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I'm looking to hire a part time employee. I looked on Craigslist and saw a resume that looked like a good candidate. One thing that concerned me was all of his positions were in Maryland and Washington DC. My company is located in Virginia.

I emailed the candidate asking if he was interested in a part time position in my city and for a copy of his resume. I received the resume from the candidate and he looks like he might be a decent fit for the position.

His home address is listed on his resume and it's on the exact opposite side of the DC Beltway. For those of you who don't know, the DC Beltway is considered to have the worst traffic in the country.

I Google Mapped the drive from his home address to our office. Google said 1 hour, but I'm fairly sure that's the best possible time. In reality, it would be much worse with Beltway traffic. Depending on the time he left, I would guess 1.5 hours would be more realistic for an accident free commute.

I don't want to dismiss someone on the potential of a bad commute, but I know how bad Beltway traffic is. I also know people think they can handle a long commute but can't and eventually leave. I have been in that exact situation and it is extremely stressful.

What is the best way to bring up the subject of a long commute in an interview? What questions should I ask?


Im adding to my question, as I want to clarify some info.

First off, I dont want to hire someone, invest time, effort, and training to have them realize they dont want to do that commute. Ive seen it happen before and it wastes everyone's time.

If he were to drive here with no traffic, that would take 1 hour. I would estimate that with regular rush hour traffic, it would take a minimum of 1.5 hours. However, accidents, road work, whatever, it will take much longer. I have seen it take 3-4 hours sometimes to go that distance if there is an accident. I was stuck on the Beltway in one spot for 4 hours - didnt move an inch.

Flex time is not really an option. The position is for a PC support tech. I need him there when the office opens, in case there are issues first thing in the morning. That would mean, he would have to leave during rush hour to get there between 8-9. Also, he wont be able to get in the office until the doors open, so he cant come early.

I checked with some friends of mine who do HR. They said it is perfectly legal and acceptable to consider commute time when hiring an employee.

Anyways, I did schedule him for an interview. Who knows, maybe he will be amazing and wont mind the commute. I wanted to schedule him at 9AM, but he didnt get back to me in time and another candidate requested that slot, so I gave it to her.


Well, the interviewee was a no-show. So in the end, all this was for naught.

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During your discussions with this candidate, have you mentioned the expected working time, such as what days the employee is expected to be in the office, what time the normal working shift is, and the possibility of working remote (either completely or starting the day remote and relocating after the traffic settles)? –  Thomas Owens Aug 13 at 14:52
    
I know I have selected an answer, but feel free to add any addition questions I should ask. –  Keltari Aug 13 at 15:22
    
It's not that you should ask additional questions, but I think the way you approach it should vary. If the job posting contained the office location, the expected start and end times of work, and if work from home was allowed or not, I would expect someone who knows could not reasonably work those hours to self-disqualify and I would approach asking the questions differently. –  Thomas Owens Aug 13 at 15:27
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Is it possible that the candidate is planning to commute via Metro? That may not make a significant difference on the commute time, but it would minimize the variability - and perhaps he could get work done on the train. –  alroc Aug 13 at 15:47
    
When I worked in NOVA I had a number of co-workers that made the commute from Maryland and had for years. It is not uncommon. –  Bill Leeper Aug 13 at 16:14

2 Answers 2

up vote 44 down vote accepted

What is the best way to bring up the subject of a long commute in an interview? What questions should I ask?

This is a perfectly reasonable thing to bring up during the interview (particularly for a part-timer), and one I ask about all the time.

You don't want to hire someone who will quickly decide to leave just because the commute is too long and stressful.

In the past, I've said things like "I see you live in X. I'm guessing that's going to make for a long commute each day. How do you feel about that? Have you had positions with such a commute in the past?"

Then, I listen for the reaction.

Some folks are perfectly happy with commutes far longer that I could tolerate. So it's a topic I try never to pre-judge.

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Indeed. I've also encountered candidates that were looking to move (or an excuse to move) anyways. Less of a possibility for a part-timer perhaps, but something to consider. –  Telastyn Aug 13 at 14:58
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Sounds like a decent start. Actually, one of my coworkers suggested that if I were to interview him, give him an interview time that will force him into rush hour traffic. Obviously, see if he shows up on time, as well as see and ask how the commute affected him. –  Keltari Aug 13 at 15:17
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I agree with Joe, particularly since it takes time to learn the best route and how long it will take you every day. –  David K Aug 13 at 16:53
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+1 for not pre-judging. I commute an hour each way, and it doesn't bother me at all. Some people would go nuts probably, but you shouldn't assume that will bother this employee. –  Bobo Aug 13 at 20:25
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+1 about pre-judging! I love driving. Plenty of time to relax, listen to music and think about stuff. I would be fine with a 2-hour commute as long as I was being paid decently, or being reimbursed for gas. –  Chris Cirefice Aug 14 at 3:17

When I worked corporate and we were recruiting for our branch we were told not to consider length of commute because it could be seen as a pretext for discrimination. They saw a risk that we might favor candidates from only the "right" neighborhoods.

I disagreed with them, but corporate HR made the rules so we interviewed people from a wide geographical range .

I suggest you leave it to the employee. If he is willing to work 4 hours a day with an hour and a half commute each way, that should be his decision.

If you are feeling charitable, consider setting the part time schedule of 3 days a week , 7 hours a day if that suits your needs.

He may be looking at the position as an entry into full time positions and be willing to accept the commute, but it should be his choice.

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and of course you silently put a big negative mark on the resumes of anyone outside the 1 hour (for example) bubble, and rejected them all with some standard reason like "we don't think you'd be a good fit for our team". –  jwenting Aug 19 at 7:28
    
@jwenting: one of the tings I do in real life is defend retaliatory discharge cases. It is really not that hard to identify and prove pretext if that is what the employer is doing. It is my job to counsel the employer to avoid pretext –  piquet Aug 19 at 16:57
    
Having seen numerous rejections and people getting fired for such vague reasons, if there's any recourse where you are it's highly regional. In theory here you could go to court and they might even grant you that the firing or rejection was inappropriate, but then immediately turn around and say something like "but the relationship between employer and employee has been damaged to such a degree that meaningful cooperation is now impossible so the contract is terminated". Most you can hope for is a few months' worth of wages as compensation. –  jwenting Aug 20 at 6:23

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