Remotely Appealing

Most job seekers don't look to remote areas of Alaska, Arkansas, Wyoming or Wisconsin for jobs unless they want a certain lifestyle. And that is the key for companies that need to recruit for an out-of-the-way facility.

Most job seekers don’t look to remote areas of Alaska, Arkansas, Wyoming or Wisconsin for jobs unless they want a certain lifestyle. And that is the key for companies that need to recruit for an out-of-the-way facility.

For example, Arkansas is a choice state for those who prefer an outdoors lifestyle, says Mark Rednick, president of recruiting firm MRI/Sales Consultants. Finding out what longtime residents do for rest and relaxation is a good starting point for companies recruiting workers to out-of-the-way places, he says.

Rednick recommends asking the local chamber of commerce what the community has to offer. "How many lakes do you have? How’s the hunting? Have you guys won any sports events lately? These are things that people care about, and they represent the rudiments or components of lifestyle."

The recruiter found a plant manager for a rural Arkansas site by hyping the state’s 150 lakes. The new hire was a fisherman and couldn’t wait to get there, he says. "So it was almost entirely a lifestyle issue" rather than how much money was involved or the job title, he recalls.

Quality-of-life offerings, says Mark Weitz of Chinook Engineering/Inter-Mountain Labs in Sheridan, Wyo., "are paramount. Quality of life is what living in the West is about; it’s what drives folks to be out here.

"Our prime professional benefit is lots of opportunity for innovative thinking and development, and therefore great professional growth."

Chinook Engineering, a division of Inter-Mountain Labs, is involved in the development of innovations, measurement tools and technology transfer. Weitz, Chinook’s director, says the company recruits at universities, by word of mouth and in regional newspapers.

"Personal contacts are essential," he says. "Our two main strategies are to hire entry-level folks from universities and trade schools and to network with Wyoming-minded people to learn about interested candidates.

"We've established relationships with many of the (university) departments and so we’re actually able to go to department heads or professors. We do go through the career day program and things like that, but when it comes to looking for specific people, we’ll contact individual professors."

Weitz says recruits need to understand what it’s like to live and work in a rural setting. Sheridan is seven hours by car from Denver and has a population of 25,000.

"For most people, Wyoming (and the rural West in general) is simply too wild to consider living here," Weitz says. "We don’t have many malls, highways or the general trappings of modern suburban America." These communities also lack long commutes and high crime rates, he says.

Quality of life also plays into Wal-Mart relocations, says Eric Segal of headhunting firm Kenzer Corp. Wal-Mart "was a company that grew in a very specialized area with a very specialized culture." He says "the area has seen fit to grow itself according to what is needed by those people who would be coming in from the outside"—education and sports arenas, for example.

Doing the legwork

"One of the first things that I’ve always insisted upon," Segal says, "is that I visit with the client at his or her location so that I can walk away not just understanding what they are looking for in the technical and chemistry of the individual, but what is it the area offers." Segal says he looks into the housing market, school systems and cultural events to see what kind of life new hires would have.

For example, many Lands’ End recruits were people who had lived in Wisconsin and wanted to return. The Dodgeville, Wis.-based retailer has been easy to recruit for, Segal says. "A lot of the people who come in are recent college graduates and a lot of people went to school in Wisconsin; a lot of people like the area."

Quality of life and education are big factors, but companies must also provide a support group of employees who have made transitions, suggests Joyce L. Gioia, president of consultancy The Herman Group. Gioia says these employees can offer advice to new recruits. The best plan is to make sure the new recruit will be comfortable living in the remote area.

"It’s a matchmaking game," Segal says. "It’s selling the right product [the site] to the right person [the candidate] at the right price." To do that, he says, you have to be honest and portray the area in its true light. "The key behind it is being able to give somebody a realistic view of what is there."

Paula Manning and Jennifer Brugh, co-owners of recruiting company Triad Resources in Houston, say that dispelling rumors and shattering stereotypes are also part of selling the area. Manning says such things can paint an inaccurate picture of an area. Triad Resources was hired to recruit business analysts for a company in Owensboro, Ky. Selling the area was the key, she says. Brugh says quality-of-life factors—How are the schools and school districts? What are the living and working conditions?—are also concerns.

Perception can be everything

Many times, says Rednick, people are lured by the glamour associated with an industry. He says that the oil companies have very remote locations (think pipelines in Alaska) with oil patches and company stores, but "there’s the glamour of the oil business"—and the salary—that brings in recruits. He has recruited for Exxon Mobile Corp. and Texaco Inc.

Another Alaska-based industry that has a less-glamorous image is commercial fishing.

Steve Rothberg, president of CollegeRecruiter.com, recruits for a staffing company that helps fishery companies recruit students to work in the summers. He says that most employees who move to remote sites fall into two categories: those who grew up in a remote area, went to an urban school and want to return home; and those who grew up in cities and want to "experience a different lifestyle, even if it’s just a temporary adventure."

Rednick says younger workers, those in their 20s, want to see the world. They want to travel to remote sites in the United States and other countries because it appeals to them. But then, as they age, they want to settle in a more urban area.

Responsibility is a factor for younger workers, say Brugh and Manning. Those in their 20s and 30s might be more willing to take a job in the middle of nowhere to work up the corporate ladder more quickly. Those jobs offer more responsibility and more of a chance for workers to prove their worth.

But the bottom line in recruiting workers to remote locations will be what the area offers in terms of lifestyle, Weitz says. "We have a quality of life that is closely tied to the out-of-doors and generous personal liberties. Our recruitment strategies center on finding top people who want this lifestyle for themselves and their families."

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