Why Local Hiring Is More Important Than Ever with COVID-19
Last updated Apr 14, 2021
by Krista Bradford

For Essential Leaders, Go Local


COVID-19 is creating a growing number of challenges for companies seeking leadership talent. Those challenges are making local hiring more important than ever before.

The reason?

The more the Novel Coronavirus spreads, the more candidates are reluctant to hop on planes to fly in for interviews. They are more resistant to relocation.

That makes local recruiting and local executive search a key strategy for work that cannot be done online.  Local hiring whenever possible is the new imperative for in-person work.


Video Calls Replace Onsite Interviews

Most companies have replaced on-site interviews with Zoom and other video call services. They conduct virtual interviews to reduce the transmission of the Novel Coronavirus.

In fact, every single one of our clients has taken relocation off the table — they no longer require it. The work can be done from home.

However, for work that does require relocation, the candidate interview process has gotten a little weird.

For example, new physicians who will be graduating from medical school this year are doing all residency interviews online. They are forbidden to visit the hospitals where they will be working.

In the before-times, the last year of medical school was a time to travel the country and to soak up the sights and the culture to compare residency programs and the communities where they are located.

Not anymore.


Travel is Tenuous and Limited

While some executives are willing to travel — especially those who have gotten COVID vaccinations — most former frequent flyers are no longer required to travel by the companies they serve.

In the Before Times, companies used to fly in executive and technology candidates for on-site interviews — often several times before moving to offer. Candidates and spouses were regularly flown in to help them determine whether they want to move to the town where the job is based and where they want to live.

But these days, international and interstate travel is often limited to essential workers. Everyone else needs to stay the heck at home to reduce the spread of the Novel Coronavirus.

Seasoned travelers have long been aware that breathing recycled air on commercial jetliners increases exposure to the seasonal flu. The horror stories of the coronavirus contagion spreading on cruise ships and on flights have done little to quell traveler’s fears.

Traveling in cabs, through airports, onto planes, and into hotels heightens the risk of exposure. In an uncertain world, growing more uncertain by the day with COVID-19, you simply do not know where other travelers have been.


Local Executives Deliver Benefits

When candidates are local, they know the landscape. They have local relationships that they can leverage.

Moreover, local employees often make employee referrals, leading to additional local hires. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.


Local Hiring Makes Sense Beyond COVID-19

COVID-19 is a compelling reason to focus on local executive search. But it isn’t the only reason. The longer I recruit, the more I have come to realize that, increasingly, executive candidates and senior technologists are resistant to relocation. Many leading candidates value the roots they’ve set down in their communities. They have friends and family nearby. Their kids are thriving in school — some of the special needs children do not do well with changes in their routine.

These candidates have built memories associated with where they live.

This is where we bought our first house. This is the hospital where our baby was born. This is where our kids went to school.

When you relocate, you lose those physical reminders of a life well-lived. When you move away, you spend less time with the loved ones you leave behind. You make fewer memories.

Turn around, and a decade has passed. Turn around, another decade — gone. In time, your relationships are quite literally more distant.

While I can and do recruit candidates nationally, increasingly it is more important than ever to scour the local market thoroughly for hidden top performers. The reason? Fewer Americans are willing to move. 

Rate of Americans Relocating Falls Axios

Few Americans Willing to Relocate

Recently, Axios reported that relocation has dropped dramatically. 10% of Americans moved to new places in the 2018-2019 year, just half the rate it was when the Census Bureau started tracking domestic relocations in 1947. In addition to the micro reasons mentioned above, the macro reasons are many.

Student Debt is a Drag on Housing Demand

Relocation is not as easy as it was before. Demand in many U.S. real estate markets has remained flat. That is due, in part, to the delay in the purchase of starter homes by young adults. They first have to pay off massive amounts of student debt.


More Americans Are Stuck in Place

As a result, young adults are less able to buy. Older adults are less able to sell. In addition, listing a home for sale is far more complex. With COVID still rampant, open houses aren’t so open anymore. Consequently, many Americans are stuck in place.

Moreover, while jobs were pretty interchangeable a few decades ago, now they are more specialized and concentrated in specific regions. There, the cost of housing has skyrocketed.

That means many candidates living outside those areas in spacious homes will not move to San Francisco or New York. A move would lower their current standard of living: the cost of housing is simply too high. Local hiring solves this problem.


How to Excel at Local Hiring

Fortunately, there are more top-performing candidates located within commuting distance than most companies realize. You just have to know how to find them.

We do so by going into target companies, mapping reporting relationships, and building org charts. That is how we ensure we leave no stone unturned and no viable candidate unrecruited. That kind of relentless approach is the key to successful local recruiting.

Hammering away at LinkedIn searches and googling for candidates results in gaping holes in the research and in missed candidates. In other words, typical candidate sourcing and traditional approaches to executive search are flawed. They consistently miss stellar candidates, resulting in longer time-to-hire and failed searches.

Instead, every local executive search should enable you to answer the question, “Do we have everyone?” When you structure your sourcing and executive recruiting to answer that essential question, you accelerate your ability to hire top-performing talent in your own backyard.


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