A Newcomer's Guide to Countering the Hiring-Local Bias

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
— Walt Disney

The average American will move 11.7 times in their lives and, interestingly, the average American will hold  11.7 jobs in their lives.  While these broad-brush averages may not reflect the pattern of our individual lives, what it does say is that at some juncture we may find ourselves job seeking in a new geographical location.

Hiring dynamics do not favor the non-local job seeker.  The Ladders' write that "hiring managers across the country are being bombarded with resumes from qualified candidates within their own city, which makes it tough for an out-of-towner to get recognized."  They even report that the screening software that some companies use to eliminate unqualified applicants is programmed to reject non-local zip codes. 

Likewise,  U.S. News and World Report suggests that the reluctance of hiring manager's to hire out-of-area candidates stems from the candidate not being available for interviews, the financial burden of interview travel or potential relocation expenses, and the risks associated with a candidate who does not adapt well to the new area or to the new work resulting in an untimely departure.   Except for those job-seekers with exceptional or unique skills or experience, this "hire-local" bias makes it difficult to find work in a new geographical area, without making the move first.

OK.  So you, by circumstance or choice, find yourself in a new area and looking for work.   How do you quickly come a local versus an outsider and working versus looking for work?  Here are five broad actions that you can take to help you more quickly, and more deliberately be seen as a strong, local job candidate:

1.  "Localize" your Resume

  • Have a local exchange phone number (if you can afford to do so)
  • Have a local address
  • Leave company addresses off of work experience unless absolutely germane
  • Show "professional affiliations" with local chapters of societies, etc.

2.  Update your Social Media

  • Ensure that all of your social media accounts have your current address/location
  • On LinkedIn, extend your professional network with local connections
  • If you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc., take some local photos and be sure to tag them with the city/town  

[Note that the goal here is to start associating your name with the local area when (not if, but when) the prospective employer "Googles" your name.] 

3.  Learn the Local Area - Quickly and Systematically

  • Do your homework about the local area's demographics, economics (and economic trends),  history (especially significant recent events), awards and recognitions, etc. 
  • Visit major local attractions and landmarks
  • Get a map and understand how he town/city is laid out
  • Systematically explore various parts of town

4.  Intentionally "Plug In" to the Community

  • Get out of the house and from behind the computer
  • Join a church - if that is your tradition
  • Volunteer - even a few hours a month shows a local-engagement
  • Join special interest and professional organizations

[According to Richard Bolles in What Color is Your Parachute - 2015, only 4% of jobs are found online, while the other 96% are found through referral or networking. This plugging in to the community is a key component of today's job search]

5.  Look and Sound Local

  • Dress appropriate for the city/town - dress up "one level" for interviews but don't over- or under-dress anytime you are out and about.  That person next to you in line might be a potential employer!
  • Every community has specialized names for specific locations - listen for them and use them until they are natural

 As you settle into your new home, just be yourself.  Be respectful of your new city and its citizens.  And finally, as a Southern "local" (if not native), I can tell you never, never, never say "well up North we did it this way!"