Careers advice

Relocating for a job in NZ: what you need to consider

Thinking about moving for a job? There’s a lot to consider before you book the removal van.

What you’ll learn

  • The factors to consider before relocating.
  • How to mention relocation in your job application.
  • How to organise a job interview from afar.
  • What to do if relocation doesn’t work out.
  • Weighing up remote work vs. relocating.
  • Can you expect the company to pay your relocation costs?

Relocating for a job is common in New Zealand. There are a broader range of opportunities available in city centres like Auckland or Christchurch if you’re coming from the regions, or if you’re going in the opposite direction there are many reasons you might be considering a change of scene in a beautiful spot like Napier or Marlborough.

But one thing all successful relocations have in common is planning. Moving for a job is a big call, and a little bit of preparation goes a long way to getting it right first time. 

Let’s have a look at the important considerations, and how to talk about relocation in your CV and cover letter.

Relocating for a job: checklist

1. Is this role really for you?

Even if you weren’t relocating, this is an important question to ask yourself before moving companies. However, it takes on even more significance when there’s a move at stake.

The best way to answer it is to consider why you’re changing jobs in the first place. Does this new role fill in the blanks of what’s currently missing, or at least is it a solid step in the right direction? Answering ‘yes’ to those questions is important, as it can be a lot more complicated to think again if you’ve already made the move and things haven’t worked out.

2. Is the company stable?

Even if the job looks like a dream, it’s a big red flag if the company has a rapid staff turnover, or has recently let a bunch of people go. If you can, do some digging on review sites, or speak to contacts who might have inside info on the organisation and its financial stability.

3. How will the move impact those around you?

Generally, relocating for a job is a lot easier for a young, single person compared to someone with family commitments like children or older parents. However, no matter which of these categories you fall into, we highly recommend you talk with your friends and family about the possible move. Even if they don’t have any massive concerns, getting a second opinion from someone who knows you well can help you notice things about the relocation you might have missed.

Of course, if you do have a partner and/or kids, you’ll need to discuss:

  • What job opportunities exist for them?
  • Have they been working towards a position for a while that they’d lose out on if you moved?
  • How disruptive the move might be for schooling, and how good are the schools on offer?
  • How good is the overall quality of life for everyone in your potential destination?
  • Potential moving dates.

Just bear in mind that while you may have been considering relocation for a while, if you haven’t mentioned it before, it will likely come as a shock. So it’s important everyone tries to understand each others’ views, and no one feels they’re being pushed into something. A list of pros and cons is always a good idea for weighing up your options!

How would moving impact your family?

4. Will your salary cover the costs of living?

A lot of what you’re answering here builds towards the overall question of ‘is relocating for a job worth it?’ One of the most important parts of working this out is establishing if your potential salary will cover the costs of living.

It’s all very well if the new job comes with an extra $10,000 a year in your pay packet, but what does this translate to in real terms? Employment hubs like Wellington and Auckland have the country’s highest rental costs, but wherever you’re looking at, you need to have a solid understanding of the price of essentials like groceries, fuel and household bills.

5. Have you done a recce?

We advise against committing to a relocation if you’ve never visited the area before. While online research is great, it’s hard to know if you’d be happy living in a location you’ve never visited.

A quick trip gives you a chance to scope out important amenities like supermarkets, transport links and recreation facilities, as well as properties you might end up living in! It also means you won’t fall victim to catfishing by local councils who know how to market their district online.

Do you need to mention the fact you’d be relocating in your CV or cover letter?

On your Trade Me Jobs Profile, it’s easy to indicate the areas of New Zealand you’re searching for work in. Make sure you keep this section up to date with where you’re open to working, so employers know you’re serious about being willing to relocate. 

We also recommend addressing the relocation directly, but briefly, in your cover letter. You can do this easily by expanding the part of the cover letter where you’d normally talk about why the role and industry appeals to you, to include what draws you to the region. For example, “I’ve been eyeing a move to Christchurch for some time, but have been holding out for the right role”.

There’s no need to address the relocation on your CV. The focus of this document should be on the skills and experience you’d bring to the role, rather than on your personal circumstances. You might be tempted to include details about relocating in the personal statement section of your CV, but we’d advise against it. Your personal statement is a more generalised blurb about you. For example: ‘I’m an experienced accountant, specialising in internal audits, with a passion for keeping up with the latest accounting tech trends.’ As you can see, this is a more all-encompassing statement, rather than referring to this one moment in time when you’re considering a relocation.

We advise mentioning relocation briefly in your cover letter.

Organising a job interview when you don’t live locally

If you get through to the interview stage, the employer will have worked out from your cover letter that you don’t live down the road. 

There’s a good chance they’ll simply set up a phone or video interview, many companies got used to interviewing remotely during Level 4 lockdown, but some may be keen to meet face-to-face. In these cases, you’ll need to work with them to figure out logistics and timeframes. 

Hopefully, the job ad will make it clear if the company is willing to pay the costs of your interview travel. If it doesn’t, this is a legitimate question to ask – just be prepared that they might say no. In this case, it’s up to you to weigh the costs of travel vs. how much you want the job.

Do most companies pay for relocation?

If you’re successful, the company might offer what’s known as a job relocation package. Basically, this means they’ll help you cover the expense of moving. Generally, these packages cover all or some of these costs:

  • Transport: the cost of getting to your new location. This often also includes a moving truck for your clobber.
  • Temporary accommodation: this could be a rental or a hotel, usually for the period where you’re searching for a new house.
  • Storage units: during the same time, you’ll likely need somewhere to store your belongings.
  • A house-finding trip: before you move, the company might pay for you to travel to their location to hunt for a property.
  • Home buying/selling: think real estate commissions and other costs associated with purchasing or selling a home.

Before you get too excited, a job relocation package isn’t guaranteed. In fact, we’d advise not asking about it until late in the hiring process – perhaps in a second interview, or as part of your salary negotiations. Making a big deal about it too early on could be off-putting to the employer, so wait until they’re realised how essential you are to their team.

What to do if relocating for work doesn’t go to plan

Common reasons for relocations to fail or hit rocky ground include:

  • Your family/partner aren’t happy: as we’ve discussed, it’s crucial that the whole family buys into the move as much as possible. If you get to your new city only to find that there are no good opportunities for your partner, that the local school is terrible, or that the neighbourhood isn’t nice to live in, it’s likely to cause tensions.
  • Expectations around the job itself: it can be highly disappointing to move into a job only to find out it isn’t what you thought it would be. This effect is seriously magnified if you’ve uprooted your entire life (and those of your loved ones) to get there.
  • Lack of employer support: this is particularly true in the immediate aftermath of moving. You want to feel that the employer is on your side, and trying to make this work as much as you are.

The key to resolving the vast majority of these issues is by open and honest communication with the relevant parties. This could be your partner, kids or the company itself. Pretending that everything is fine and just continuing is only going to make things harder in the long term.

Of course, some problems are more serious than others. It’s perfectly normal if your kids are finding it tough leaving their mates behind and starting at a new school – and while you don’t want to ignore or belittle these concerns, they’ll hopefully settle in with time.

If, however, there are simply no jobs that your partner can/wants to do, this will be a more significant hurdle. You’ll need to sit down together to have a serious chat about how you’re going to resolve this. For example, this could mean setting a deadline by which, if they haven’t managed to secure a job, you’ll consider leaving.

Coming to the point where you have to admit that the relocation hasn’t worked can feel like a huge failure, and obviously you need to give it some real thought before you decide to pull the plug. However, once you feel that you’ve given it the best shot you can, it can be better to make this call earlier, rather than pushing on when it simply isn’t working. Remember, as bleak as this may feel, there are plenty of other opportunities out there.

Working remotely vs. relocating for work

Over the last few years, we’ve all become a lot more familiar with remote working. And even with the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, many Kiwis have held onto a degree of remote working.

This experience can be a great asset if the main aim is to relocate to somewhere you really want to live, rather than taking up a specific role that involves moving as a necessity. If you can persuade your manager, you might be able to keep working in your current role, but from a remote location, rather than needing to find a new job in the first place. However, as with all things, there are both pros and cons to remote working, as opposed to working in-house in your new location. These include:

Pros of working remotely over relocating and working for a new company

  • If you love your job, you don’t have to leave: if you’ve always dreamt of living in a specific location in Aotearoa, one of the major sticking points can be leaving a role you love. This is particularly true if you’re moving to a smaller town or village where there aren’t many opportunities in your sector. Opting to work remotely for your current organisation can take these problems away.
  • You don’t have to be the newbie again: as well as not wanting to leave a role because you love it, you might simply not want to be the new starter again. If you feel established in your current organisation, there’s no shame in this, particularly as you’ll be experiencing a lot of change in your life anyway with the move.
  • Attaining your ideal work/life balance: working remotely can help you find that perfect work/life balance. Particularly when you’ve moved to a new location, the time you used to spend commuting in the Auckland traffic could instead be invested in exploring your new surroundings.

Cons of working remotely instead of starting at a new company in a new town

  • It might not be possible: all of the above is moot if your company isn’t open to you working remotely from a different location. While many businesses have become more open to these arrangements following the pandemic, it might be that they want a team member who isn’t remote full-time. Or, in some professions, this way of working is simply impractical.
  • It can be isolating: you might have found that you love having a couple of days at home each week. However, working remotely full-time is different, and you might find yourself missing the human interaction that you previously got from coming into the office.
  • You might miss development opportunities: whether passively, or through targeted initiatives, you probably develop more than you think through being around other professionals. That’s not to say you can’t work on your professional development on your own, but it will be different from doing this in the office.