The Dirty Little Secret Your Headhunter Won’t Tell You…

…but I will.

And I can do it in just 4 words:

We. Hate. Relocated. Candidates.

(And by the end of this note, you will too.)


When you’ve been at the executive recruiting game for 25 years, you see a lot.

Scratch that… You see too much.

And one of the things that I see is candidate relocations fall through, which means having to start the search all over again. Ouch!

If it hasn’t happened to you, you’ve dodged the bullet. I’ve found that a full third of these situations go wrong. Why? Let me count the ways…

1. Candidate changes their mind

And who can blame them?

The average job tenure shortens every year. So once they sign on the dotted line, they start wondering how long this will last. “Hmmm, maybe I didn’t think this through.”

2. Candidate’s spouse/partner changes their mind

’nuff said.

3. Can’t sell the house

“I thought we’d get $500K for it, not $400K.”

4. Won’t sell the house

I’m as sentimental as the next guy. But it turns out your candidate grew up in that house. Or Spot is buried in the backyard.

5. Change of heart

Once winter starts (if they moved north) or summer starts (if they flew south) or tax season starts (if they moved to California), things start to look different. “What? I need a whole new wardrobe? Hadn’t thought of that.”

6. The relo cost to your firm piles up.

Flights, moving van, car trailers, hotels. The punchline? You could have spent this money instead on that local candidate who was just a tad out of your price range. And they would have been onboard already.

7. Far longer ramp-up period

I know you’ll say “that’s fine, we have plenty of time, for the right person.”

But that’s not the case. In this fast-moving world, time-to-fully-ramped is crucial. And relocated candidates are distracted candidates… Getting settled. New school. New house. Unpacking. New church. New Starbucks.

You get the point. You’re getting half their focus for the first six months. No matter what they say.

So what happens next?

It turns into a commuting situation. They fly in every Sunday night, and fly home every Friday evening. Then that becomes Monday morning to Thursday night.

Then every other Tues-Wed.

You get the point.

And you simply can’t can’t lead people from a distance. (Unless yours is a completely distributed company, in which case none of this applies.)

I’m not saying that candidates do bait and switch intentionally (although I’ve seen it more times than I care to admit). But any of those seven things happen, and your new hire turns to perspire.

So what to do?

  • Avoid relocated candidates like the plague.
  • Do everything possible to avoid these situations. They should be your very last resort.
  • I’m not saying to settle for a local B-Player. You know me better than that.
  • But I’m encouraging you to dig deep to find a local winner. Even from outside the industry. Even if you have to pay a bit more than you had budgeted.
  • I set the bar for a relocated candidate far higher. They’d better be God’s gift to ___(insert your industry)____.
  • I look for the best possible candidate. No matter what. A top 5 percenter. 
  • But I dig extra extra deep locally – before looking elsewhere.

I encourage you to do the same. I’m a control freak (there, I said it!) and recruiting has enough variables out of our control to add any more than is absolutely necessary. Your headhunter will do the same. But remember: they don’t feel the pain like you do when the relocation doesn’t pan out. You’re the one that has to clean up the mess.
And it’s very messy. Starting with telling your boss – or Board – that your brand new hire had a change of heart.

A candidate relo is a problem waiting to happen.

Speaking of which… when you have 60 seconds, my new 10-question Quiz will reveal your #1 hiring problem and what you can do about it:

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman launched his recruiting career at Heidrick & Struggles and Spencer Stuart, the preeminent global executive search firms. Today, he’s Chief Talent Officer at Chicago-based Strong Suit Executive Search. Along the way, Jeff created four companies, backed by $50 million in venture capital. He currently teaches the MBA course about recruiting at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and hosts the five-star Strong Suit Podcast. Jeff has been featured by Inc., Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg, and other media outlets. He holds a master’s degree from Kellogg School of Management and a bachelor’s degree from The Wharton School.

2 Replies to "The Dirty Little Secret Your Headhunter Won't Tell You..."

  • Guillermo Mairena
    October 2, 2018 (3:05 pm)

    I don’t agree with the article. I have moved three times in my career and stayed an average of 3 years, not counting my last move which has led to being in place for nearly twenty years.

    September 21, 2018 (3:56 pm)

    I have always been wary of hiring candidates who are new to the area for fear they may return to where they came from (although I hired a very good assistant controller who had recently moved into the area with his wife).
    I am now one of those candidates myself. I moved from Florida to NY for the benefit of my wife and children (education and community) 12 months ago. I left an executive level finance job at a small-to-medium size company where I had worked for over 20 years. I was working remotely during my transition to NY. I have been conducting my job search now for one and half months and have only had a few interviews. I wonder how much importance employers and recruiters are the fact that I am new to the area.