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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

May 23, 2017
Question

I’m a non-local candidate and am getting nowhere in my job search. Should I insert a local address on my resume so it looks like I live in the area (i.e. P.O. Box)?

answer
Julie Q. Brush

Despite the increased activity in the legal market, finding a job is far from easy. Competition is stiff and there are many variables outside a candidate’s control that make the endeavor the quintessential roller coaster ride. For the Non-Local Candidate, not being “here” can be a maddening label that puts a lawyer seeking greener pastures at a perpetual disadvantage. Why? Because given their druthers, employers prefer to hire candidates who live in the area. Who know the local culture and the industry, are accustomed to the weather and cost of living; and are already rooted.

It’s a predicament that leaves non-locals scrambling to find ways to crack the geographic differentiation barrier. Offering to pay for relocation, flying out at a moment’s notice for interviews, paying for airfare and lodging…these are just a few of the accommodations candidates offer to create an level playing field. Some candidates are taking it a step further by inserting “local” addresses on their resumes in order to project the appearance of residing in the area. The hope is that a local address will take the non-local objection off the table and will allow for greater consideration of a candidate on his/her merits: i.e. work experience and substantive fit for the position.

But just how wise is this tactic? Is it a good strategy in this Darwinian world of legal job hunting?

The genteel nature of the legal profession has eroded – and lawyers have now been fully indoctrinated in the modern day dog-eat-dog professional world. As a result, most everyone is scrambling to adapt to the changing rules and jockeying for a competitive advantage. This is particularly true for non-local candidates.

I understand the frustration felt by candidates who desperately want to move their practices to a different land. I understand their objections to the objections they encounter. I understand the strong desire to be judged on the merits of one’s work experience as opposed to one’s location. I also understand how inserting a local address to neutralize this sometimes unclearable hurdle may be extremely appealing.

But including an address on your resume that is not genuinely your own is a strategy I do not recommend. While it might initially fool an employer and secure an interview, someone at some time in the interview queue will eventually discover the truth – and the discrepancy will reflect poorly on you and your candidacy. It’s an unwise risk that involves nothing but career downside.

But there are acceptable alternatives that might suffice. An increasing number of candidates are omitting their home addresses altogether and only including contact information on their resumes such as phone numbers (cell/home) and email addresses. Privacy and confidentiality concerns are the primary factors influencing the shift, but other reasons exist as well. Consequently, employers have become more socialized around this omission – as long as the information is provided when requested. So if you’d like another option, provide your contact information only. Below are a few examples and formats:

 Eleanor Smith

Email: esmith@xxxxxx.com; Phone: (650) 555-5555

ELEANOR SMITH

Cell Phone: (555) 555-1212; Work Phone: (555) 555-1111

Email: esmith@xxxxxx.com

Eleanor Smith

555-555-1212 (cell)

esmith@xxxxxx.com (email)

Despite these alternatives, most employers require formal online job applications for a position and ask for address of residence upfront. So manage your expectations that while the information may not be included on your resume, there are avenues for an employer to learn of your non-local status early on in the process. And when asked, it’s best to be transparent.

In the quest to start a new career chapter, the issue of location for non-local candidates has proven a hurdle extremely difficult to clear. Regardless of what resume optics you attempt to create, the bottom line is that you’ll need to work more than twice as hard to position yourself for success by developing and leveraging your local network, building relationships with local employers and creating an effective message of value that highlights your candidacy as a good bet. By breaking out the extra jar…or two of elbow grease and perseverance – and focusing your efforts wisely, you’ll eventually push past the location objections…paper or otherwise.

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Comments

I relocated from the Rust Belt to the West Coast in a fairly high demand specialty (securities law, specifically IPO / new public company work), and it took a legit two and a half years to make the move -- build in time and patience. Eventually, what worked for me was three things: (1) getting admitted in new jurisdiction; (2) just putting "Relocating to X in Summer 201X" in executive summary of resume, often as early as the second sentence; and (3) having visited multiple times and knowing enough local trivia to get by. YMMV.

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