Sorry for the late post this week – it has been one crazy week!


Living in the Washington, D.C. Metro area is a wonderful thing. History, entertainment, culture, seasons, and great places to eat abound. The Redskins are a different story. DC also ranks as one of the highest cost of living areas in the country. Even when everything else lines up – opportunity, company, candidate – the cost of living issue can (and sometimes does) completely derail the process.

We all want smart, analytical employees, right? Well smart, analytical candidates can take a quick trip to the internet to analyze their opportunity and gather facts to inform their decision. And sometimes those “facts” can really muck up the process.

The well-known website has a neat little tool called the Cost-of-Living Calculator. While the data provided by this website (and others like it) may be misleading, inaccurate, or just plain wrong, it is what candidates find. Organizations still need to deal with the perceptions created by these sites and it’s up to the recruiter to manage the situation effectively.


Let’s assume I’m a scientist living in Research-Triangle Park (RTP) in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. I make $80,000 per year (salary only) and I’m interested in accepting a great opportunity in the Washington, DC Metro area with an amazing company that provides the opportunity to work on exciting and pioneering projects. Because I’m an analytical kind of guy, I bop on over to to see what the situation might look like if I choose to accept the offer and relocate to Maryland, DC, or Virginia.

I enter the data into the calculator with my present and proposed locations. Then I click “submit.”

Immediately, I’m confronted with a graph that tells me that I’m going to experience an almost $40,000 decrease in disposable income. OUCH!

As I read the information further, I’m more alarmed. Washington, DC’s cost of living is 58.8% higher than where I live and just to maintain my current standard of living, I’ll need to make a whopping $127,057. Now we all know that a 10% – 20% increase when changing jobs is solid – but that would only get us to $96,000 on the high-end.

I’m beginning to reconsider the wisdom of this move. And I haven’t talked to my family about it yet – not sure I want to with this info.

While the information is not 100% accurate, there is no doubt a differential exists. So how can we manage our relocations better?

1. Communication: Talk about the reality of the cost of living differential early and during every conversation with the prospective candidate. Be candid and truthful. Relocating yourself and/or your family is a huge decision and you’d want someone to be straightforward with you, right? As someone who’s relocated about 20 times, it really is a big deal and effective communication is critical.

2. Encourage Research: Encourage your candidate to do their own research early in the process, preferably before the first face-to-face interview. Offer resources such as websites, real estate contacts, employee assistance programs, etc.

3. Talk Relocation Package Early: I have colleagues tell me they don’t discuss any of this until the organization is about to make an offer – I disagree. Some companies have great relocation packages, others do not. It makes no sense to get all the way through the process, fall in love, then have everything “jackknife” because the candidate is not able to absorb uncovered moving costs or had very different expectations.

4. Emphasize the Opportunity: While opportunity and meaningful work impact employee satisfaction the most, we all have our limits based on lifestyle, family obligations, etc. No matter how great the opportunity, there’s a breaking point for us all. To minimize this challenge, focus on the positive aspects of the role, organization, supervisor, work projects, and future opportunities. Articulate the mission, vision, and values of your organization and be sure your candidate understands what this move can mean for him/her – regardless of compensation and/or cost of living. “If compensation or cost of living wasn’t an issue, is there any reason why you would not accept an offer?”

5. Be Consultative and Supportive: Telling someone bright and analytical that “you’ll be OK once you get here” or “those website are all wrong” is not a good strategy. Discuss the issues honestly, openly, and with integrity. Be empathetic and do your best to discuss concerns within your organization’s parameters.

Will every situation work out? Of course not. But cost of living issues are real and they must be acknowledged as a major part of your overall recruiting strategy. Taking a proactive, pragmatic, and consultative approach will help make sure your candidate relocations are more successful than not.

Let me know what you think.

Until next time,