How to Answer “Are You Willing to Relocate?” in an Interview
Job interviews can be such a hassle!
Interview starts the moment you enter the building/office, which basically means you can mess up before even opening your mouth.
The interviewers will be observing your outfit, punctuality, handshake and body language. All of this before you even get to the actual questions.
And when you do get to this part, mess up chances multiply by hundred.
You already conducted research and thought potential questions through. In addition to the preparation, you will strive to preserve a smiling and relaxed image throughout this whole process.
One of the trickiest questions you could face is a question regarding possible relocation, hence, whether you would be willing to move to another place for work.
I remember the first time I got asked this in an interview. I was surprised and didn’t know what to say at first! I presumed my readiness to do an interview for a company based in another country was self-explanatory.
It was only later I realized that nothing is self-explanatory in the recruiting process.
Sometimes, the interviewer is not really that interested in the actual answer to this question. He/she is a lot more interested to test your reaction and see how (rather than what) you’ll answer.
The ‘relocation’ question falls into the category of such ‘test’ questions.
In other words: a company will not always want to move you immediately or maybe even ever but they will, frequently, ask this question to test your flexibility and dedication.
And being so common and tricky, you may want to keep this question in mind while preparing for that interview you have coming up. Start by remembering this general wisdom: it is usually not so much what, but rather how you say something.
And when it comes to communicating your thoughts properly, preparation is essential.
PREPARATION FOR THE INTERVIEW
Personally, I am a huge fan of the spontaneous approach. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that an interview isn’t a good place to test one’s creativity.
If you want to do well, you better get yourself as prepared as possible for literally everything.
And I mean it: case studies, company’s history, researching possible interviewers, searching for people you may know in the company.
Last but not least: reflect thoroughly on all questions which could potentially come up, hence, think of potential answers you could provide.
It is a bad feeling going back and thinking about all things you could have said differently/better. Therefore, it is worth investing a minute to think about the actual thing you wish to say.
And this also refers to the question on potential relocation.
“Are you willing to relocate for this job?”
Well, the first question you should ask yourself (before the interview) is: Are you?
The crucial part of the preparation is clearing up the situation inside your head and being honest about what you can and cannot do.
If the answer is ‘depends’, you will still want to be very concrete about factors your decision depends on.
After you are clear about what your answer should be, you may want to think about the manner in which you wish to convey your decision.
As said, the interviewer may simply want to test your motivation for a job in that particular company. Reason more to approach this question with diligence.
Finally, it is crucial that you answer honestly even if you decide to cover the essence with a bit of curtsy and small talk. Dishonesty in an interview rarely pays off in the long run.
DIFFERENT SCENARIOS AND DIFFERENT ANSWERS
So, after you decided on what your answer essentially would be, take a look at a few possible answers for several different scenarios:
You want to and can move
Super easy, right?
Yes, the decision itself could have been an easy one to make but you will still want to consider your exact answer.
Let us imagine you are a young professional with some international experience, no strings attached and perfectly ready and eager to move for a job.
That is all good and the company will certainly look forward to hearing your affirmative reply.
Nevertheless, note that form of this reply can be more significant than its exact content.
You can say: “Sure, absolutely, I can leave as soon as tomorrow! Money-wise it could a bit of an issue but if you could help with that, all should be good.”
You could say something like this…but you shouldn’t. You are not preparing to head off for a school trip but to move to another city or country, hence, make a huge life decision.
You will want to appear as a professional, who is aware of the significance of this step and who took all relevant circumstances into account.
Therefore, your answer should be something like this:
“This would be an amazing opportunity, both professionally and privately. Thank you for taking me into account. As you know, I do, already, have some prior international experience and I certainly enjoy changes which is why I am confident this transition will run smoothly. Naturally, there are a lot of things that should be discussed and decided in advance which is why I would look forward to an in-depth conversation on this topic.”
See the difference?
Yes, well, the interviewer will see it too.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that a first answer will trigger bad consequences but it may leave you looking incompetent, unserious or childish. And I presume this is not what you are aiming at.
In this scenario, it is crucial to think the relocation process through, hence, to come up with potential questions for an interviewer.
And don’t worry; asking questions will not make you appear annoying but rather mature, professional and grounded.
I know that the sole possibility of relocation may be extremely exciting but sometimes it is better to seem less enthusiastic if this makes you appear more professional.
You could move, but only for a limited amount of time
Ok, this one is a bit trickier but if this is your decision, you should be able to present it as professional as possible.
Here, the key is to present your reasons, grounds, and limitations as clear and as structured as possible.
What can you, what can’t you do? For how long or how far would you be able to move? Be concrete.
Following that, you should be able to provide reasons for such an answer. It is perfectly fine to be limited by personal reasons but notes that you will have to provide some justification for your answer.
Whether this is family, children, personal attachment or the fact you recently bought a house you are still paying off… It is all fine but be prepared to explain it.
Your answer could be something like this:
“Thank you so much for taking me into account for this amazing opportunity. Although I would love to accept it immediately, I must first warn you about my limitations. I would be glad to relocate; however, my relocation couldn’t last for more than one year. As you probably know, I am always opened for remote projects and my family is used to this but a permanent relocation, unfortunately, just isn’t an option for us. If a short-term relocation would be an option, I would definitely love to hear more about it.”
Polite but on point.
State your grounds while remaining honest about your limitations and preferences.
You are unsure about the relocation
Can “maybe” be an answer to the relocation question?
The answer is yes, but you have to make sure you say it properly.
You will not want to lose a good opportunity for appearing indecisive.
Sometimes, a company just wants to test you, not necessarily relocate you.
Nevertheless, this is a potentially major life decision and it is perfectly fine if you need more time and/or information.
You will need to create more playgrounds for yourself, which means, no straightforward answers at first. You will want to demonstrate potential readiness to move while learning more about the concrete opportunity.
What you should investigate are points, such as duration, development opportunities, relocation package and when exactly they would want/need you there.
Before discussing these tough questions, you should try to appear enthusiastic while remaining slightly vague with a definite answer.
You could try something like this:
“This is a great opportunity for which I feel I would be a great fit. Thank you for taking me into account. I do enjoy working in this area but if relocation creates more room for career advancement and growth, I would definitely consider it.”
If the answer is ‘maybe’ due to family/personal commitments, you should simply put it like that:
“This is a great opportunity and although I’d love to accept it on the spot, I would have to discuss this with my family first. This would be a major life change for all of us, which is why I really must involve them in providing a final decision.”
‘Maybe’ doesn’t have to appear indecisive.
It can simply mean that you need more time, space and/or information and if you ask for it nicely, companies will generally be happy to provide you with whatever you need.
You do not want to move
Saying “no” doesn’t mean you’ll get fired or that you won’t be hired in the first place.
So try not to freak out in advance.
Also, know that even though saying ‘no’ may cost you this particular job (e.g. relocation is necessary), there are certainly ways to say it and still appear motivated by the position.
Relocation is a huge step and it involves major life changes. It is perfectly fine if you decide to pass and in fact, nobody should take for granted you’ll agree.
Speaking of which, you most certainly shouldn’t ever say yes if you don’t mean it. In the long run, nobody will profit from you lying.
Therefore, a ‘no’ can be fine, but it very much matters how you say it. You surely don’t want to say:
“Hell no. I’m sorry but I have a life here…” and end the conversation.
No. You should always start by saying thank you and saying that you know what a fantastic opportunity this is. Following this, you should explain yourself and reasons why you truly cannot consider moving.
If you consider your reasons to be too small or perhaps, unprofessional (e.g. short relationship you started recently but are really enjoying), try to come up with additional ones or just remain vague: e.g. say you have personal reasons for being unable to relocate at this point.
Chances are that an interviewer will prefer such an answer over your history of relationships or the whole story about your very close relationship with your parents.
Try to judge your reasons from the third-party perspective and if the story doesn’t seem too convincing, try to work your way around it without giving away too many details.
Finally, do emphasize your interest in the company, position and work you would be doing if hired. Say that you would really appreciate being given a chance on that location if such a possibility exists.
Finally, do try leaving relocation door slightly open (if only in theory).
Say that you wouldn’t exclude relocation completely, especially if such an opportunity entails more chances for development and growth.
Even if you truly cannot imagine this happening, say something in this tone.
Very subtle and cautious but try not to be too exclusive. Honesty is perfectly fine and even desirable, but this is simply a smart way to play it.
You initiate the move
Chances are that this question will not really pop up in this scenario since it will be you initiating the relocation, hence, your willingness will be pretty obvious.
Still, as in all other scenarios, you should be careful how you approach this issue. Especially in cases where you are on an interview or already working in one location while wanting to be considered for a relocation.
Frequently, this will be taken as a health initiative and will be perfectly fine.
Nevertheless, this attempt may still come across as dissatisfaction with a job at a current location and if so, the employer may not really like this.
Especially in cases where a relocation includes a significant salary increase or you decide to relocate so that you could boost your promotion chances, it is important to be smart about putting those motives into words.
It is probably better if you start with motives, such as challenging environment, learning and development opportunities, life change, different cultural experience, personal reasons (friends or family in the other location) etc.
More specific grounds should follow only after this general introduction. At this point, you can mention something like better advancement opportunities or relocation as a condition for promotion etc.
In many companies nowadays, it is perfectly fine and even admirable to initiate the relocation.
Still, try not to offend anyone, skip the money/salary factors and finally, emphasize your overall satisfaction with the current location and position.
Those who dear win, but you will want to avoid unnecessary risks.
ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS WHICH COULD COME UP
Even if you state your reasons perfectly well and eloquent, be aware that an interviewer may keep coming up after you. This is simply something they do and you will have to deal with it.
Bearing this in mind, it may be useful to think some potential additional questions through:
Q1: Why don’t you want to move? It’s a great opportunity.
A1: It truly is. If my situation would be even slightly different, I’d jump right on it. Nevertheless, for reasons I already explained earlier, I just can’t accept it. If something changes in the future, I would be more than willing to revisit this topic again.
Q2: What if we improved the deal? (e.g. pay for the entire move; offer incentives such as raise, promotion, moving bonus; help a spouse with finding a job).
A2: Well, I can’t claim this offer isn’t tempting. Would you mind giving me some time (e.g. day, two, three) to think about it? I would still have to discuss this new package/offer with my family. I am not promising anything, but I would appreciate a chance to reconsider the whole deal with a clear head.
Q3: We’re eliminating your position here regardless of your relocation. Do you really want to lose your job?
A3: That is truly misfortunate given a terrific experience I had in this company. Is there a chance a could get some additional time to try to come up with the best solution, satisfactory for both sides?
Q4: How soon could you move here and start working for us?
A4: Given my excitement regarding this opportunity, I would love to be there as soon as possible, that is, as soon as you want me. Naturally, there are some technical obstacles to me being there immediately which is why I’d say I could be available in… (Provide a minimum time frame). With the purpose of making this whole process smoother and faster, I propose we discuss details of relocation in more detail.
POINTS TO EMPHASIZE
Regardless of your answer and the explanation you provide, there are a few things which should always be emphasized, and a few tricks which will provide you with a kind of a safety net.
Talk about the position with enthusiasm, regardless of whether or not you are willing to move!
We already discussed this. The relocation question may be just a test or a remote possibility. If you really want the job, make sure you let it show.
Be honest with what you want and don’t want: this will prevent future issues if you get the position.
Honesty is essential. You may be tempted to lie in an interview because you really want this job but if moving really isn’t an option, do say it.
It will be so much harder to leave the company after already getting the job and you could also risk some bad professional reputation for being insincere, which is never a good outcome.
Emphasize your sincerity for wanting to work in the company.
The same as with the first point. Make sure to make the company aware of your interest in it. Make sure they know how much you would appreciate being given an opportunity.
Ask questions about relocation to see if this is a right move for you.
This one is important. You may be super excited to hit the road and move but asking questions will demonstrate an overall professionalism.
THINGS YOU SHOULD AVOID SAYING
Just as there are some key points which should be emphasized, there are a lot more phrases and things you should simply never, ever say.
I will try to enlist some of these below so do make sure to remember them for these (or similar) phrases can be a career killer:
“Will I get paid more if I decide to do it?”
I think it is perfectly clear this is a major no go.
As previously mentioned, you should be very cautious when discussing money/salary issues.
Being this opened about it is plain bad and will most definitely be unattractive for a person talking to you.
Don’t just say ‘no’ if you are unable to move.
As with anything else, simple ‘no’ is rarely a satisfactory answer. In an interview, almost never. A plain ‘no’, will almost inevitably put you out of the run for a position.
Unless you really don’t care, try putting some effort into explaining grounds for your decision.
Do not definitively confirm if there are uncertainties about your ability to transfer.
Again, honesty and transparency.
I know you want to take the deal and show your absolute readiness but being honest will frequently be accepted just as well.
On the other hand, lying and changing previously given statements almost never will.
Pick up the courage and explain the situation.
Trust me, this is way better than stressing out about letting interviewers know things you said no longer stand.
Don’t be too vague / give answers which don’t provide any real information
Talk business. It’s ok not to reveal absolutely everything but do give some flesh to your story. Interviewers don’t like being fooled around. Saying things like:
“I am not sure this is the right moment for me to take this step/ I am not sure this would be possible for me at this point” most probably will not come across well.
Try not to waste other people time by providing general statements.
YOU ARE NOW READY…
With these tips, you should be perfectly fine to answer the relocation question.
And indeed, any answer can be a good one, as long as you put it nicely.
It is a difficult question because relocation itself is a difficult and a significant move.
Make sure you get your head, facts, and goals straight and provide a definite answer only after you are sure you know what you want.
Stay polite, clear and humble and remember: you got this!
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