The Role of Spouses in Relocation Offers

Recruiting candidates for roles that require relocation can be a complicated process – and it only gets more complex when families are involved. In fact, one of the most important factors in any relocation offer is the opinion and needs of the candidate’s spouse. Here’s what to keep in mind when making relocation offers to candidates with families.


What the Numbers Say

Recent statistics on employment and family status reveal just how interconnected a single job offer can become.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2021, 78.7% of married couples had at least one partner employed. 25.3% were single-income families, while 46.8% of married couples had both spouses working. Among families consisting of married parents with children, 96.5% had at least one spouse employed; 62.3% of families with children had both spouses employed, while 34.2% had only one spouse employed.

Although these relatively high rates seem to reflect a culture where parents are encouraged to balance their family and professional lives, it is important to also note that there is still a gender gap for working parents. According to BLS statistics, the labor force participation rate for all mothers with children under age 18 was 71.2%. In contrast, the participation rate for fathers with children under age 18 was 92.5% — more than 20 percentage points higher than their female counterparts.

Similarly, the BLS reported a slight increase (0.2 percentage points) in the participation rate for married fathers, raising the rate to 93.5 % in 2021. In the same time period, the rates for married mothers (69.3%) and for parents with other marital statuses (75.3% for mothers, 87% for fathers) did not have significant change. Married mothers remained less likely to participate in the labor force than mothers with other marital statuses, but married fathers remained more likely to participate in the labor force than those with other marital statuses.


Factors to Consider

When considering a relocation offer, job candidates who are bringing a family along will have much more on their minds than just their own professional and personal satisfaction. They will be considering both the short-term and long-term ramifications for their families, so a relocation offer will need to have answers for a number of complicated questions, such as:

  • How “good” is the opportunity for the spouse being recruited?
  • What is the likely longevity of the role? Will it be possible to put down long-term roots, or will the candidate probably have to move again in the short- to mid-term future? What is the next step on this career path?
  • What opportunities are available in the area for families? What do the schools, activities, clubs, and recreation opportunities look like, and how do they measure up to what the family has in their current location?
  • What describes the overall lifestyle in the new area? What is the culture like? Is it a major change (i.e., rural to city or vice versa, or even a totally different country) or a relatively similar area?
  • How far away are they moving from family and other support?
  • What is the cost-of-living difference, and how does it relate to the new position, title, and/or compensation being offered with the move?


Considering a Spouse’s Goals

Perhaps the most important of those factors is the consideration of a spouse’s goals while recruiting talent for roles that require relocation. This is true whether the spouse of the candidate is a working professional themselves or is not currently working or looking for work, for one reason or another. The spouse will also need to adjust to a new location, a new community, and potentially, a new job.

A major factor for candidates considering relocation is whether or not their spouse can find work in the new community – and not just “any” work, but meaningful work that fits their own career goals. Spouses who leave jobs behind may find themselves frustrated when their own careers stall – and a gap of even a couple of years can have serious repercussions. According to research from ResumeGo, callback rates drop in proportion to the length of the gap in an applicant’s resume. The largest decrease was observed between applicants with 2-year work gaps and those with 3-year gaps: a 53.1% decrease, from a 9.8% callback rate to just 4.6%. Overall, applicants saw a slight drop in callback rates with each additional year of unemployment.

Among academics and other professions that are notable for requiring relocations, a trend has developed known as “trailing spouse syndrome.” This term refers to the struggles faced by “trailing” spouses – the partners of the candidates who are being offered the relocation role. During the relocation process, trailing spouses often find themselves taking on more of the household burden – before, during, and after the move – and dealing with feelings of unhappiness and isolation in their new location. Many relocations ultimately fail because of the unhappiness of the trailing spouse or the family as a whole, not because of the actual job, itself.

When recruiting, a company that has support in place for spouses will have an advantage. This goes beyond moving costs and relocation aid; it’s about having spousal recruitment programs, community support groups and referrals, and other aspects in place to smooth the way. Consider candidates, not just as workers, but as whole people with whole lives, and build a recruitment program accordingly – success is much more likely to follow.


By Rose Dorta

Are you a high-performing leader or believe you have the potential to tackle a more challenging role? Would you be interested in career opportunities that are seeking these attributes?

I’d love to chat with you and answer any questions that you have. Email me, Rose Dorta, managing director of Kaizen HR Solutions, here.

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