When Courting Candidates, Don’t Neglect the Spouse

Recruiting out-of-town job candidates is tougher than ever, with budgets tight and plenty of talented people feeling unable to relocate.

This unwillingness to move is reflected in an annual survey on corporate relocations by Atlas Van Lines Inc., in which more than half of the companies responding said some employees had declined to relocate in 2010. Not surprisingly, housing and mortgage issues led the list of reasons given for declining to relocate, followed by family issues.

Third on that list was a spouse or partner’s employment, which was registered by 41 percent of employees, rating higher than personal reasons, “no desire to relocate” and job security concerns.

So, when candidates resist relocation, companies should consider courting the worker’s spouse with outplacement services.

It’s clear why spousal unemployment is such an issue for so many. Two-thirds of American families with school-age children rely on two incomes, so while a new opportunity can be enticing, it can leave the so-called “trailing spouse” jobless, with no connections or prospects, in an unfamiliar city. The Atlas survey found that 46 percent of employers say the spouse’s employment almost always or frequently affects a candidate’s relocation decision.

Those considerations are having a clear impact on recruiting. More employers are having a difficult time hiring their first choice for key positions and, as a result, they’re taking a closer look at their relocation packages.

Among the most effective additions to any relocation package are outplacement services for spouses, which currently are offered by a fifth of U.S. companies and by a third of companies with more than 5,000 employees.

Out With the Old
Offering spousal outplacement not only helps attract talent, but aids in retaining it. The sooner both partners establish roots in their new community, the more likely the relocation will succeed and the new hire will stay long term. This only happens if the outplacement program succeeds in finding the spouse a job.

Old-school outplacement providers offer high-cost, low-return services such as group “grief” counseling, classes on resume preparation and the leasing of expensive office space for use by transitioning workers.

However, outplacement services more suited to today’s worker provide each transitioning worker with a personalized online portal from which they can access jobs mined from millions of sites across the Internet, research companies, manage their job search in real time and even share jobs using social networking. This reflects changes in the recruiting industry, which has embraced online job searches and the use of social media.

Still, new outplacement solutions aren’t just about technology. Each worker can meet one-on-one with a transition specialist with experience in the employee’s industry, participate in webinars with industry experts and practice interviewing with a human resources specialist.

With transitioning workers seeking better, faster results and companies needing efficient, cost-effective ways to attract and retain the best talent, the need for spousal outplacement will only continue to grow.

Sanjay Sathe is founder and CEO of RiseSmart, a provider of next-generation outplacement services. He can be reached at editor@talentmgt.com.