Handling Candidate Relocation by Looking at the Big Picture

You’re jittery with excitement as you end the call—the candidate of your choice just accepted that role that your organization very much needs filled! Now, the hard work of onboarding begins. Often, a major part of getting that new candidate settled into the position is their relocation. Whether a candidate moves a couple of hours away or a couple of states away, relocation is a key event in the life of any candidate. If the candidate has a family, then it’s a life-changing event for the entire family.

Candidate Relocation & Family Dynamics

A relocating candidate’s needs go way beyond just the regular employment requirements when starting a new job. It’s an emotional decision, too—and sets the foundation for how that candidate perceives how much their new employer cares about them as a person.

According to Mike Smith, retired founder of Ag 1 Source/Career 1 Source and current chairman of the board, about a third of moves by workers are done because they want to escape a bad situation—leaving a bad manager or conflict with a colleague. Either way, that employee is taking a gamble that the new work environment will be better than their old one.

“In some cases, relocation requires a shift in how that candidate’s family interacts with their extended family—especially if those extended family members act as a support system for managing childcare, taking kids to activities, etc.,” says Smith. “Employers need to assist candidates with re-establishing their support system in the best way possible.”

Candidates taking on their first job right out of college may have a different perspective than an established professional with a spouse and children at home.

“All employers want their new employees to settle in, be successful and reach their objectives,” Smith says. “Although relocation may be routine for the employer, it’s a very big deal for the candidate.”

Demonstrating empathy toward relocating candidates and assisting them in their relocation goes a long way for employers to build a positive relationship with that candidate—and by extension, their family. That might include inviting the candidate’s family to the new location during the final interview stages to help the employer gauge the level of acceptance from other family members.

“If the rest of the family isn’t happy about the move, that feeling is contagious,” Smith observes. “Every time that new employee goes home, they’re not going to feel good about sharing their day, and that’s not going to make them happy, either. That leads to problems that are going to filter into their work experience, and they’re going to second guess their decision.”

Even if a candidate is single, they may still have extended family members that are connected in some way—for example, an elderly parent they provide care for, or nieces and nephews they babysit or go watch their soccer games on the weekends. Even something as simple as noting that a candidate likes to go bike riding and telling them about local trails that are safe and good for biking will help solidify their decision to move to the new location for that job.

“When those non-work related needs are being fulfilled, then the candidate can focus better on their job,” Smith says.

Smith suggests that employers welcoming candidates that are relocating need to be understanding in helping those new candidates and their families get acclimated to their new community. Sometimes, that requires the employer to ask direct questions about the family during the interview, but equally importantly, the candidate needs to have serious discussions with their family as they move through the interview process.

More Than Financial Assistance

“One of the latest problems when helping candidates relocate is simply selling and buying a new home,” Smith points out. “If employers can assist candidates in locating quality housing, whether a short-term rental until the right opportunity for purchasing a home comes along, it’s huge in resting the candidate’s concerns.”

Housing can be especially challenging when a candidate is relocating to a smaller rural community. They either must find housing that’s available in that rural community or consider a commute from another nearby community. In smaller communities, it may mean that the family must live in rental housing until they find a home that meets their needs, or that an employer owns rental housing in an area where it takes a while to find housing to facilitate that process.

These non-monetary forms of assistance for new employees are invaluable, and every employer has contacts in their local communities. Do any current employees have connections with local realtors or know of someone who has a nice rental available? It may even help employers to create a document or folder of some kind with suggestions for local realtors, employment services for spouses, the best neighborhoods for families, high-quality schools in the area, veterinarians for the family pet, etc.

“Candidates that are already settled have a certain amount of security in making sure their bill schedule meets their needs, the family doctor is on call, etc.,” Smith says. “If the family relocates, they have to start over with finding a new dentist, pharmacy, church—all those things a family might need.”

When working with candidates that are beyond entry-level, candidates are also concerned about their spouses finding work, too. Sometimes, a candidate’s spouse will have a job like being a teacher or nurse, where job opportunities are easily found for them in the new community, or they can work remotely—but that’s not always the case.

“Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes—what would you want help with in maintaining a routine and security for your family?” Smith asks. “The candidate is taking a bet that the new job and community will be as good or better.

Relocating is always expensive, no matter how many people are in the candidate’s family, and companies can provide a stipend for moving expenses to help offset the financial burden of relocating. That may be more difficult for smaller companies, but they can make up for some of that financial lack by helping with the non-monetary pieces of switching communities.

“The biggest concern for employers with relocation packages is making sure that the new employee will be committed to that company, and the money isn’t being thrown out the window, leaving the company needing to fill the position again after a short period of time,” Smith says. “It’s very common for companies offering relocation packages to ask new employees to sign an agreement that if they leave the company within the first year that they’ll pay back some of the relocation fund.”

Most employees understand that the company is looking for a commitment on their part, and relocation package contracts are subject to state rules and laws.