When you’re facing down an interviewer during the hiring process, you’re probably expecting questions about your skills and background, which are designed to assess your aptitude for the job. But you’ll probably also face a few practical questions that could rule you out simply based on a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. One of those is ‘are you willing to relocate?’
We’ll explain how to give the perfect answer no matter how you’re honestly feeling about changing locations for the job.
Why do interviewers ask if you are willing to relocate?
This question has a pretty straightforward reason: the company needs someone to work in a particular city. If you’re in Topeka but the position is in St. Louis, getting the job would require a move. The company wants to know if it’s a deal breaker before considering you further.
But there’s also a less straightforward reason companies ask if you would be willing to relocate. Sometimes, a move isn’t necessarily required in order to get the job, but the hiring manager wants to gauge how invested you are in the role. If you’re willing to pack up and move for it, it’s a good indicator you’re serious about the position.
This can also be a factor when comparing two similarly qualified candidates. If both are great but one’s willing to move and the other is not, it could determine who receives an offer.
What interviewers are looking for when they ask about relocation?
When asking about relocation, an interviewer wants to feel out whether a move is on the table. If you say no, it won’t necessarily eliminate you, but it will tell them that they need to gather more information.
If your answer is anything other than a resounding ‘yes,’ this will likely trigger a lengthier discussion. The interviewer will ask further questions about your considerations and conditions, like if you would move for a higher salary or if you’d be looking for relocation assistance.
How to answer the question, “Are you willing to relocate?”
Think through your honest feelings on relocation
While you don’t have to show all your cards when you answer this question, you should strategize how to answer based on how you really feel. Are you totally on board with relocating? Would you be open to it for the right title or amount of money? Are you completely opposed?
If your answer is an absolute yes or an absolute no, answering this question is simple: you just tell the truth. If your answer is ‘it depends’ (which is often the case), that’s where you’ll need to get a little more nuanced with your answer.
Give a strategic ‘maybe’
There are lots of ways to respond to a question about relocating without giving a definitive answer. If you need more time to fully decide, your goal should be to keep them interested enough in you that you’ll advance to another conversation. Emphasize your interest in the role and state that you’re open to considering moving for it.
If it’s more information you need to make a decision on relocating, this is a great time to gather more facts. Asking questions will help you learn what you need to know about a potential move while also demonstrating a high level of interest in the position.
Suggest an alternative
If the position seems like a great fit but relocating really would be a deal breaker, you might try posing an alternative that you would be open to, like working remotely or traveling to the intended location a few times a year. Since you wouldn’t take the job anyway if you were required to move, it can’t hurt to ask.
How not to answer
Don’t say yes just to appease the interviewer
If your answer is a hard no, don’t lie and say yes. You might think that if you can just get an offer, you’ll be able to negotiate your way out of moving, but it rarely happens this way. If being in location X is a strict requirement of the job, the company is likely to feel duped and even angry that you continued this far in the process knowing you never intended to move. It’s also a lot of wasted time on your part.
Don’t say no if you are caught off guard
Maybe you hadn’t considered that relocating could be part of the equation and the question catches you totally unprepared. If you haven’t had time to think it through, don’t say no right away. You might take yourself out of the running only to decide that you actually would be open to relocating after giving it some thought. Only say no if you’ve had the proper time to consider it.
Sample answers to “Are you willing to relocate?”
Example #1 – asking for more information
“I’m very excited about this position and think it could be a great fit for both of us. Relocating is a big decision, so there are some things I would want to make sure I fully understand before making a commitment to move. Could you tell me more about your employee development opportunities?”
Example #2 – buying more time
“Working for [company] has been a goal of mine for many years, so if I received an offer I would definitely be open to the idea of relocating. My family has been based in [current city] for more than ten years, so I would need some time to consider what the move would mean for my child’s school and my partner’s job.”
Example 3 -Yes, but would prefer not to
“I’m very happy in [current city], so my first choice would be to work in the office here. However, if relocating is necessary for the job, I would consider it.”
While it’s frustrating that you could be ruled out for a job because of your willingness to move, consider it a positive thing that it’s coming up in the interview. By having a transparent discussion about relocation, you’ll avoid investing time and energy into a position that ultimately wouldn’t work for you and your family. Or, you might learn that a move to a new and exciting city would be one more perk of getting the job you want.