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Dealing With Cost of Living Differences (VIDEO)

Moving from a lower cost of living area to a higher one often poses challenges for job hunters. Here, I answer someone’s question about a move to Seattle.


I received the question from a luster that I thought was very good so I thought I would cover here. The question is, "I live in New Jersey and in interviewing with a company in Seattle. They're having a third interview with me for position at a general manager level, but they haven't asked me what my salary requirement this." They did asking what he was currently earning at the time of the 1st interview. Wisely, the job hunter has looked at several cost-of-living sites like Bankrate, Sperling ( and CNN, is between 13% and 21% more expensive than where he lives now. They all indicate that the salary in Seattle should be more to maintain his a more expensive area to live in.

The person asks whether it is reasonable for person to ask for a cost-of-living increase plus a salary increase in order to come to work for them. For example, if he stayed in New Jersey and took a new position, he would expect to get a 15% to 25% increase without having to move. It is reasonable to ask for an incentive increase on top of the cost-of-living increase to maintain a standard of living (ie. A 13% cost-of-living increase +20%)?

He goes on to say that if he gets an offer, it is a believer to be anywhere near his present salary +33%, which is what it would take me to move. This is based on information coming from Glassdoor plus the company is offering RSU's vesting over 7 years. He goes on to offer a few more details, but is asking for advice.

1st of all, let me start by saying he was wise that you went out to do some research here. The research has taught you that there is a different cost-of-living between the 2 areas. For example, if a person from Seattle moves to Florida, salaries are lower, cost-of-living is lower, housing is lower , yada, yada, yada. The reverse is also true. A person from New Jersey moves to Seattle and they find it more expensive.

Should you deal with this? Absolutely! You have to deal with it, certainly before you fly out and meet with them. It's wise of you to consider how to present this. For the purposes of this next interview with the general manager, unless you know this is the final interview, if this is 1/3 interview, like you say and it is not the final interview, you are still in selling mode. You want them to fall in love. If the role, no love, no money, no job. Keep selling. If it is a standard 3rd interview.

Now if this is a final interview, you need to address the salary stuff. Not not as rigid as you because my experience tells me the salary survey sites are notoriously inaccurate. After all, they pull certain people who are more likely to respond to salary surveys. Often the data is provided by organizations who is interested is to demonstrate that your salary is too low.

For example, some years ago there was a salary survey done by recruiting firm. Everyone salary look like they were making too little money. Using their interest to suggest, "You're not making enough money. You should change jobs! You should come to work for 1 of our clients."

If you are talking with them and it is a final interview, you need to address this in a casual way. If the money conversation comes up you can gracefully say, "This is what I'm currently earning. In case you weren't aware of it, there is a cost-of-living difference between where I live and where you live. I can't just pretend it doesn't exist. I don't plan on living with 3 roommates if I come to Seattle to work for you. I need to be compensated fairly for my move."

That he mentioned in his note that there are RSU's and the firm will counter with that. You need to respond to that by saying, "That's great! That's my future upside. For now, I need to pay bills. The difference between New Jersey and Seattle is between 13% and 22% (what ever it was again). That's just to make me hold with what I'm earning now. It doesn't advantage me in any way from a compensation standpoint. The fact of the matter is I'm not changing jobs just for a lateral. Now, to you, you may look like a big increase but to me it is a lateral just to get the same cost-of-living as to what I have now. AND I don't know what the cost of an apartment is comparable to what I'm living in costs in Seattle. I'm just working with data here. You need to be prepared to give me a decent sized offer here."

"What's a decent sized offer?"

"My current salary PLUS the salary differential to make me whole to the Seattle cost of living difference PLUS an increase."

They will probably attempt to do it on the basis of 13% because you said that the differential is between 13% and 21% (Instead of telling them 13% to 21%, tell them 18% to 21%). In doing so, you're giving them a sense of what is going to take to bring you on board. Now is is likely to blow up? With some firms as well and would someone wont.Let's not be foolish here. If it's going to blow up. It's going to blow up.

So if you are still interviewing, where there is the 3rd interview or the 5th interview, probably, this conversation should occur yet. If it is the final interview,It has to get laid out for them somewhere along the line here.

If they ask you whether you have any questions, you can respond by saying, "I just want to know how much I really love this job here.It is a terrific organization and I would so much like to come to work for you. At the same time, I have to look at the compensation, as well.I look at the cost-of-living difference between New Jersey where I live and Seattle, I see 18% to 21% difference between the 2 areas."

"Where did you find that out?" Then you give them websites with the higher ranges to look after themselves.

"If I just got 18% to 21% increase, that just balances things out to where I am now. You are not advantaging me in any way."

"But what about the RSU's?"

"That's not going to pay my bills. That's going to compensate me for all the effort in all the time that I put in for how many years until they become fully vested? For now, my focus is on getting an increase. It's not just simply an increase based upon my current base salary But all my cost-of-living increase and the base

You have to get it addressed. You cannot ignore it.Otherwise, they will extend an offer based upon the lowest possible pointThere will likely be turned down by you and you will have wasted even more time..

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves life coaching, as well as executive job search coaching and business life coaching. He is the host of “Job Search Radio” and “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” both available through iTunes and Stitcher.

Are you interested in executive job search coaching, leadership coaching or life coaching from me?  Email me at and put the word, “Coaching” in the subject line.

Do you have a question you would like me to answer? Pay $25 via PayPal to offers great advice for job hunters—videos, my books and guides to job hunting, podcasts, articles, PLUS a community for you to ask questions of PLUS the ability to ask me questions where I function as your ally with no conflict of interest answering your questions.  

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Do You Need to Relocate and Find a Job? Are You Finding It Hard?

I often speak with people who need to relocate. Sometimes, they are moving because they need to be closer to family; some need to accommodate a spouse whose career or academic pursuits require the entire family to move.

Whatever the reason may be, long distance job hunting tends to be far more difficult because firms don’t want to incur the expense or the logistical challenges. After all, for many of them, they believe there is an ample pool of talent near where they live so why should they bother? The result is, people who are not local seem to find the job search more challenging.

What can you do?  There are a few choices.

In your e-mail that accompanies your resume, tell the would-be employers the reason you want to move to their area. If you are willing to pay your own interview and relocation expenses, mention that too.

A second choice comes from an e-mail I received from a former subscriber, Pete, now from Virginia who was living outside of the United States and kept finding that he was finishing second on his interviews. He switched his address to one in Miami where he had family. Once he did that, his interviews started to increase and he was hired to work for a firm in Virginia.

If you are moving to where you have family, use your family’s address on your resume and provide your cell phone. More firms will call you and give you a chance despite the only thing changing being the address on your resume.


© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC  2008, 2016


Do you really think employers are trying to help you? You already know you can’t trust recruiters—they tell as they think you need to know to take the job they after representing so they collect their payday.

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter has been a career coach and recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. is there to change that with great advice for job hunters—videos, my books and guides to job hunting, podcasts, articles, PLUS a community for you to ask questions of PLUS the ability to ask me questions where I function as your ally with no conflict of interest answering your questions.

Connect with me on LinkedIn

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