Are you getting turned down for jobs just because you are applying from a different state?
If you are a military spouse, the answer is maybe. In fact, it might be a lot closer to probably than any of us like to admit.
Marine Corps spouse Sarah was not so quick to accept the status quo. She asked Military.com, “What if two applicants -- me and someone else -- are equally qualified for a job I want, and the only difference between our applications is I don’t live there? Do you think I would have better luck if I applied using a local address instead?”
It’s a good question. Sarah and her family are PCSing from Washington, D.C., to San Diego this summer. She is gainfully employed in a small public relations firm in Washington, and she will leave with great recommendations.
Her boss has done everything she can to help connect Sarah with a job in California, but at the end of the day, her San Diego contacts are lacking.
Sarah has been doing everything right to try to get a job, too: Leveraging her alumnae network, talking to everyone she knows in the industry, reaching out to potential employers in the San Diego area.
Time To Get Creative
No one was interested. So as the seasons changed and the PCS loomed closer, Sarah started worrying about her family’s finances. She tried to think about her situation a little more creatively.
“I have a really good friend who lives in San Diego,” Sarah explains. “They PCSed a year ago. She has a San Diego address and she suggested I use it on my resume instead of my DC address. I think employers will look at my resume differently if they can envision me as a local prospect and not as some random woman on the wrong side of the country. Using her address in my applications lets me do that.”
So what’s holding her back?
“I just don’t know if it’s ethical,” Sarah says.
Is It Ethical to Use a Different Address on a Resume?
We took the question straight to the expert. D.C.-based management expert, hiring gur, and the brains behind the popular Ask a Manager employment site Alison Green tells us what’s what.
“As hard as the job market is for everyone right now, it’s even more challenging when you’re searching long-distance, because employers don’t have a lot of incentive to consider non-local candidates when they have local ones,” Alison explains. “Because of that, I do think it can help to use a local address.”
According to Alison, Sarah won’t be the only person doing it. “This is actually pretty common,” Alison explains. “A lot of out-of-town candidates use the local address of family or friends who live in the area.”
How important a local address is depends upon the job, an issue Alison addresses directly on her website. “For entry-level jobs, a lot of employers will focus only on local candidates because there’s no shortage of good ones, but for higher-level positions, many companies will consider non-locals. (And the higher level you go, the more that’s assumed.)”
For many of us, using a local address might mean the difference of getting our resume put in the “call in to interview” pile and the “we don’t have the money to fly anyone in to talk to us, no matter how great they are” stack.
What to Do If You Are Called for an Interview
But what happens when you do use a local address and the potential employer does call? “If you do this, you need to be prepared to explain when you’re called and invited to come in for an interview ‘tomorrow,’ ” Alison says.
But that’s easy to navigate, as long as you’re prepared to offer an alternative to that immediate in-person interview.
Try explaining how glad you are to hear back from the company and that while you would love nothing better than to come in to talk to them tomorrow, you’re closing up shop at your old location.
Everyone moves at some point; they’ll understand this. Would they be willing to do a video interview with you at the same time tomorrow via Skype?
If your pockets are deep enough, you might even offer to travel specifically for the interview. Keep in mind that many employers will not offer to help buffer the cost of your journey. After all, one of the reasons they gave your resume more than a passing glance was the fact that you’re local -- no traveling expenses required.
You will have to explain why you’re at an address that isn’t the one you’ve listed on your resume, but that is not difficult. If you have a friend who is willing to let you “borrow” her address for your job search, she’s probably a good enough friend that as you get used to the new area, you will be turning to her for help every step of the way.
Explain to your potential employer that you have a very generous friend who is letting you call her house home while you get yourself established in the region. And remember, if you were moving to the town where your parents lived, this would not seem strange at all.
“As long as you can say that it’s the address you’ll be using upon first arriving in town, employers aren’t likely to find it disingenuous -- it really is common to do.”
Other Ways Around the Out of Town Address
If you do not know anyone in your new area -- or you are uncomfortable using an address where you do not currently live -- don’t worry. There are still a few ways to tackle the out-of-town issue in your application.
Make sure you address the move in your cover letter, and if you are attaching any letters of recommendation with your application, have them mention it as well. You might also want to list your relocation plans in the header of your resume and cover letter like this:
Your Name Relocating to New Town/Specific Neighborhood on Date Your Current Address
The more specific you can get, the better, even if you only have a general idea of where you plan to move. That way, when the first person looking over your resume sees your current state, they won’t be quite as quick to throw your resume into the “no way, out of town” pile.
Sarah plans to start using her friend’s address on her next batch of applications, she says. “I hemmed and hawed about it,” she said. “But the decision was clear. My friend is putting us up for the week before our house is ready, and if she can do that, I can certainly take her advice. I have a great resume. And now, I have a local address to go with it.”
If you find yourself in Sarah’s position this PCS season, borrowing a local address during your job search might be just what you need to get your resume the attention it already deserves.