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The Situation

I have recently applied for a position in a physician's office, and I like the feel of the office as I think I would do very well there. I have had three encounters with the staff members including an initial virtual interview, a phone interview with one of the providers, then an in-person interview at the office. They were great to meet with as I enjoyed the interview, but they all seemed worried about the commute, which is over an hour to get there.

The Question(s)

I am extremely comfortable with commuting, as this is something I have done for the past year. How do I show that to the hiring committee?

How should I go about trying to convince them, and other employers, that a long commute will not impede my ability to perform tasks?

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    – Kilisi
    Dec 6, 2023 at 20:29
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    Sorry, I haven't been able to respond to and check out all of your responses. Not long after I posted this question, I got a call from one of the hiring managers and they offered me the job. I would like to keep this thread open as I feel like it can serve as a talking point for applicants and even employers. I will have to check out all your comments and I appreciate the feedback from all of you. Dec 7, 2023 at 1:31
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    Is the position you applied for clinical in nature? I.e: will you be providing patient care. I ask as a time delay can have deadly consequences for patients in distress who may not be able to wait for physicians / allied health team members to commute in
    – Anthony
    Dec 7, 2023 at 2:22
  • You have a more than 2 hour commute every day. That is almost 20% of the hours you are awake. It is a real risk that you grow tired of that! Dec 10, 2023 at 13:30

10 Answers 10

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I am extremely comfortable with commuting, as this is something I have done for the past year--how do I show that to the hiring committee?

How should I go about trying to convince them, and other employers, that a long commute will not impede my ability to perform tasks?

Two key points are "just tell them", they can't read your mind nor know you are good when handling time and commutes.

The second one, mentioned in comments, is the observation about if certain tasks require swift attendance to the site of work (given you mentioned it's a Physician, one would guess there may be situations where urgency is a factor).

Regardless, here's my take:

Yes, it's an hour long commute. However, I'm very used to it, I get up earlier, have my routes known and planned and have more than a year of doing it without being late anywhere.

Do you think there are tasks where it could be an issue? Let's talk about them and work it out.

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this is a Tangential answer - I used to have an hour plus long commute. It was when I bought my first house - I bought where I could afford a nice-ish house, which was quite a ways from where I worked.

My solution? I got a Motorbike (initially just a 250, then a GSX650-F, then I got myself a Hayabusa)

Suffice to say - I found ways to have fun on my Commute - yes, even in the pouring rain and cold of Winter - whilst riding in the cold and wet isn't very fun per se - I was kept Warm and Fuzzy on the inside by looking at all the Cars stuck in traffic whose commute would be 50% longer than mine.

So - Why the Tangent?

There's a world of difference between 'I don't mind the commute' - because whilst you might not mind at the moment, circumstances might change to where you do mind - and this is what they are concerned about and...

'I enjoy my commute'

  • I get to ride my Motorbike.
  • I get to catch-up things on the Bus/Train ride.
  • I enjoy driving and it gives me a chance to listen to Music and collect my thoughts for the day.

Find something about your commute that you enjoy and frame it that way.

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    Lots of people with children find their commute is the only time they get to be themselves, and not a parent or at work.
    – simbabque
    Dec 7, 2023 at 10:43
  • Good points. Details matter. When I had to commute on the subway and ferry, I hated it. But now that I listen to audiobooks in my super comfortable car, I love nothing more than a good traffic jam. :-)
    – PatrickT
    Dec 8, 2023 at 4:32
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Your potential employer's concern about your commute is likely rooted in the impact that long travel times can have on employee retention.

Research, including a study by Dr. John Sullivan, indicates that commutes exceeding 30-45 minutes are often linked to higher turnover rates. While I can't confirm the exact 92% figure, the trend is clear: longer commutes can lead to more employees leaving their jobs.

If you're certain about this role, addressing these concerns with your employer and discussing your commitment to manage or eventually shorten your commute might be crucial.

If you are willing to relocate to shorten your commute, make sure you let them know. This will help them understand that the long commute is a temporary solution; most people can endure such commutes for a few years, but rarely much longer.

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    Funny. I've never driven less than 30 minutes to my job (professional world, post-graduate), and I've never left a job due to the commute. Frankly, where I live, there are only about 3 employers I could work for that are less than a 30 minute drive. I've thought about applying at one of them, but I can't figure out what I would do with myself if I only had a 5 minute commute...
    – FreeMan
    Dec 6, 2023 at 13:34
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    I suspect it varies a lot depending on where you are.  (The linked report doesn't give a location, but seems to be USA.)  Where I live, it's quite common to commute 80–120 minutes each way into the capital city — because nearly all the tech jobs are there, there are good train links, and property prices aren't very affordable once you get significantly nearer.  (The rise of remote working has greatly improved my quality of life!)
    – gidds
    Dec 6, 2023 at 16:27
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    The reality is that if you're driving an hour to get somewhere, you're almost certainly driving past many identical jobs that are closer to your house and will pay you at least as much.
    – Richard
    Dec 6, 2023 at 20:40
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    @Richard That very much depends on the job. For some specialities, there might be less than twenty employers worldwide, and possibly none within 150 km of any other.
    – gerrit
    Dec 7, 2023 at 14:10
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    @FreeMan - Over the next year it's highly likely that the other offices in his or her area will be looking. They might not be looking today, but that's why retention is the issue here.
    – Richard
    Dec 7, 2023 at 16:55
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In a business with client interactions on a set schedule, being on time for work is a legitimate concern. The longer your commute, the more chance there is that you will be delayed and cause a negative customer interaction. They are less concerned with you having (being willing) to spend an hour in the car and more concerned with you being late for a patient's appointment.

You need to find a way to demonstrate to them that you have found a way to handle the increased risk of those delays impacting patients. If you can allay those fears, it should not be a problem.

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You don't have to convince them of anything. Just say the commute would be fine.

This won't be a show stopper, it's just an understandable concern. A lot can happen on an hours commute. Especially in a vehicle. I do it on a bicycle, so traffic stoppages aren't a problem and I'm actually faster than the cars at peak hour. But we have plenty of staff who don't use a bike from my area and their arrival times can vary by an hour from day to day, and they often use it as an excuse for being late when in fact they slept in.

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Commuting has been an obstacle for some other employee in the past.

If you really want this job, I'd suggest that you tell them you're going to do a trial run in real traffic, and maybe meet your future co-workers in the office for a quick coffee once you've arrived. Set it up so that you'll arrive at whatever your regular starting time for work would be. This way, you have a realistic understanding on what the commute will be like.

It's really easy to say you can handle the commute, but it's another to experience it. I live in the Los Angeles area. Our traffic issues here are legendary, and never to be taken lightly.

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but they all seemed worried about the commute, which is over an hour [to get there].

They are concerned because they have had an employee where this was a concern. That employee may have had to be let go, or they quit, or they asked for some sort of assistance or accommodation.

Some people can easily handle long commutes. They are not worried about it. They have reliable transportation.

Just explain your situation. Explain that you are used to long commutes. If they accept it that's great. If they still have concerns, hopefully they will discuss this with you.

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    In my experience when management is concerned that the new employee may quit because of reason x, it is because they have had it happen recently. They apply this test to driving distance, time in previous job, years of experience, how long they were unemployed... Dec 5, 2023 at 19:52
  • If the "unlimited, no-questions-asked" sick time policy suddenly changes at your employer, it's a reasonable guess that there's been someone abusing it. (Had that happen at a place I worked.) So, @JoeStrazzere, if an employer raises a concern about something somewhat unusual, it's a reasonable guess that this has been a recent occurrence/concern for them.
    – FreeMan
    Dec 6, 2023 at 13:37
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I have relatives who work in clinical care roles at hospitals and doctors offices (RT, PA, and CRNA)

Important questions to answer:

  1. Whether the role you applied for is clinical - will you will be directly caring for patients?

If your role is clinical, a max commuting distance seems reasonable and many medical residencies in the USA require trainees to live no more than X miles from clinic / hospital. There are two main reasons for such requirement:

A delay caused by excessive commuting distance could have deadly consequences for patients in distress.

If patients were to have an emergency, they may not be able to wait for their provider to commute in from far away before serious injury, or God forbid , death occurs. Even if a medical professional is trained, many medical procedures are best done with 2+ people such as intubation (wife is RT and such is bread and butter for her) in case things go south.

It's true that doctors will have backup doctors to relieve them , but it's also true that consultations with colleagues on patient management can take place at unexpected times. Sometimes, physical presence is very necessary to provide the patient with proper medical care.

Even with proper training and documentation, medical professionals are not entirely fungible.

Sometimes, one has certain niche skills that only that person performs the best. Without such person being physically there, 100% safety or effectiveness of a medical procedure may not be possible. For example, my brother as a CRNA, has a different anesthesia work style than some of his colleagues, that makes him more effective in caring for specific patients.

  1. What type of doctors office did you apply to work in?

My brother is a CRNA and has on call responsibilities, providing him with additional income. However a condition of taking on call duties is that he cannot live more than 30 minutes from hospital. He works at a major academic hospital, and when anesthesia emergencies happen, any further commute time is just not safe / reasonable to patient care.

My sister is a PA in a primary care doctor's office and has no restrictions on where she can live as in her role, she is not expected to be reachable on call. Her role in dermatology is purely outpatient based.

Hence to understand where your employer's discomfort with far commute times may be coming from, it's important to first understand the nature / scope of your role and the type of practice you will be working in.

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Is the commute worthwhile?

Do you get paid enough to lose time during the day in the commuting?

As a single person, I did a 1.5 hour commute (one way). Some days, I had barely enough time to make food, eat, then go to sleep. There were assistances, like vanpool, which shortened the time a little bit.

The issue was that I had friends and family and didn't want to move away from them; the only safe places to live near work were also very expensive. It turns out that the options were about the same cost. Lower housing costs + commute costs == costly housing costs with zero commute costs.

Fortunately, the pay was much more than the housing and commuting costs.

I did the commute thing for over 5 years without any train.

You'll have to decide whether the time cost and your earnings are worthwhile. I've learned that I got other uses for my time than commuting.

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In Scandinavia we have the concept of "Pendler". Someone who commutes for work.

Why dont you offer to rent an airbnb for two nights a week - e.g. tuesday and wednesday.

I rent out an airbnb and occasionally have "pender" travellers who do this. Thus the long commute is reduced to 3 times per week.

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