Prompted By The Pandemic, More Roles Could Become Location Agnostic, In Real Estate And Beyond
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the factor of where you live (and whether you are willing to relocate) may have meant the difference between getting a job interview or not.
But in a tough job market, candidates may find that declining to volunteer one’s geographic location on a job application may help broaden their options, and companies that struggled to staff top talent in secondary or tertiary markets may find the pandemic’s forced remote work to be a silver lining.
“By removing this detail from your résumé, you are helping to limit any selection bias that may affect your candidacy,” Augustine said. “So long as you are able to get to your job on time and stay until the workday is over, your location should not be a factor in the employer’s hiring decision.”
She added that for those professionals who are interested in relocating for work, “it’s best to remove your full mailing address from the résumé so you won’t be flagged as a non-local candidate by employers.” If the position requires the individual to commute to a corporate office, she said, local candidates are typically favored, because they can usually start the job sooner and don’t cost the company relocation expenses.
“Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, remote work had already been gaining popularity among employees and employers alike. In fact, a Forbes report called remote work ‘standard operating procedure’ for half of the U.S. population,” Augustine said. “Now, thanks to this long ‘work-from-home experiment,’ I suspect we’ll see more businesses forgoing the physical corporate headquarters in the future. Once a position becomes remote, the location of your residence becomes a non-factor.”
Many jobs in commercial real estate are anchored to a specific market. Employees can’t live just anywhere and effectively develop and serve a location-specific client base. But other roles may have more flexibility, especially with the widespread adoption of remote work and the possibility that, for some cases, remote teams are here to stay.
She paraphrased a client who is forming a firm buying up multifamily deals in distress: “He said ‘I don’t care where anybody lives. If they’re here great. If they’re in Florida, great, in Minnesota, I don’t care, as long as they’re the best.’”
In fact, Weiss, who heads her CRE-focused recruiting firm primarily from Los Angeles, is considering becoming a digital nomad herself. “I’ve always wanted to be that person who has more flexibility,” she said. “I’ve toyed with the idea of being bicoastal, and now that everyone’s remote anyway, I’m thinking there are so many parts of the country and the world that I haven’t explored.”
It is an attitude that more employers across the world in all sectors are starting to adopt. "We are saying to our managers, if you have recruited the right person, you have a relationship based on trust, and you are focusing on outcomes, why would you care when and where they do their job?" Joules Retail and People Director Lyn Warren said at a Bisnow London webinar earlier this year. Joules is a fashion retailer based in Market Harborough, in the UK midlands, that employs more than 1,500 staff.
"We have said out loud that it will be about individual choice, the circumstances that work best for our people. And we think that is going to give us an edge in terms of recruiting great talent. We are losing the barriers in terms of physical location. We are in Market Harborough, it is not exactly the centre of commerce, so what if we just tore down those walls and recruited from anywhere? That would allow our people to drop their kids off at school, do yoga at lunchtime, take the dogs for a walk, and still deliver great outcomes. How fantastic would that be, for them and for us?"
“We’re not yet seeing this yet. It’s too new right now,” Elliott told Bisnow. “Companies are still trying to figure out, ‘When are we bringing people back to our office?’”
The End Of An Era For Selection Bias?
Shedding the importance of location for certain CRE roles could also have a positive impact on diversity.
Corean Canty, chief operating officer of media services company Goodway Group, recently wrote for Fast Company that when companies consider diversity hiring practices, they often overlook location as a factor, even though recruiting among audiences who live outside of the country’s most expensive cities can be massively impactful in terms of reaching diverse talent and building a diverse workforce.
“As adults, many of us choose where we live based on the job we get. We don’t get the luxury of comparing diverse pie charts or choosing locations that add value to our lives,” Canty wrote. “Many of the most desirable companies are in expensive, unaffordable markets and within areas with minimal diversity.”
For decades, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago were commercial real estate’s dominant markets, overlapping cleanly with some of the most expensive cities to live in the U.S. Even with robust diversity practices, Canty wrote, “life outside of work can be difficult for people of color. As companies recognize the value of diversity, they also need to understand the impact of location bias, the challenges of attracting diverse talent, and where remote work fits in to help the process.”