Answering “Are You Willing To Relocate?” In An Interview

When an interviewer asks you “Are you willing to relocate?” you might get a little shell shocked if you aren’t prepared for it. There are a few ways to answer the question so that you can continue on to the next round of interviews. When recruiters or hiring managers ask you this question, it may be because they are considering you working at a location that you were unaware of. If you are applying for a position in San Francisco and you live in New York, then, of course, you should know that you are going to have to be willing to relocate. When recruiters ask you that question in that circumstance, the answer will clearly be yes. If you, for some reason, applied to a position that was hiring out of state and you wanted to see if they would let you work remotely, that will be a whole other process that I wouldn’t recommend doing through this channel.

Employers want to know that you are flexible and willing to put yourself out there for the position. But of course, they understand that you might have family, especially children, who are firmly planted in schools. This would make it more challenging to relocate, which is why the question often comes up. To confirm or deny what the employer and yourself were originally thinking.

Before you begin your interviews, you should know what your answer is going to be. Mostly because you probably decided to apply for a position in a particular state and should know what that means when you do so.

Answering with a “Yes”

When a future employer asks you if you are willing to relocate and your answer is yes, then the next steps are going to be quite easy. But you don’t just want to answer with “Yes” and move on. You do want to make sure that you’ve managed the expectations of the person that you are speaking with so that you can have your bases covered as it relates to relocation compensation or other relocation benefits.

An example answer would be: “I’d be absolutely thrilled to be able to be awarded this position in your [Location] office. I am willing to relocate and show my passion for driving success within this role. Though, I’m curious if you have any relocation benefits you can speak to?”

As you can see from the above, you provide the interviewer a question, which is always a good thing. And you leave the door open for yourself to be able to receive compensation to be able to relocate, which can be a considerable expense (sometimes $5,000+).

Answering with a “Potentially”

Sometimes there are situations where you were not aware that the employer wanted to have you in a location that you didn’t apply to. For example, the employer, during the phone interviews or otherwise could say, “I’d love to offer you this position but the only open available one is in Shanghai, are you willing to relocate?”

When the employer throws a slight curve ball your direction, you’ll need to take a minute to figure out what’s best for you. And in order to do that, you’ll need to set the expectations of the hiring manager at that exact moment.

An example of this would be: “I’m thrilled you see me as a great fit for this role. Though, I wasn’t expecting to hear about the role only being available in [Location]. Since I do have commitments and family to consider, can I get back to you on whether this location is workable or not?”

In this instance, you showed your enthusiasm for the role but you also decided that you have to think through what the answer will be. If you want to go the extra distance, then you can even provide a time limit for when the answer will be given. For example, saying, “I’ll have an answer to you by 3 PM tomorrow.” That will show an additional level of leadership and proactive behavior.

When the answer is “No”

If you really can’t relocate, then that answer is simple as well. But you want to communicate this to the interviewer in a fashion that doesn’t eliminate any future opportunities. In order to do this, you want to be clear, blunt, but not aggressive in your communication. If you come across rude or unapologetic about the fact that you believe its a “no” — this could ruin your chances of future employment.

Here’s what you should answer with: “Unfortunately, because I have family, children, and community commitments to think about; I cannot relocate. But I am very passionate about working with your company. Is there any other way we can work together?”

In this answer you provide the interviewer the chance to find an alternative. If there isn’t one, you should expect a “No” on behalf of the interviewer as well. But in some special circumstances, maybe they would let you freelance or work remotely. You never know! The best you can do is ask, keep the door open and stay friendly.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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