I was just contacted by a company whose offices are two minutes walk from my flat. Now let's assume that I am interested in the job and get to the interview stage. For me the location is obviously a bonus, but do they care? I don't know whether I should mention it. If they do care I would include it in the secondary motivations for the job, after presenting the primary ones, but if they don't, I wouldn't want to dilute actual reasons.
I don't ask people where they live or how long their commute would be. I also don't refrain from hiring people because their commute would be too long, though I wouldn't be surprised to hear that some employers do, worrying they would eventually lose you and the investment they'd made in you. But even those employers won't distinguish between "lives two minute walk from work" and "lives within a reasonable commute distance for this culture" - say an hour of driving or public transit if you live in Toronto, presumably less in other places.
However if you want them to make that distinction, then show it to them yourself to make it a positive for you. Some examples:
- when they ask "did you have any trouble finding our offices?" as a typical conversation opener, you give a big smile and say "oh absolutely not, we're only two minutes walk from my home here so I was already familiar with the location!"
- when they ask "why do you want to work here?" you use the typical answers about technology and why you're a great fit for the job, and you wind up with "and I love the idea of having a two minute walk to work, that would be so great!"
- if the conversation turns to overtime, on call, flex hours, working from home or the like, present your benefit. "I don't mind coming in for 9 because I don't have to worry about traffic, it's just a two minute walk for me." "I can stay a little late because getting home will only take me two minutes, I don't have to run to catch a train." That sort of thing.
Don't bring it up more than once or twice, but connect your lucky location to things that matter to them - your wanting the job, your availability at times when commuters may have problems being available, and so on.
If you have two candidates who are exactly alike in every way, and act the exact same way in the interview, then they will prefer the closer candidate. However, if the closer candidate is even a little less competent or desirable in terms of skills, they will take whatever gets them the most bang for their buck regardless of how far someone lives.
I would say that living close to work is more of the employee's benefit than the employer.
I went for a job as a handyman.
"Can you lay bricks?" "No"
"Can you plaster?" "No"
"Can you do any carpentry?" "No"
"Then why are you handy?"
"I only live round the corner"
(With apologies to Ronnie Corbett)
Employers don't really care about how close you live, just how far. If you have a long commute you may be late, have car trouble, call off due to bad weather etc. Being close doesn't really get bonus points.
Usually they only care if it's a perceived problem.
For example, I was interviewing 2 people for a role. One had a 30 mile commute on busy highways, the other came from the local city a few miles away. My boss (director level) urged me to discount the far away person as having an unsustainable commute (we didn't have flexible hours either). It turned out that the nearer person didn't drive, and public transport was non-existent at the business park where we worked, so actually it would have been much harder for him to sustain his commute. However the director saw the city name and assumed there would be no issue.
If I were a prospective employer, I'd take the view that an employee's commute is their own business and it's their responsibility to plan for it. Having said that, some companies do run shuttles to and from the office from various commuting endpoints. Having said that, I am more likely to be on time if I have to take transportation to an office one hour away than if all I have to do is to walk to an office 15 minutes away - that's because I am totally careless about the so-called 15 minutes walk, I do absolutely no planning, I am too comfortable flying out the door at the last possible second and I sport a hypocritical grin when I show up late and I get away with being late :)
I would view it as a small positive during the interview experience if a candidate is close to the office. I've also seen cases where close proximity to the office leads to highly variable arrival times at the office.
Where distance from the office gets to be a serious concern for me is if a current employee moves to a new location that is (still) a significant commute from the office. In this case, I expect them to start to have difficulty with attending morning or late afternoon meetings, them to work from home more frequently and them eventually looking for different opportunities because the commute is too much.