I often work with clients who have a strong preference for local candidates. Non-local candidates who are interested in such open positions will still contact me about the role. Usually, they are mostly qualified, solid candidates who tell me that relocation shouldn't be an issue, because they will pay their own relocation costs.
When our job specification says "Local Candidates Only" or "Local Candidates Strongly Preferred," it is because the client, in conjunction with Major, Lindsey & Africa's consult, has determined that they can find great talent in the local market. While great talent exists all over the United States, there are several reasons why our clients choose to restrict the candidate pool for the search:
Ease of Interviewing: It is simply put, quicker, cheaper and easier, to set up a local job interview. "Can the candidate be in our offices tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.?" Candidates from out of the area have to miss more work (a full day vs. a few hours), so they have to be more strategic in scheduling, which requires more advanced notice. They may also require flights and hotel accommodations, which can be costly for the client.
Last Minute Nerves: Another reason that clients do not want to invest several months recruiting someone from out of town is the much higher likelihood that the candidate will drop out before the end of the process. The reality of a move becomes more real to the out of town candidate. There is often sticker shock over the cost of living in the new location. A significant other or a child puts their foot down on the move. The destination isn't as attractive once the candidate spends some time there. Someone who is already rooted in the community does not have these 25th hour jitters.
Monday Morning Quarterbacking: There is a fear that a candidate who relocates will have a harder time adjusting to the new environment. Simple things, like finding a new family doctor, make for a harder transition. A brand new job is already stressful for a candidate, but adding a brand new unfamiliar environment can cause the stress levels to rise dramatically.
The Local Network: Clients tend to prefer candidates that have a local network already established. This can be a solid stable of local outside counsel already in place that allows for an easier transition into the new role. It may also be because a local network allows for the client to "know" the references that the candidate is providing, which makes for a more comfortable hire.
Last Minute Relocation Request: Some candidates offer to pay their own way with the hopes that the client will love them and decide to pay for relocation at the end of the process (this is the exception, not the rule). Relocation costs can range from, "We pay for your U-Haul," to "We will buy your house," so even if there is a budget to allow for this cost, there is a huge variance of what this could mean to each candidate.
While it may seem frustrating to learn about what you deem a "dream job" in a new location, the local candidate preference and requirements should not be underestimated or dismissed by candidates. That determination is precisely why it’s not your "dream job."
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Deborah Ben-Canaan is a Partner at Major, Lindsey & Africa and the Head of the Washington, D.C. In-House Practice Group. She is one of the firm's most experienced recruiters, placing attorneys nationwide with corporate legal departments at all levels and across all industries.