Sometimes, a remarkable career opportunity requires a change of scenery beyond a new office building, a slightly different commute and a fresh group of coworkers. In certain professional fields and within larger companies with multiple headquarters and a significant national (or international) presence, asking current and prospective employees to relocate is a common practice.
If you’re in the throes of applying for a new position, you may come across job listings including provisos like “this role will require a relocation to [X city].” And even if you’re not actively seeking out a new job, your existing company may ask you to move to a different area due to work redistributions, advancement opportunities or branch consolidations.
So how can you effectively communicate your willingness (or unwillingness) to pack up and move for your career? Here’s a guide to answering the “Are you willing to relocate?” question, with an option for each potential response.
Decide on your answer prior to interviewing
In an ideal world, any position that necessitates a relocation would state that requirement in the job posting, giving you the choice of whether or not you’d like to pursue the possibility. However, in reality, the notion of switching office locations sometimes comes as a surprise. Whether you find yourself struck by this unanticipated query during an external job interview or your current supervisor asks you to move to a different company locale, it helps to take some time to consider your stance on this matter and to have an answer already prepared.
If your answer is “Yes”
Certain situations — like if you as a candidate choose to apply for positions clearly located outside your current city — implicitly call for a willingness to relocate. However, if you apply for a job with a specified location in your present-day town or region and the interviewer (or your current manager) unexpectedly mentions a need to move this role to a different place, an automatic “Yes” isn’t (or, at least, shouldn’t be) expected of you.
Should you find yourself in this position and feel open to relocating, your reply can be simple and straightforward. “Yes, I’d be willing to relocate for this role” sums it up neatly and effectively.
If your answer is “Yes, if…”
Perhaps you’d be willing to relocate, but can’t quite justify it to yourself if you’re on the hook for moving expenses. Or, maybe you’d gladly go elsewhere to accept a title bump, but would prefer to avoid a literal “lateral move.” In either of these cases, it’s appropriate — and generally advisable — to mention these conditions as quickly as possible, giving your interviewer the chance to take your answer into consideration before moving forward with the hiring (or reassigning) process.
If your answer is “Possibly”
If the prospect of relocating for a job is presented to you somewhat out of the blue, it makes sense that you may need more information in order to make a definitive choice. In that situation, telling your boss or interviewer that you may be amenable to the idea but following up that statement with further questions gives you the opportunity to gather the facts necessary to come to a logical decision for your lifestyle, and it presents you as a thoughtful individual who isn’t prone to impulsive behaviors.
If your answer is “No”
Of course, relocating may not be in the cards for you when a boss or interviewer makes the request. While it may be tempting to talk around that fact with a noncommittal “Maybe”, if what you really mean is “No, absolutely not,” you owe it to yourself and to the employer in question to respond honestly. A reply like “Relocating won’t work for me at this time, but I’m very interested in this company/this position. If any similar opportunities arise in my current location, I’d love to be considered” establishes your enthusiasm about the company and the role, but also provides a candid, unambiguous answer to the question of relocation.
Frequently asked questions about relocating for work
Should you put “Willing to relocate” on your resume or in your cover letter?
If you’re typically sending resumes out to companies hiring for positions in your area, there’s no need to include “Willing to relocate” on your resume. However, if a job posting clearly articulates a need for relocation, it’s smart to refer to your willingness to do so in your cover letter.
If you’re independently deciding to move to a different location and seeking employment in that new city, including a note in your resume about your own relocation plans may keep you in consideration for the role (while a failure to do so could result in the employer discarding your resume). In the resume space reserved for your contact info (your current address, phone number and email address), add a line phrased like “Relocating to [X City] as of [Date of Move].” This will make it clear that your move is already a done deal and that the company won’t be expected to cover moving expenses for a relocation that they never proposed.
Do companies cover relocation costs?
Negotiating a company-sponsored relocation package can be an effective way to mitigate costs, but companies also reserve the right to decline to pay for an employee’s move. Typically, if the company proposes the relocation, you’re in a good position to request relocation assistance, and if the company values you and wants to maintain a strong record of employee retention, it’s in their best interest to agree.
As we mentioned previously, convincing a company located in a different city to cover your relocation costs post-hire is a somewhat tougher sell. Depending on the strength of the talent pool in your city of interest, employers may decide that they have enough viable candidates already in the area and don’t need to pay to bring a non-local hire on board. However, if you work in a niche industry or possess a truly unique set of skills, you’ll have stronger standing to request relocation aid when negotiating your offer.
The biggest piece of advice we can offer in terms of relocation? Be very honest with yourself and with your company about your willingness to make the move. Discuss the possibility with your loved ones, weigh the pros and cons and have an answer in mind before sitting down with your boss or interviewer. Don’t fudge the truth in order to keep yourself in contention for the job — if you’re not ready to move and the position in question requires relocation, then it’s not the right course of action for you at this time.