Relocation costs now a sticking point for job-hunting security managers

In an effort to cut costs, many companies hire local candidates to fill CSO positions. But are they also sacrificing quality for their security program?

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With security executives and staff in such demand at many organizations today, is it possible that something like paying for relocation costs could get in the way of hiring a new employee to join the security program? Yes, according to a number of people in the industry.

"Companies are finally realizing that they need someone to lead their information security efforts. Unfortunately, [they’re] settling for available local talent instead of hiring the experienced talent they really need” because they don't want to pay for relocation, says an information security executive who asked to remain anonymous because he’s actively looking for another job.

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In some cases, it’s made clear that relocation compensation is not an option. “If you start looking at director or above in the job boards, few positions will state that relocation is provided and many will explicitly say that relocation is not provided,” the executive says. “Since I am looking for a new position, I have talked with several recruiters and heard the same story from them. Companies don't want to invest in relocation and are looking at local candidates only.”

Recently, the executive talked with a large restaurant chain that is looking for a new CISO, and was told that the company liked him for the position, but did not want to deal with relocation costs. “They did finally find someone local who had one-third the experience and had never been a CISO before,” he says. “I will give them nine to 12 months—or a breach—for them to be looking again.”

It’s not unusual for employers to ask recruiters to focus on the local candidate pool so they do not have to relocate someone, says Kathy Lavinder, executive director of Security & Investigative Placement Consultants, a retained recruiting firm that finds and places security management and financial investigative personnel.

“That’s quite common in the larger metropolitan areas where the local candidate pool is likely to be sufficient,” Lavinder says. “That directive eliminates some strong non-local talent, but that appears to be a price some employers are willing to accept.”

Some of Lavinder’s clients have been trying to contain relocations costs when possible. “Some have reduced the number of house-hunting trips to the new location for the potential employee and his or her spouse,” she says. “I’ve seen them reduce the number of paid house-hunting trips to one, instead of two. I’ve also seen a few employers put a 30-day limit on the coverage of interim housing costs to spur the new employee to find permanent housing.”

Some larger companies are expressing a desire to avoid cross-country moves, Lavinder says. “In one recent instance, a multinational company headquartered in the New York metro area asked us to focus on candidates east of the Mississippi,” she says. “The company may have been concerned that someone from the western U.S. may not adapt to the New York area, but I suspect cost entered into their decision.”

Larger companies have always had more generous and comprehensive relocation packages than smaller and mid-size companies, Lavinder adds, “but even some of our larger clients are trimming relocation packages a little. In one case, the company cut out some minor things they had covered in the past, such as the cost of a new driver’s license and car registration. These are minimal costs and candidates would never know they had been covered in the past, so it’s easy for employers to make a change like that with little consequence.”

Another security executive recruiter, Wils Bell, president of, has encountered refusals by companies to cover relocation costs “on many occasions.”

One example was a larger company that was located in a big city. “Their position had been open almost a year when I was contacted about working on their search,” Bell says. “The position offered a good salary, career advancement for the right person, challenge, etc. What it did not offer was any type of relocation.”

Corporate leadership had decided that since the business was located in a larger city, it should be able to draw from the local market. “They still were holding onto this policy even after a year of searching and interviewing several candidates through numerous sources,” Bell says.

And among companies that do cover relocations costs, in many cases the offer is not as generous as in the past, Bell says.

“For the vast majority of positions, relocation has changed from years ago,” Bell says. “Getting a ‘Cadillac’ relocation package is many times being replaced by a specific dollar amount [such as] $3,000, $5,000 or $7,500, and you move yourself. Of course, you’ll need receipts to back up all expenses.”

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These types of situations, with either no relocation packages or limited packages, have been on the rise, Bell says. “I don’t see it as often at the C-level as I do the mid- to senior-level positions, but it is definitely increasing,” he says.

Years ago, relocation packages and their perks were fairly standard, Bell says. “Over the years they have decreased in value,” he says. “In my opinion, money is the main driving factor. Firms could spend a great deal of money moving someone. The actual move, closing costs, house hunting trips, temporary housing, etc. all added up. It is easier for many firms to just offer a flat dollar amount.”

Some organizations are more likely to provide relocation packages only for the higher-level security jobs.

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