the sky floor

Why Hiring Only Local People is a Colossal Mistake

August 22, 2022

We are living in a new era of work ethic, where location seems less relevant than ever as an indicator of performance. Fifty years ago, remote work wasn’t even feasible, and the average employer’s mindset certainly wouldn’t have allowed that anyone could be productive working from home. But technology and pandemics have changed so much. 

Let’s clarify from the beginning; I am only talking about jobs where remote work is possible. If you need a team of sandwich artists at your Subway location, Zoom with a robot arm will probably not work. But you already knew that!

The fatal flaw in hiring only locally is simple economics: supply and demand. If you live in an area with an undersized pool of skilled workers, you will be forced to hire the best candidate in a potentially sub-par lot. Your supply is limited, which distorts the market (and not in your favor).

I like to call this the high-school quarterback effect. In rural Illinois, Johnny Squarejaw is the star of the tri-county football circuit. He has never lost a game. Everywhere he goes, he is the hometown hero. Guys want to be him, and the girls hope he invites them to prom. You get the trope. But take Johnny out of Smallville, IL, and send him to a Chicago school with more students enrolled than the number printed on the green sign that says, “Now Entering Smallville,” and his playing looks precious by comparison. Oh yeah, and the girls think his haircut is a little dated. You get the idea. 

Luckily with work talent, the size of where the person is from matters less than having a wide choice of candidates. I have to be precise – don’t take my analogy to pick on more rural workers vs. urban areas. In my analogy, Smallville is anywhere you hire from your local talent pool only, whether Smallville or Chicago. 

I am no zealot when it comes to remote work or in-person work. Business owners must weigh the pros and cons of a remote workforce vs. an in-person team. But in the well-known big fish, small pond idiom, your chances of finding the right sized fish for your pond increase exponentially when you expand the available people. 

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Corporate hiring is broken, but you can increase the chances of finding a long-term worker who fits your organization well by looking outside your local market. 


  • If you can, think about opening your hiring to more geographic areas. 
  • Location doesn’t matter as much as we thought, but you must make that choice for your team. 
  • I have an untested hypothesis: the kinds of workers who work well from home will propel your business forward no matter where they work from!