How to seem prepared when interviewing for a job across the country
October 8, 2010 12:22 AM   Subscribe

I would like to move to New York City from New Mexico (my current home.) I need some thoughts and advice, particularly in terms of the move itself, and how to handle questions that may come up as I look for a job.

I'm in my mid-twenties, single, no kiddies. I'm a software developer by trade (think custom web applications, not SEO marketing bullshit), and I'm looking for jobs in NYC with the goal of moving there with a job in hand.

I am looking for general advice from people who have moved across the country for work like this. I need to be realistic about how involved this might be, but I also don't want to scare off a great a opportunity by saying the wrong thing or seeming ill-prepared. The one time I moved for work was to Seattle, and I was lucky enough to find a company that paid my relocation on top of a generous housing stipend. I am not expecting to find the same thing this time around (though if I do, that's awesome!) What do I say in the interview if/when they ask about moving? Is it reasonable to ask for a month (or more?) in order to give my current job 2 weeks, move out there, and get at least somewhat situated?
  1. With the job market as it is now, how hard will it be for me to find this job? I'm really great at what I do, and have a resume that stands out, but NYC is a much bigger market than my current one. I have a job interview next week, so that's encouraging.
  2. How much should I plan to need to spend on moving? I'm single, so it would just be me. I also live in a pretty small apartment, so I don't really have a lot of stuff. I think I could blow about $5000-$7000 right now, and more every month that passes. Is that doable?
  3. (very roughly) How much should I budget for rent if I want to live by myself in a cool part of Brooklyn? What about a reasonably cool/young part of Manhattan?
  4. Even if a company is unable to provide relocation assistance per se, would it be reasonable to ask for a signing bonus or maybe even an advance or something to cover some of my expenses?
  5. How do the logistics of a big move like this work? Can I rent a truck and move all my stuff, or is it better to just sell it all?
  6. How rich/poor will I feel at $60,000 in NYC? $70k? $80k? To give you an idea of my lifestyle now, I live alone in a 500 or 600 sq. foot apartment. I go out once or twice a week and spend a lot of money ($30-$50) on nice meals and cocktails. I make about $60,000/yr. and have enough left over after expenses to save about 10% and give 5% to charity, because I live cheaply in other ways (old car that's paid off, small apartment, non-fancy clothing, etc.). I feel incredibly wealthy.
This is a big wall of questions, and I'm largely looking for others to relate to me their experiences, what mistakes they made and what worked well. My goal is to get a lot of questions answered now, so that at my interview next week, I come across as being well-prepared and having thought this through.
posted by The Eponymous Pseudonymous Rex to Work & Money (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't moved cross-country, but I can answer about rent -- depending on your definition of "cool part of Brooklyn" and whether or not you want a roomate, you can expect to spend between $1000-3000. (I personally pay only $800, but I have a roommate and live on the fringe of a cool part.)

I think 60 grand you could do pretty well, actually. This year I've made about two-thirds as much -- and I've had to never go out to eat, but I'm getting by.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:33 AM on October 8, 2010

I just moved back from New York after not having any success finding an apartment there, and so far from your description I think you'll have better luck than I did.

What I learned was this... When you're looking for an apartment, be it in Manhattan or Brooklyn, be prepared to:

a) prove you have a job
b) prove you make as much as 8-10x the amount of your monthly rent -- and for a hip, safe area, you're looking at at least $2500/mo easy JUST FOR RENT, and then all the other fun fees like utilities, taxes, etc
c) have 1-2 guarantors
d) provide everything from your social to your bank accounts and have two credit checks

You might want to look into getting a realtor. Be sure you visit places IN PERSON so that you're not sold a bill a goods; a friend of mine nearly started renting a place site-unseen... Only to learn it was actually a basement with no windows and an exposed water heater. Fun times. I don't think you'll have that problem.

And if it were me in your position, I'd shoot for a nice place in Tribeca, the Meatpacking District, or even midtown. So jealous! I just graduated from college and was on an intern's salary, and since I really needed to live somewhere safe, it wasn't possible for me to get a place in the range that I needed without putting myself out in Yonkers. Good luck to you! :)
posted by patronuscharms at 12:39 AM on October 8, 2010

On the "is it reasonable to ask for a month" front, well, no, not really. Some companies will give you the attitude of being flexible and then you could try broaching the subject, but if you get a good job offer... you make it work. Plenty of people show up here and live out of a suitcase in a sublet or cheap hotel while starting a new job.
posted by telegraph at 4:08 AM on October 8, 2010

I live on long island. I am an IT person for a living. IF you are not scared to live on long island or in queens or nassau county then you could make it .

NYC has a lot of IT jobs. It might be hard to find an appartment in Manhattan but if your willing to commute a little either by subway or LIRR then It should not be a problem.

I make $60k a year . IN NYC that wont get as far as in New Mexico. IF you have a$60k a year job in New mexico why would you move?
posted by majortom1981 at 4:19 AM on October 8, 2010

I looked for apartments in Manhattan pre-bubble/early Giuliani and even then properties had the same requirements patronuscharms lists. I was in the unusual position of being able to offer a year's rent up front and was still declined for several properties because I had no job. Guarantors were expected to be from New York, New Jersey, or maybe Connecticut.
I think looking on the fringes of cool neighborhoods might work, but, paradoxically, until you've made some connections in the region it's tough to get a nice place on your own. Looking farther afield or trying Craigslist roommates or sublets might be a way to go.

You really need a market-savvy Brooklynite to weigh in here, I think. A realtor/ apartment broker is a common way to get this handled professionally but they'll expect a feel equal to a percentage of annual rent. IIRC it's like 20%.
posted by putzface_dickman at 5:17 AM on October 8, 2010

feel fee
posted by putzface_dickman at 5:30 AM on October 8, 2010

About the move:
Yes, you can just put your stuff in a truck and drive it up yourself. That's what I did. I hired some movers to meet me at the apt and help me unload. It worked like a charm. There's even a U-haul drop off center in Harlem, and a big one in Brooklyn. But I wouldn't actually move to NYC until you've found an apartment

Finding an apartment:
The easiest way to find an apartment is to be here. I always recommend that people get a short term sublet (a month or two), and then look for a more permanent place. It's so much easier to get acclimated, you have the advantage of checking out at least one neighborhood intimately, and it's virtually impossible to find a good apartment unless you are here. I think the $1000-$3000 range patronuscharm mentions, while vast, is accurate. So much depends on luck and if you live with roommates. For instance, three years ago I scored a studio in Chelsea for $1300. But, if you are new to the city about don't know many people, I would suggest that you plan on spending at least $2000 a month, and try for less. They may not be cool enough, but in Manhattan I would look in Inwood, Hudson Heights, or Harlem. I also wouldn't rule out Astoria, Queens. I can't speak to Brooklyn.

the job:
The fact that you have an interview is a good sign. I know plenty of people who haven't even had that. I did almost exactly what you are doing (although 10 years ago), and I told every one that I interviewed with that I was planning to move to NYC by X date, regardless of whether I had a job. Which was true. I was coming no matter what, had enough money saved to make it on temp jobs for a while. Luckily, I had two job offers before I moved.

$60k is doable with some degree of comfort, but it all boils down to what you end up paying for rent, which is going to be your single biggest expense. Public transportation is cheap enough (soon to be $104 a month for an unlimited metro card), utilities will vary (most people just pay gas and electricity), internet will run you $50-$60 a month (I can't speak for cable, I've never had it). When I was making $60k, and spending $1300 on rent, I was feeling pretty comfortable. I was able to eat out, travel, buy clothes, and aggressively pay down my student loans. If I had been paying $2000 in rent, I would have been leading a much more meager existence.
posted by kimdog at 5:46 AM on October 8, 2010

How rich/poor will I feel at $60,000 in NYC? $70k? $80k? To give you an idea of my lifestyle now, I live alone in a 500 or 600 sq. foot apartment. I go out once or twice a week and spend a lot of money ($30-$50) on nice meals and cocktails.

$60k is fine to live comfortably in Brooklyn and most parts of Manhattan, especially if you have a roommate. However, $30-$50 is not a lot for drinks and a nice meal hear. Double that, and you'll be close.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:17 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

My only comment is that your $60,000 a year job should be paying you a lot more in Manhattan. Go look at some online calculators that calculate your average pay by region. Whatever you do, don't name a salary, ask them to tell you what your colleagues are generally making, standard rate, etc. You really don't know what someone with your title makes in New York. And don't feel rich because this city eats it up.
posted by xammerboy at 6:17 AM on October 8, 2010

This may not apply in your case, but I work in IT and was offered double what I make now to work in New York.
posted by xammerboy at 6:19 AM on October 8, 2010

If you're not that attached to your stuff, be aggressive about getting rid of it. You will almost certainly have less space. Depending on where you end up, bulky furniture might not fit through your door. (It's a common enough problem that there are special couch-taking-apart services.)

The easiest way to find an apartment is to be here. I always recommend that people get a short term sublet (a month or two), and then look for a more permanent place. It's so much easier to get acclimated, you have the advantage of checking out at least one neighborhood intimately, and it's virtually impossible to find a good apartment unless you are here.

Yes, yes, yes. The order I'd recommend is:
1) Find job.
2) Move self into short-term sublet.
3) Find long-term housing.
4) Move stuff.

That way, you'll know how much space you have, and you won't have to deal with moving twice.
posted by the_blizz at 6:33 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

If your $60,000 salary is pre-tax in New Mexico, you probably won't get as much of it post-tax here in New York -- we have federal, state, and city taxes taken out. Keep that in mind.

You can definitely live on $60,000 in New York, but don't count on living alone in a cool part of Brooklyn. You could do it, but you wouldn't have much leftover to go out and enjoy the cool neighborhood you're paying dearly for.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:59 AM on October 8, 2010

the goal of moving there with a job in hand.

I'm so glad you have an interview, but be prepared for this -- there are so many people who are already here, right now, whom can start tomorrow, that you may not register some potential employers' radar at all until you are actually, physically here. Reactions to your NM address may range from total unresponsiveness to iffy encouragement along the lines of, "Well, be sure to give us a call once you get settled."
posted by hermitosis at 7:06 AM on October 8, 2010

Just providing another anecdotal variable point because I just moved, looked at places in another part of town, and earn ~ within the range that you mention. Also throwing out a few ideas for you.

Moving: Another possibility is to throw everything that you have and ship by ground or ship by FEDEX. I’ve done this a few times and the cost was ~a few hundred dollars, depending on the amount of material that you ship. We do have furniture here and you may find that the place you live in is smaller than what you have there.

Budget/living alone: I pay ~1400 for rent and live in a studio in the UWS. I like the neighborhood and it has what I want (I can walk to Central Park, live near parks in Riverside, there are lots of things to do a few blocks from me (Broadway), it's safe, and I can get to most places really easily on the subway). I did look in another part of town called Yorkville (much younger population) and found studios for rent ~1300 to 1500. If you want to pay in that price range, only look at things in that range so that you don’t end up paying something ridiculous. Also, when I looked in Yorkville, you could get a broker to show you a place and as of a month ago, the realtor/apartment complex paid the broker’s fee if you decided to accept/rent a place. Decide what you want in a neighborhood because you can find rents for much more or much less depending on where you want to live and what you want.

Poor/rich sensation. One small comment is that you may be tempted to do even more things than you would if you lived somewhere else (there is always a play, an art exhibit, live music, so the list of what you want/plan to do may grow). However, there are also things that are considerably cheaper. If you live without a car, you do not pay insurance, car maintenance, and the cost to travel by subway or bus is much cheaper than the cost associated with a car. Depending on what you enjoy doing, you can find a free version or cheap version of that event (e.g. free night/or pay what you want at a museum, severeal "off broadway" theaters have free/affordable theater, in the summer you can find music concerts that are free, etc.) I actually do many of the things that you mention on your list (go out to eat, don’t purchase clothing (meh), live alone) – I can do it for the amount that you list and feel comfortable.
posted by Wolfster at 7:15 AM on October 8, 2010

As a hiring manager I want to know that you are prepped to move. Do you know people in NYC? Have you lived there or traveled there in the past? Do you have a specific plan for finding a place? (Hint: Manhattan or Brooklyn is too general.) Are renting month to month or prepared to break a lease? When I'm hiring one thing I'm looking for someone who's going to be a stable performer for at least a year or two. Someone with a vague plan to have an adventure in NYC isn't going to make the shortlist. You want to assure the interviewer that you have a well considered, workable plan.

As someone who's moved cross country for jobs (twice), it helps if you make an offer that addresses your needs. For the first month, I offered to work my full hours during the first 4 days of the week and to be "on-call" on Fridays. That allowed me to make the transition smoothly and it helped my employer see that I wasn't going to be nuisance employee. The last thing I want is someone who leaves for 2 hours in the middle of every day to run some errand. (DMV, insurance agent, look at apts.) If you plan to consolidate those moving errands into one scheduled day, then it's less of a disruption to your coworkers. The 4 day week might not be appropriate, but if the interviewer asks should that you've got a plan.
posted by 26.2 at 7:59 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Commentors above have said a lot of great things about how to move and what to expect in terms of jobs & apartments. To that, I only want to emphasize that you'll save a ton of money if you're willing to live with roommate/s. I've lived in NYC for 6 years (well, in Astoria, Qns) and never paid more than $850/mo., but that's with a roommate, and, you know, being flexible about the distance to the subway and the size of my apartment.

Others have also commented on how money does not go as far in NY as in NM. To expand on this a little, I would say that spending $30-50 weekly on nice meals/cocktails would not be remotely considered "a lot of money". You can easily spend $10-12 per drink here ($6 or 8 for a beer alone, $10 for a shot!), and going to nicer restaurants will certainly run you higher than that per meal.

I make considerably less than $60k and I'm still manage to still have a decent social life, but the tradeoff is that I pretty much always have a low-level concern about money/the worth of certain purchases/outings. It's fine, and it's a part of adult life for me, but if you're used to feeling "incredibly wealthy" and not really worrying about $, it may be an unpleasant change. As anecdata, I have a friend who moved here a year ago; she makes in the high $80s and lives outside of Manhattan, and was recently complaining to me about how financially constrained she feels here ... and she moved from SF, which isn't exactly a cheap place.

Note that I'm not saying you need to spend a lot of money to enjoy the city -- there are tons of fantastic cheap eats and free stuff to do/see -- but for some people, much of the fun/allure of NY is in being able to "go out" and enjoy yourself. And if you drink socially or eat out often, you'll be astonished by how much you'll spend.

But come! NYC is awesome! Honestly. Just be prepared. :)
posted by alleycat01 at 9:34 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for your many helpful answers everyone. I'd appreciate any more thoughts anyone has, too!

I especially appreciated 26.2's answer from a hiring manager's perspective. I will look into some of the neighborhoods more this weekend (I think there have been a few AskMe questions recently) so that I can be more prepared.

I make $60k a year . IN NYC that wont get as far as in New Mexico. IF you have a$60k a year job in New mexico why would you move?

New Mexico is not New York, my friend :).
posted by The Eponymous Pseudonymous Rex at 11:13 AM on October 8, 2010

Some people already said this in their posts, but it really bears repeating -- finding a good apartment in the city is tough enough when you already live in the city; trying to find one from the opposite side of the country sounds damn near impossible. The thing about finding and apartment in the city is that patience is key. When you have limited time to look, it's really to talk yourself into overpaying or living in a crap hole in a crummy neighborhood just to get it done.

My suggestion would be to initially rent a storage space where you can put all your crap, and then either couch-surf w/ friends or check craigslist for people offering a brief sublet or looking for a roommate. One idiosyncratic thing about apartment hunting in NYC is that you pretty much have to be ready/willing to start renting on the 1st of the very next month. If you show up looking for an apartment starting two months down the line, they'll look t you funny, and suggest you call them in a month and see if they have anything available then.

I'm also going to 2nd the suggestion to check out the "roommates wanted" section in craigslist. It's easier to find an available room in fun neighborhood, studios and 1 bedrooms are ridiculously overpriced in NYC, and if you don't know that many people in the city already, it never hurts to have one more person through whom to meet other new people.

For me, the question of whereabouts to live has but one answer: Brooklyn. Most of Manhattan will be far too expensive if you con't want to live in a shoebox sized pad, and the neighborhoods that aren't -- the above mentioned Upper West Side, Yorkville, Morningside Heights, Harlem, etc are both inconvenient and laaaaaame. You want a 'hood that's affordable, but also has enough going on that you don't half to take a 45 minute subway ride to get to the nearest fun dive bar.

Instead, check out Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Red Hook, Fort Green, Clinton Hill, parts of Bedstuy, Crown heights, Prospect Heights, DUMBO, Gowanus, Greenpoint, and the rapidly metastasizing landmass called Williamsburg that has by now absorbed what was once called Mid City, the entire western half of Bushwick, and even some of Flatbush. The commute in and out of Manhattan might be a little more complicated than those in the upper manhattan neighborhoods I'm warning you away from, but they're not going to be significantly longer, and you won't need to take the train to find fun stuff to do.

If you find yourself a good roommate situation, you can pay $700-$1100 a month in rent. Living solo, it'll be more like $1000 and up.

I don't have as much advice much advice regarding the job hunt stuff. I do know a web designer who was able to move to the city before securing a 9-5 job by setting up some freelance gigs (again, via craigslist) before moving out here, and was able to fairly easily keep himself afloat doing that stuff until he landed full time work. Oh, and $60,000 is definitely enough to make ends meet, without even resorting to pauper life.

Oh, and feel free to PM me during your apartment hunt if you want the lowdown on any particular location or neighborhood. Brooklyn is strange place, where you literally can have a major upscale bourgois thoroughfair on one street, and then walk one block East, and find yourself at the gates of some pretty rough projects.
posted by patnasty at 7:27 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

One idiosyncratic thing about apartment hunting in NYC is that you pretty much have to be ready/willing to start renting on the 1st of the very next month.

[Note: none of the following applies if you are looking for a pre-established roommate situation.]

Following up on this (and something I meant to mention earlier): You should be prepared to say "yes" to an apartment immediately upon viewing it, because if it's an apartment is worth renting, someone else will jump on it if you don't. How do you develop the judgment to make that kind of snap decision? You see lots of (probably crappy) apartments, enough to learn what you can expect for a certain price in a certain neighborhood. That's something you can only do once you're in New York already, although some research on Craigslist and Zillow (etc) won't hurt.

In lots of cases, being ready to say "yes" means having your paperwork ready and in hand. IIRC, you'll need proof of income (a couple months of paystubs, or a letter from your employer), a year or two of tax returns, a couple months of bank statements, and a copy of your photo ID and social security card (for your credit check). Some small-time landlords, especially in Brooklyn, might be more laid-back, but chances are good that you'll at least look at a place wanting this paperwork, so it's best to have it.

Welcome to New York, where everything is competitive.
posted by the_blizz at 8:42 AM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

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