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Can You Find Your Next Executive Hire in Your Own Backyard?

2.02.2010

"It's easier to find a new parking spot than it is to find a new house." I don't know if you will find that in a book of wise quotes anywhere, but it's a saying that we at The Alexander Group often evoke with our clients when discussing the question of local versus national (or international) search for a key hire. We typically advise looking in one's own backyard for the right candidate, when possible, as relocation always throws a wrench into the timing and ease of a search.

On an anecdotal level, we are definitely finding that candidates are more resistant than ever before to relocating, even for a stellar opportunity. And global outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas reported early this year that the fourth quarter of 2009 saw only 7.3 % of job seekers relocating for a new position, the lowest rate on record. I blame the mortgage industry-fueled Great Recession. Candidates have always faced challenges around kids, aging parents, and community ties when considering relocation. Now it's not just finding a new house that is a daunting task... it's the selling of the old one in a suffering housing market that seems impossible. And if they do find a buyer, it often comes with a big financial hit. Adding to the challenges, hiring companies are less forthcoming with the bridge loans and offers to buy unsold houses as they might have been before, given greater scrutiny of expenses than ever before.

When candidates add up the risks of moving to a new employer where they don't have a history, plus a significant financial hit on the real estate front... well, looking for neither a new home nor a new parking spot starts to sound like the most reasonable choice.

So as a hiring executive, when should you cast the net beyond your local area, even as relocation challenges rise?

  1. The position you are hiring for is located in a part of the country that doesn't yet have a wealth of this expertise. As an example, this could be because your company is a growing high technology company in Columbus, Ohio, needing someone with Silicon Valley experience and credibility. You might get lucky and find someone who has already made the move, but you'd be wise to stay flexible with relocation.
  2. Your industry in your area is robust and very tight-knit...maybe too tight-knit. We've definitely had clients ask us to look beyond the usual suspects that they have been running into for years. If they believed one of those players was the right fit for the position, what do they need us for? In this case, we might advise trying to stay local while being flexible on specific industry, or to focus on finding that up-and-comer who will have a fresh approach. But if that's not possible, relocating someone from another city might be the ticket.
  3. The position is so specialized that only a small handful of individuals in the country, or the world, have the right skill set for the position. This tends to happen with very senior level leadership roles in highly technical areas, such as compliance, or an emerging industry like bio-similars. In this case, the wider the net the better.
  4. You have the budget and time to find the right person, no matter how long it takes or how expensive the relocation. It's a general rule of thumb that national or international searches that will take more time, both to find the candidate, as well as getting the candidate moved and settled, and ready to be productive. Given the pressures that all companies face in an increasingly competitive economy, it's very rare that a client will have this sort of luxury. 

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