Dealing With Cost of Living Differences | Job Search Radio

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 a question from a Lester that I think is very good and I thought I would cover here.  The question is:

I live in New Jersey and I am interviewing with a company in Seattle.  They are having a third interview with me a few days at a general manager level but they haven’t asked me about my salary requirement yet.  They have asked what I am currently earning at the 1st interview.”  Wisely, the job hunters looked at several cost-of-living sites like Bankrate, Sperling (, and all indicate that Seattle’s cost-of-living and all indicate that Seattle’s cost-of-living is between 13% and 21% higher than where he lives now.  They will indicate that his salary in Seattle should be more in order to maintain his cost-of-living… It’s a much more expensive area, quite obviously.

The person asks, “Is it reasonable to ask the company for a cost-of-living increase plus a salary increase as an incentive to come to work for them?”  For example, if he stayed where he is in New Jersey and got a new job, he thinks he will get a 15 to 20% increase to move to a new company.  “Is it reasonable to ask for an incentive increase on top of the cost-of-living increase to maintain the standard of living, i.e. a 13% cost-of-living increase plus 20%?”

He continues to write on, “the thing is, if I get an offer, I don’t think will be anywhere near my present salary plus 33%, which is what it would take for me to move.”  This is based on sit on salary information from  The company is offering RSU’s vesting over several years and then he goes on to details about.  He is asking for advice here.

First of all, I think it is wise that you went out and did some research. The research should teach you, as it has, that there is a different cost-of-living.  For example, if a person from Seattle moved to Florida, for example, salaries are lower, cost-of-living is lower, housing costs are lower. Yada yada yada.  The reverse is true. Someone from New Jersey moved to Seattle, they’ll find it more expensive.

Should you deal with?  Absolutely.  You have to deal with.  Certainly, before you fly out to 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 (I’ll come back to this if it is the final interview), if this is a third interview but not the final interview, you are still in selling mode.  You want them to fall in love because, after all, no love, no money, no job right? Keep selling. If it is a standard 3rd interview.

Now, if it is the final interview, then it is a different scenario.  In the final one, what you need to do is address the salary stuff. But, you want to be not quite as close minded as you are here.  Salary survey sites are notoriously inaccurate.  They pull certain people who are more likely to respond to salary surveys.  Often the data is provided by organizations whose interest it is to demonstrate that your salary is too low.  For example, years ago there was a salary survey done by a recruiting firm. Everyone’s salary look like they were making too little money.  That’s because it was in their interest to suggest, “Oooh!  You’re not making enough money.  You should come to work for 1 of our clients and we will get you a new job.”  That was the response from everyone.

For you, if you are talking with them and it is a final interview, you need to address this in a casual way.  It’s the money conversation comes up, you can gracefully say, “This is what I’m currently earning but I want you to understand and in case you don’t, there’s a cost-of-living difference between where I live and where you live.  I can’t just pretend it doesn’t exist.  I’m not here to live with three roommates if I moved to Seattle in order to take a job with you.  I have to be compensated fairly.”

Now, he mentions there are RSU’s in the firm will probably counter with that.  You need to respond by saying, “That’s great. That is my future upside.  For now, I need to pay bills. The difference between New Jersey and Seattle (whatever the percentage is) is between 13% and 22%… And that is just to make me whole.  It doesn’t advantage me in any way from a compensation standpoint because I’m not changing jobs just for lateral.  To you, it may look like a big increase but, for me, it’s just a lateral to get the cost-of-living adjustment difference.  And, I don’t know what an apartment comparable to what I’m living in now costs here. I’m just working with data here.  What I would say is that you need to be prepared to give me a decent sized offer.

What is a decent sized offer?”  This is how they will respond.

Certainly above what I’m making now plus the cost-of-living plus an increase.”

Since you have already quoted the Cost-of-living increase, they have a sense of what that’s going to be.  They will probably work on the basis of the 13% because because you have said, it can be 13% to 21%.  Speak of it as 18% to 21% in your conversations with them.  In doing so, you are giving them a sense of what they are going to need to do.

Now, is it likely the deal is going to blow up?  With some firms as will and with some firms. It won’t.  Let’s not be foolish here.  If it is going to blow up, is going to blow up, even if you wait till the last minute.  

If you are still interviewing,  whether it is the 3rd or the 5th interview, the 3rd or 4th, probably this conversation shouldn’t occur.  If this is the final interview. It has to be laid out somewhere along the line here where they might simply say, “Do you have any questions for us?” 

You can respond by saying, “I really love this job.  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’ve been doing my homework and I’m finding that the salary differential between New Jersey where I now live and where you are 18% to 21%.

Where did you find that out?”

The you give them websites, the ones with the higher ranges in their. “If I just got an 18% to 21% increase, that just balances things out.  It is not advantaging me anyway.”

What about the RSU’s?

They are not going to pay my bills.  That is going to be for all the effort and all the work that I put in for how many years until they get fully vested.  So, for now, my focus is on getting increase, not just simply based on my base salary but getting a cost-of-living differential as well as an increase on the base.

It has to be addressed.  You can’t ignore it. Otherwise they will extend an offer based upon the lowest common point that will likely be turned down by you.  You will have wasted even more time.


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