
  • identify specific things they might add to an organization such as a different curriculum in their educational qualification or unique experience in organizations or with specific patrons (as identified in the community by the applicant such as a large deaf population and an applicant’s experience with ASL services, etc.),
  • state they will be “in the area” and can interview in person (if it has been determined that the organization can’t pay or pay much for applicant travel), and, 
  • include in their application/additional letter of interest their proficiency (if they don’t do this already) in online communication as well as the list of software programs and packages they can use/have access to.

Bonus questions: Does your workplace offer to cover any aspect of moving costs? My first thought was to say – “no they did not, for any level.” Given how they operated; however, they might have covered some higher-level applicant costs. When reviewing other HR in other organizations; however, I frequently see the successful applicant being offered a sum of money “not to exceed x amount.” And although funding is still awarded when receipts are presented (in most non-profit or not-for-profit settings) – with that approach the applicant can then choose how they want to spend their relocation funding, etc. 

What kinds of things should candidates from out-of-the-area ask about/pay attention to in making their decision to move for a new job? (Note: In my answer I am not including anything about the job, only about the area.) This list gets longer all of the time but includes – at the very least – cost of living reviewed in terms of “rings” or distance from the position such as within x miles, or within x miles, etc.; work opportunities for others who might be relocating with them; housing costs (rental/sale/build); transportation issues/costs (do they need to buy a car? sell their car? do they want to ride their bicycle?); what their “dollar” is worth in the new setting; health issues such as benefits support for general or specific conditions including no specialists, no hospitals, etc.; area “values” such as commitment to EDI, sustainability? i.e. social justice? political climate?; travel to and from that is, if an applicant likes to travel on their off time but it takes a great deal of time to “get to” the work/living location; or social opportunities given the applicants status such as no single people? or they don’t “see themselves” in the community? or they don’t feel their lifestyle is welcome in the community. And finally, the presence or absence of their leisure activity interests such as they are birders and there are no birding areas to explore…they love to ski and they are miles from water or snow! or they are avid gardeners or conservationists, and it is not possible to grow anything.

By the way, if you’re a job hunter I have a new survey for you! Will you please fill it out?

If you’re someone who hires LIS workers, the current survey is still open. There’s also a mini survey on cover letters.

And if you’re in either or neither of the above categories but you have your own personal professional website, here’s a survey for you!

Other ways to share your thoughts:

If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.


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