Career Q&A: How to land a job virtually

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I currently live in northwestern Ontario and I am job searching in southern / southwestern Ontario. This means I am 18+ hours away from the places I am applying to. Ideally, I had hoped to be interviewed and hired via Skype but so far most organizations request either an initial in-person interview or an in-person interview for second and third interview rounds. Am I naïve thinking that I can go through entire process and get hired via Skype? It is not feasible for me to travel by air constantly for interviews as it would cost me $1,000+ each time. Any advice?

Well, the good news is that you are not only getting interviews but also, it seems, getting into the final rounds of competitions, which means you are absolutely doing something right in your job search – congratulations! In most cases, you should be able to negotiate a phone or Skype interview for the first round of interviews but it is perfectly reasonable (and, frankly, in your own best interest) to expect a candidate to appear in-person for final interviews - except under very exceptional circumstances. Here are some tips to help you manage this dilemma in your job search:

Be proactive in disclosing your situation and managing expectations. Remember, the application stage is geared towards the needs and preferences of your potential employer - not yours. In order to not give even the appearance of wasting their time and make a favourable impression, you need to anticipate and address the needs and questions they may have about your situation. In your cover letter, let the employer know that because of where you are currently located, if you were fortunate enough to be selected for an initial interview, you would prefer to do it by phone or Skype. At the same time, make sure they know how motivated and committed you are to pursuing this opportunity and that you would make yourself available in-person for any final interviews, if needed. We would also suggest proactively addressing the question of relocation and the timing of it – e.g., you can be available to relocate to start work within a 2-week period and at your own expense, if necessary.

Be strategic and intentional in the jobs that you apply to. Being able to provide your potential employer with the assurances above means you need to be really clear that you are willing (and able) to invest in this process should you make the final round of interviews. If your move to southwestern Ontario is not urgent but simply something you would like to work towards over time, then be really choosey about the jobs that you are applying to. What excites you about the position, role, issue or organization? If you were offered a chance to be in the final round of interviews for a position, would the possibility of getting it be motivating enough to risk spending the money? If your move is not pressing and the position is merely a vehicle for relocating, but does not genuinely excite you, then don't apply – save your time, money and energy for those postings that do.

Use creativity and your network to help you offset expenses. Tap into your network (including your family and friends' extended networks) to see if there are ways to make the travel expenses more reasonable – e.g., ride shares, donated air miles, free accommodation in someone's house, etc. Again, depending on how urgent your need to relocate is, you might want to think about temporarily relocating for a month or two to a room in someone's house if you are really serious about making this move. This way you could really seriously job hunt and be available to capitalize on every opportunity.

Think about how badly you want to make this move and adjust your job search strategy accordingly. We wish you the best of luck with your decision and your search!

Nancy Ingram and Christa McMillin are co-founders and partners at Foot in the Door Consulting which specializes in helping nonprofit professionals build sustainable, satisfying and values-driven careers. Together, they have over 30 years of experience on both sides of the hiring and management process in the nonprofit sector. They can be reached through www.footinthedoorconsulting.com.

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