It’s a big country Featured

7:04am EDT June 28, 2006
Employers take note: Successfully recruiting top executives from outside your area takes more than the promise of a plush office and an impressive job title. Thirty-one percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) say the quality of life in a new city would most influence their decision to relocate for a job; 27 percent cite compensation as the foremost consideration.

This, according to a survey for Robert Half International Inc. that includes responses from more than 1,400 CFOs from a random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.

“Taking a job in a new town is not just a career decision,” says Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half. “It is a lifestyle choice. Companies that highlight the qualities that distinguish their city — such as a reputation for safety, highly regarded school system or cultural events — increase their chances of attracting top professionals.”

Smart Business talked to Don Forrest, vice president of Robert Half International’s Chicago Region, about subjective factors that can be read into the objective survey results.

What were the key findings of the survey, and what do these results mean to employers?There are multiple components that are factored into the decision to take another executive position. Most executives aren’t as concerned with how far away the new location would be, but family considerations — things like education, health, etc. — are high. The candidate has to decide if the new position offsets those things.

‘Family considerations’ ranked low (1 percent) in the survey. Why the discrepancy?
“Quality of life’ ranked high. Employers need to find out what that phrase means to the individual candidates they’ve identified. Quality of life can consist of different things for different people. It’s important for employers to understand what the candidate values most.

Despite the fact that ‘family considerations’ ranked low, people are indeed looking out for their families as well. By assessing the quality of life in the new city and if the compensation offered meets their needs, professionals can determine whether their families will thrive in the new environment.

What should professionals consider when deciding whether to relocate for a new job?
When an executive takes a job in a new city, he or she is also taking on a new lifestyle. The executive has to consider how well that lifestyle matches not only his or her current lifestyle, but also where their career is going if it continues on its present course.

Professionals must look at the big picture rather than one element of a possible job change that excites them. If they get too focused on one element, they may overlook other very important factors. Sometimes overlooked are responsibilities of the job, expectations of the CEO or Board of Directors, the chance to undertake the right kind of projects that enhance their career, and further growth opportunities.

Executives contemplating a move must also examine existing company culture. Is the new company in question looking for the executive to adapt to that culture or change the culture?

Do you have any negotiation tips for executives relocating for a new position?
Professionals need to ensure the move won’t compromise their quality of life. They need to consider whether they’ll be able to afford the same things in the new city as they can afford currently. Lay out your own hierarchy of what’s important. You’ve got to be willing to compromise, which is tough at the highest level, but essential.

Research the compensation trends in the new city. Review resources such as professional association reports and compensation surveys, along with local job postings, to determine what you can expect to be offered. Also check with your contacts in the new city about the salary and benefits trends they’re seeing.

What elements are typically included in a relocation package?
Moving costs, temporary housing, assistance in selling the employee’s existing home, traveling or lodging costs while in the process of moving, outplacement assistance for the spouse or significant other, extra time off to visit family, expenses for trips back home to see family and friends. That’s all in addition to the obvious compensation, benefits and perks.

What’s the deal-maker?
Regardless of management level, employers need to find out what candidates value most in a relocation package.

Incidentally, it’s important to paint an accurate picture of the job, company and quality of life in the new city. Hiring managers should be completely honest about the negatives, as well as the positives, to provide prospects with a full picture of their potential new job and home. Not only will this eliminate any surprises after a move, but candidates will appreciate the candor and feel more loyal to the company as a result.

In the end, candidates at this level won’t be strong-armed.

DON FORREST is vice president of the Chicago Region of Robert Half International. Reach him at (312) 616-8200.