Depending upon your industry, profession, and experience level, you may be asked the question, “Are you willing to relocate?” during a job interview. You could be asked about your availability to move during a preliminary phone screening or further along in the interview process.
When candidates are approached directly by headhunter recruitment services—hired by firms to source high-quality talent for new job openings—the recruiter may ask about their flexibility to relocate.
These types of employers are often willing to pay relocation costs for the “perfect” hire.
More commonly, though, this question arises because it’s likely that, if hired, you will be asked to move between job sites or satellite offices. It’s a given for some professions that relocation will be required. Those seeking a career in the military, foreign service or international aid, as traveling nurses, or as consultants can expect to relocate as their assignments change.
The company you’re interviewing with may have a relocation policy or your package may be negotiable. An Allied survey reports that 26.4% of respondents had some moving expenses covered, 15.75% of respondents were provided with temporary living expenses, 12.05% received an expense allowance, and 8.7% received a lump sum to cover expenses.
What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know
This is a job interview question that requires that you know yourself—are you open to the possibility of relocation? If you have the flexibility to relocate as the position requires, your response—if carefully phrased—can work to your advantage in both landing the job and in negotiating the terms of your employment and job relocation package.
This question helps hiring managers narrow down the pool of candidates that they are considering. Typically, candidates who are enthusiastic about relocating for their job make the best impression. A total unwillingness to relocate is generally—but not always—a deal-breaker.
When questioning candidates who are willing to move for a new job, interviewers want to know what concessions they’ll need to provide in exchange for this flexibility. These can include salary, benefits, relocation cost reimbursement, temporary housing, spousal assistance, signing bonuses, new home assistance, and cash allowance.
If you are willing to relocate, you can put a statement to this effect on your resume and cover letter.
How to Answer, “Are You Willing to Relocate?”
- Be honest with yourself and the interviewer. If you have doubts about whether you would be willing or able to relocate, either at present or in the future, this might not be the job for you.
- Capitalize upon the opportunity presented. Use your willingness to relocate as a “selling point” in support of your candidacy. The rate at which workers relocate has declined steadily since 2000, decreasing from 19% to 11% according to one survey by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, Inc. With the substantial increase in telecommuting and remote work opportunities, fewer professionals are willing to accept relocation as a condition of their employment. Emphasizing your availability and enthusiasm for relocating in your response will help you stand out from some of your competition for the job.
- Don’t underestimate the power of “Maybe”: If you aren’t 100% positive you’d be willing to relocate, it’s a good strategy to suggest that you at least might consider it. Be honest in discussing your concerns about relocating because you might have legitimate worries about a cost of living increase or the impact upon your family. Hiring managers who are sincerely interested in you as a candidate may well respond by suggesting accommodations the company might make to alleviate your concerns.
Examples of the Best Answers
Here are sample answers to the question, “Are you willing to relocate?” that you can use as models for your own responses. You’ll find examples of “yes,” “maybe,” and “no” answers.
Absolutely! As a recent college graduate, I have nothing tying me down here. My ambition is to land a job working for a global company where I can advance my career over the long haul. And if this means moving in order to gain experience, enhance your operations, or secure promotions, bring it on! I love exploring and adapting to new environments and local cultures—there are always new friends to be made and interesting experiences to gain.
Why It Works: This “yes with enthusiasm” is the ideal response to the question of relocation. The candidate not only suggests that they are focused and passionate about advancing in their career, but also that they’re a team player who can acclimate to change in order to contribute to the company’s success.
I love this area and my partner and I just bought our first house here. Nonetheless, I would certainly be willing to move for the right opportunity. I would want to do some research about a proposed relocation first to compare the cost of living and to see how the benefits of living there might measure up to those our family enjoys here. Can you tell me more about the opportunities such a relocation might offer?
Why It Works: This is a good example of how to say, “Maybe.” The interviewee offers valid concerns about relocating without ruling it out entirely. They then place the ball back in the hiring manager’s court with a question that demonstrates their sincere interest in the company.
Due to a current family obligation, I am not able to relocate at this time. However, I have experience working remotely and could be available to travel frequently to your other offices if these were viable options.
Why It Works: Sometimes, one simply can’t relocate because of life circumstances. Without going into unnecessary detail, this candidate offers a “No, but …” response. If they’re a top candidate for the position, there’s always the possibility that the employer might decide to forego the relocation requirement and hire them.
Tips for Giving the Best Answer
- Practice your answers. If it’s likely that you’ll be asked about relocation, frame your answer ahead of time and recruit a friend or family member to role-play a mock interview with you.
- Express your interest in the company. Use your response to demonstrate your enthusiasm about joining the employer’s team. If possible, try to end your answer with a request for more information about the employer’s needs, expectations, or operations.
- Smile. Your body language and tone of voice can work for or against you in an interview. Sit up straight, look the interviewer in the eye, speak with a clear and confident tone, and smile.
Always keep in mind that you are interviewing the employer as much as they are interviewing you.
What Not to Say
Never say never. Even if you absolutely can’t relocate, try not to make it sound like this would always be the case. If there’s any possibility that you might be able to relocate in the future, mention this.
Don’t offer too many personal details. The interviewer doesn’t need to know all of the details about why you might be on the fence about relocating. Simply drop the fact that you have a “family obligation” or “current life situation” that might make relocation challenging.
Don’t criticize your current environment. If you are someone who would love to escape to a new town as soon as possible because you dislike your situation, don’t share this negativity with the interviewer. Focus on the opportunities that relocating with the company would offer rather than upon the reasons you want to get out of town.
Possible Follow-Up Questions to Expect
BE FLEXIBLE. If there’s any possibility that you might be able to relocate, express your willingness to consider this. This is particularly important if you are a young, unencumbered, entry-level professional seeking to advance on your career ladder.
ASK FOR MORE INFORMATION. If you need extra time to think about your response, it’s fine to ask the interviewer about what relocation would involve. This also helps show your interest in the company.
USE YOUR WILLINGNESS TO MOVE AS A SELLING POINT. Not everyone is able to relocate. If you are—and you know this is an important requirement for the job—emphasize your availability on your resume and cover letter.