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December 18, 2005 9:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm an attorney from D.C. moving to San Fran to join my boyfriend. In every interview, the first question is "why did you move?" For several reasons, I don't like referring to "my boyfriend" in interviews. What can I do? [more inside]

We've been together for 2.5 years and we're not engaged and we're fine with that. We will be living together in San Francisco. I think referring to him as "my boyfriend" raises red flags with some interviewers. They may think "well if they're not at least engaged, how do I know she'll stick with him and stay here." Also, since I'm not in junior high, calling him "my boyfriend" in a formal interview just seems silly. I've thought about "partner" but that sounds like I'm gay. And while I fully support gay people, gay rights, and gay marriage, I don't want a future employer thinking I'm something I'm not. A friend suggested I just lie and refer to him as my "fiancee," but that doesn't seem right. For one thing I don't have a ring and for another if we ever do get engaged I'll suddenly show up with one. Any suggestions? Anyone run into this problem before?
posted by bananafish to Work & Money (52 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It doesn't snow in San Francisco. That is one of the reasons I am considering a move to the Bay Area.
posted by camworld at 9:06 PM on December 18, 2005

You could just say fiancé in interviews.
posted by delmoi at 9:12 PM on December 18, 2005

I've thought about "partner" but that sounds like I'm gay.

If you're worried that gay = discrimination, I don't think this will ever be a problem in San Francisco.
posted by frogan at 9:13 PM on December 18, 2005

"My partner" works fine. If you don't want the gay assumption popping up, just find a way to work in his gender, as in, "My partner got a great job offer, and I decided to follow him here." Simple, fast, effective.
posted by mediareport at 9:13 PM on December 18, 2005

You could still do the "partner" thing, and then use the male pronoun in the same sentence. As in, "I moved to San Francisco to be with my partner. He and I were sick of doing the long-distance thing."

Or, as camworld suggests, you can something innoucous that won't incite any questions.

(I've had this problem, too. I've been with my boyfriend for 4 years and and don't intend to marry. I think it's going to feel weird calling him my boyfriend 20 years down the line.)
posted by Zosia Blue at 9:14 PM on December 18, 2005

Er, I should utilize that preview option.
posted by Zosia Blue at 9:15 PM on December 18, 2005

sorry, I responded without reading your whole post. People lie about the trivial things in interviews all the time, and really it's none of their business why you moved anyway. Since you don't want to say "heterosexual life partner" or "boyfriend" I think the closest thing to say is fiancé. Coming up with another excuse would be even more dishonest, really.

Which would you rather do? Say "my boyfriend" in the interview or "well, I guess we're not technically engaged after you get the job?
posted by delmoi at 9:16 PM on December 18, 2005

I think you'll find it's a fine thing to mention. SF is an area with (I would say) a much larger population of cohabitating couples with no legal ties, for one thing. I would only look at a bf-initiated move as a red flag in an interview for a few reasons: one, if you were to leave given a breakup or if he were to move again (i.e. a grad student, or some other itinerant position), or two, if you were to use the position as a temporary stepping stone to get established there and then move on quickly.

I've never had a problem mentioning this in interviews as long as I was a strong candidate otherwise. I just made it clear I would be there for a reasonable amount of time and that I had other strong reasons to want to be there.
posted by kcm at 9:18 PM on December 18, 2005

I don't know -- I did the "fiance" thing in the interview for my current position and it was really uncomfortable for a while because my boss kept asking me about my wedding plans and suggesting different venues, caterers, etc. A few months down the line, I finally had to tell them that we weren't actually engaged and it was pretty awkward. So, I'd really avoid the fiance thing because if you DO get the job, you might be trapped in some annoying small talk about the wedding and such for a while. True, it isn't necessarily anyone's business, but it's difficult to say as much when you're going to be seeing those people each day.
posted by Zosia Blue at 9:19 PM on December 18, 2005

You could always just say that you moved for family or personal reasons and leave it at that.
posted by fshgrl at 9:21 PM on December 18, 2005

Family reasons is better. Personal reasons sounds evasive.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 9:23 PM on December 18, 2005

Would you be too uncomfortable/wracked with guilt if you didn't mention your boyfriend at all? I know it's not being etnreiyl honest but vague answers (the lifestyle, the climate, just wanted a change of scenery, etc) might suffice. I felt comfortable answering that way when I moved from Australia to the UK, and the answers seemed well-received in job interviews. (It's also vaguely flattering to the person interviewing you, telling them how great "their" city is.)
Or you could just say "family reasons"... cos that's more or less true,
posted by bunglin jones at 9:24 PM on December 18, 2005

1. I wanted a change of scenery.
2. I heard that for my particular specialization, there were better opportunities here.
3. I've never been to California.
4. A couple of my friends from college came to live here and they love it so much that I decided to join them.
5. DC is cold and I was looking for a better climate.

I'm not sure why you feel the need to mention your boyfriend at all. It's no one's business that you went to SF for him. Just make up a plausible, credible excuse and focus on the actual interview.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 9:24 PM on December 18, 2005

Damn you bunglin jones, you beat me by a hair. ;-)
posted by SeizeTheDay at 9:25 PM on December 18, 2005

when i moved to a new city to be with my girlfriend, the question inevitably came up during interviews, and i told them why honestly. i don't remember a single response that wasn't some combination of laughter, smiles and understanding. most people seem to be charmed that you're willing to move so far for such a thing, and while i work in a profession that is certainly much less pragmatic or competitive than law, simply telling them during an interview is likely to endear rather than alienate.

but, if you are really worried about it and don't want to take any chances, you could just state some other thing about san francisco that you find appealing. the weather, the political environment, the culture, you just wanted a change, whatever. simply not mentioning the boyfriend keeps you ethically above board.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 9:25 PM on December 18, 2005

Exactly what SeizeTheDay and bunglin jones said. The weather is the easiest thing to go along with.

Leave your boyfriend out of this.
posted by madman at 9:30 PM on December 18, 2005

"Personal Reasons."

That's it. They don't need to know more than that. If they press you, say "It's a privaate matter that I can't go into at this time, except to say that it will not interfere with my ability to do the best possible job for you."
posted by ilsa at 9:32 PM on December 18, 2005

"Personal and family obligations."
"Unfortunately, sometimes the world decides for you."
posted by erd0c at 9:34 PM on December 18, 2005

West Coasters think East Coasters are stuffy and overly concerned with status, opening every conversation with "what do you do/for whom do you work". Play up the angle that you came west to avoid that, it plays to West Coasters' vanity that you prefer their more "relaxed" and "egalitarian" ways.
posted by orthogonality at 9:38 PM on December 18, 2005

Let me put my words another way:

Bad: "My boyfriend is moving out here, so I figured I'd look for a job, hee hee!"

Better: "My boyfriend and I decided to move out here because we enjoy the area so much, and so we'd like to find challenging positions that will keep us here for the long term."

They will probably ask how serious you are, depending on the candidness of the interview, and you can explain that you're in a committed LTR if you care to do so.

Or you can skip it entirely as suggested above.
posted by kcm at 9:40 PM on December 18, 2005

Response by poster: oops sorry about the double e. I've always been told (by career counselor, recruiters) that it's better to refer to him because employers need to know that you have some kind of personal, emotional tie to the area that will keep you there, so that's why I feel the need to mention him. Also, I'm not sure anyone would believe a person would take the California bar just for the change in weather:)!
posted by bananafish at 9:50 PM on December 18, 2005

I wanted to be closer to friends/family.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:36 PM on December 18, 2005

I'd go with "family reasons" or "I wanted to be closer to friends and family", as suggested by others. I would not say "family obligations" because this might make it sound like you have an ailing relative who will suck up all your time and energy. And do state your reason with a smile. You might also say, "And I've always been interested in coming here to do X for my career".
posted by acoutu at 10:52 PM on December 18, 2005

How about, "I always got confused by the time zones on AskMeFi?"

But seriously, I think blue_beetle has a good idea, though there's always the chance of a small-talk-y follow-up about who, exactly, lives near SF. Even so, I think family reasons of some kind is probably a winner.
posted by SuperNova at 10:55 PM on December 18, 2005

i like kcm's "better" answer.

I cant help but wonder whether the people suggesting you mention "the weather" know what SF weather is like. Its not a sunny california place. I've had friends leave here because they wanted summers where it wasnt 50 degrees in August.

Anyone moving here because of the weather is walking into a trap. :)
posted by vacapinta at 11:00 PM on December 18, 2005

How about something along the lines of "My boyfriend and I decided we wanted to...." and then go on about how much you wanted to live in SF. You immediately establish a certain "seriousness" about the relationship without exaggerating or lying about it and you don't sound like a giggly puppy-dog girlfriend who'll follow her boy wherever her goes.
(and that word in my previous answer was meant to be 'entirely').
posted by bunglin jones at 12:05 AM on December 19, 2005

This is a touchy subject.

I tend to be "full disclosure" during interviews; not only are you trying to impress the prospective employer, but you should also be checking to see if this won't be an ass/soul-sucking situation.

I'd go for being honest; "I've been with my partner for x-number of years and I (reason why you're making the move)."

Follow up with why you want to work with this specific company that you're interviewing with.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 12:19 AM on December 19, 2005

Mediareport's answer is what I was going to say, and it seeems like the best option to me.
posted by ascullion at 12:38 AM on December 19, 2005

yep - mediareport has it. SFites will appreciate your liberated vocabulary.
posted by scarabic at 1:15 AM on December 19, 2005

Chemda from the podcast Keith and the Girl coined the term serioso for this very situation. The English language does need a term more mature than "boyfriend/girlfriend" and less gay than "partner".
posted by bruceyeah at 1:27 AM on December 19, 2005

If you do mention your boyfriend, preface it with a number of reasons why you actually wanted to work for their company. When I hired people I wanted potential employees to be interested in the company and the job, not the fact that it happened to be in the right place.

Of course, in the "real world" employers know that people move jobs for many different reasons, but interviews have rules and it pays to play by them.
posted by johnny novak at 2:06 AM on December 19, 2005

Is there any topic of conversation less intersting than the weather? "So, Debbie, why are you moving out here?" "Well, I heard the weather is better than D.C.'s...." ...And the conversation comes to a screeching dead halt in the middle of a 4-lane highway.

I don't really have a good answer, but seriously, the weather? There has got to be a better one than that.

I very firmly believe that the answers you give to the first and last questions (both of which tend to be softballs, anyway) should get laughs. Lightens up the mood and makes the interview more personal and engaging after the first laugh line, and leaves them feeling good about you after you leave the room with the last one. So how about, "Some of that fine Humbolt County I've heard so much about." Well, maybe not in a law firm, but I bet in most other Bay Area jobs mentioning that it was the quality of the weed that drew you out would get a laugh. Schwarzenegger is always good for a freebie, especially now that he's executing people (ok, maybe that's just my humor). Or maybe go gay, but be careful not to offend anybody. Maybe there's a joke about taxes or head of household status or something in there, I don't know.
posted by ChasFile at 2:22 AM on December 19, 2005

Depends on the interview.

If it's a warm and fuzzy one, gush about your new passion and away you go.

If it's cool and clinical, partner works fine - you just need the faith that it *does* work fine.

My parter and I have been together for 16 years married for three - it was weird making the change from GF to Partner, but weirder to then go to wife!

Your confidence is what is crucial, not particularly what you say.
posted by DrtyBlvd at 3:33 AM on December 19, 2005

i use "partner"
(i think it once got her a free flight because an employer was worried about being seen as discriminatory against gays; so sometimes prejudice can cut the other way).
posted by andrew cooke at 4:34 AM on December 19, 2005

I was in a similar situation a few years ago. I used the term "boyfriend," and employers asked no further questions. No one assumed that this was less-than-committed; if it was, why would I be moving across the country? The only difference between your situation and mine is that I actually am gay.

You can also borrow from some of the other vocabulary we have been forced to invent. How about "Man in my life?"

BTW, I have learned to expect discrimination everywhere, including in "liberal" San Francisco law firms.
posted by profwhat at 4:58 AM on December 19, 2005

"For the weather" is bullshit and nobody will believe it. "Personal reasons" can sound evasive; of course, it's none of their business, but that's kind of irrelevant: if you want to get hired, you have to jump through their hoops. I'd go with mediareport's answer.

And mert, see what it says right below the comment box where you can't miss it? "Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer. Wisecracks don't help people find answers." I've flagged your answer as "noise," but I want to tell you personally to knock it off. This is not the Catskills and you are not onstage. Be helpful or move on.
posted by languagehat at 5:51 AM on December 19, 2005

instead of giving him a label just say you are in a relationship and are tired of the long distance aspect and that you also really like SF.
posted by TheLibrarian at 7:10 AM on December 19, 2005

Wow, I'm surprised only a couple of people have recommended not mentioning the boyfriend.

Personally, I can think of a million reasons to move to San Francisco from DC-- the west coast is awesome, I've always loved SF, DC is too stuffy, etc etc etc.

I would never mention a boyfriend for fear of coming off kind of flaky...maybe a misplaced fear on my part, but there are ways to be a little evasive about your reasons for the move without actually being dishonest.

Oh, and I second not doing the "fiance" thing, for the potential awkwardness if hired.
posted by eileen at 7:42 AM on December 19, 2005

For the climate seems like a perfectly reasonable explanation to me. When I was in Victoria half the people I worked with moved there to get away from shoveling.
posted by Mitheral at 7:53 AM on December 19, 2005

Just a caution about using "For the Weather" as an excuse: when I got a job in San Diego a few years ago, I was told after my interview that the higher-ups were happy that I didn't use the weather as my rationale for relocating. Apparently, quite a few candidates mentioned the climate as a primary motivation, and the fact that I expressed my interest in the actual company impressed them - less cliched, more serious.

And yes, I know that San Francisco does not have the same glorious weather as San Diego, but that experience cautioned me against using any local benefits as my reason for moving.
posted by bibliowench at 8:01 AM on December 19, 2005

"For a relationship" seems like it'd fit without being personal.
posted by Four Flavors at 9:12 AM on December 19, 2005

"I'd wanted to live out here for a long time, and now seemed a great time to make the move." If they ask why, you can mention that your boyfriend was living out here, plus you wanted new opportunities outside of Washington, etc etc.

Isn't this really just a throwaway question designed to make a bit of small talk while you're settling in for the interview? I think something a little vague but open lets you get through the social niceties gracefully and gives them the opportunity to probe a bit more if they *really* care and aren't just trying to think of something to say while you finsih putting sugar in your coffee.
posted by occhiblu at 9:38 AM on December 19, 2005

Do NOT say "for the weather". First of all, San Francisco's weather is not that great. Second of all, there are a ton of places in the US with better weather, so who's to say that after a few months in SF you won't be dying to leave your job San Diego or Los Angeles? It's an incredibly bad answer that will make you look like a flake.

I think it's okay to say you're coming with your boyfriend, but add some other factors to make it look as if you probably would have come to SF on your own. Maybe you have family/friends in the area, the job growth in your industry in the area looks promising...basically, just find things make you seem personally invested in the area in more ways that just one.
posted by apple scruff at 9:45 AM on December 19, 2005

I did the same thing a couple of years ago (L.A. not S.F.). All I have to say is DON'T WORRY. If you were interviewing someone who was otherwise acting completely professionally, would you even think twice about him/her saying "girlfriend" or "boyfriend"? Although society has outgrown the terms "girl/boyfriend," they're still the words that technically mean "the person I'm in a relationship with, but don't happen to engaged to yet." Even my 95 year old grandmother has a "boyfriend." Just tell the truth. No one will care. If they are truly worried about you staying in S.F. (which probably won't cross their minds) then they'll bring it up with you by asking you to make an X yr. commitment. But, honestly, I think moving for love says a lot more about your ability to make a commitment than not (i.e., you were able to handle a long-term relationship and are now ready to move forward).
posted by zharptitsa at 10:39 AM on December 19, 2005

P.S. I meant to add to my post above that whenever anyone asks why I moved out to the west coast, I usually say with a big smile, "I moved for love!" (BTW, we're married now.) Often I get "me too!" as a response. This happened with at least one interviewer. I used to work as a recruiter and if someone said to me that they "moved for a relationship" and left it at that, I might think they were a little uptight (I wouldn't think more than a second about it though). If you said something like "I've been in a long-distance relationship for a while now and we decided that we didn't want to do that anymore" I would think you're very mature, but not trying to hide anything.

Also, I personally view "partner" as a term that refers to someone you've been living for at least a little while" (at least that's how it's used most often on the west coast). This is why I didn't say partner when I first moved out here. So, if you're worried about presenting yourself as something you're not, that might be a reason to not use that term.
posted by zharptitsa at 11:01 AM on December 19, 2005

You could always say that you'd like to move out here for the culture or something along those lines. Have you ever thought about moving here? Say "I have wanted to move out to San Francisco for many years because I love the diverse culture."
"My family visited SF when I was a child and I fell in love with the bridges and beautiful scenery."

I see nothing wrong with wanting to move somewhere simply because you happen to like the area. Do you have any family in the area? That's always another one.

I think that just saying "personal reasons" would put people off, especially more lawyers.

What kind of law? Tailor your reasons to be specific to the position. That's what I've always read. Maybe there's something about the legal profession in California that you're interested in.

Something to think about. :-)
posted by drstein at 12:04 PM on December 19, 2005

1. Refer to your b/f as your "man." As in, "My man and I have always wanted to live in the Bay Area for (x) reasons..."

2. Skip the b/f altogether - although it may be a huge factor in your move, it surely isn't the ONLY factor. Decide on some things about SF that appeal to you, and stick to them.
posted by davidmsc at 12:10 PM on December 19, 2005

I know I'm a latecomer to this conversation, but is there some sort of terrible association with "significant other" that I don't know about? To me, it sounds quite committed while maintaining a level of professionalism.
posted by JMOZ at 12:22 PM on December 19, 2005

Yeah JMOZ, I've certainly used "significant other" in professional situations. "Long term boyfriend" could work too?
posted by jamesonandwater at 1:41 PM on December 19, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your help. I think JMOZ has it; "significant other " is probably the best option. I'll also make sure to mention all the many things I do love about SF: the hiking, the laid back people (much better than the uptight east coasters), and of course the lack of snow. And I'm a labor lawyer and it's a great area for that. I'm probably more worried about it than I need to be:)!
posted by bananafish at 3:51 PM on December 19, 2005

and of course the lack of snow

Be sure to check out this question too....
posted by JMOZ at 4:30 PM on December 19, 2005

When I moved to New York City, I told interviewers straight up that it was because I had fallen in love with a woman who lived and worked there, and we were tired of doing the long-distance relationship thing. This seemed to be universally accepted as a perfectly good answer and no one ever asked a single follow-up question.
posted by enrevanche at 4:37 PM on December 19, 2005

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