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Because of family and my wife's job I am limited to a very specific search radius when looking for openings or companies/institutions with possible openings. I also want to turn in high quality applications as well as follow-up repeatedly with prospective employers during my search, so I don't want a lot of search results that are clearly too far away from home to be practical.

Given that I will be traveling by car with access to one major highway, and living in a city of roughly 90k people, is there a way (rule of thumb) that I can use to convert distance to commute time? (Disclaimer: I know this will depend greatly on things like geography and population density.) For example, does a 30 mile search radius roughly translate into a 1 hour round-trip commute, give or take?

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    You could have look at openrouteservice.org. In the left pane under "Route-Extras" they have a tool that can display on the map the area that you can reach by a given means of traffic in a given amount of time. – Benedikt Bauer Oct 26 '15 at 15:21
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    In urban areas, twice the distance may be half the commute time, if it's a reverse commute or if the start/end times differ by half an hour.. I'd start by casting a wide net, then when you get nibbles figure out the time to/from each as part of your process of evaluation. You may also want to check public-transit or bicycle commute times; they aren't always significantly slower. – keshlam Oct 26 '15 at 23:36
  • "follow-up repeatedly with prospective employers during my search" I feel like I should point that this is not something you should ever do. The principle of "don't call us, we'll call you" very much applies to job searching. You generally only follow-up once, maybe twice, if the company doesn't report back within the time frame they gave. Showing up in person unannounced (as your question seems to suggest) is even worse and likely to get your candidacy dropped. – Lilienthal Oct 27 '15 at 14:07
  • @Lilienthal, that's not what I meant. And to be honest it's never been clear to me what to do: Some folks say, yes, be aggressive, it shows interest!, others say don't. I guess there's a good middle ground. Thanks for your input. – Joel DeWitt Oct 27 '15 at 18:30
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    @JoelDeWitt You'll find that the folks providing advice like that often A) are selling it to you, B) haven't interviewed in decades, or C) are part of a college career office. Instead of finding a middle ground, focus on making your resume and cover letter stand out, rather than the way you apply. At the risk of being preachy, I've dropped a few links in chat that I highly recommend checking out. – Lilienthal Oct 27 '15 at 18:43
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I think this question is a little vague, but I'll do my best to answer.

If you can tell us the route, someone might live in that area and can tell you. The best bet is to wait until a company is interested in you and then simply attempt to commute to that location during the normal working hours to get a gauge on how long it'll take.

Also if you lived in the area long enough you'd know the traffic conditions. I would say normally people search within a 10-20 miles radius of where they live, and on average take about 15-45 minutes to commute.

Take for example my old job, it is about 10 miles away. It takes me in the morning about 15 minutes to get there (on empty road conditions I can make the same commute in 10 minutes), so conclusively it is good for me since the commute time is on par. However, during commute home hours, it takes me nearly an hour (or more) to travel back that 10 miles because everyone happens to live in that same exit that I take since it is a high density living area. So everyone from all jobs around come back to that same exit.

Edit: Another idea is if you live in USA, try going on that city data website and post on the forum there about traffic conditions on the area you're interested in. Perhaps they can give you a rough estimate.

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    "I think this question is too vague to really answer." Then please don't. If you want to discuss the OP's question, invite him to chat instead. – Lilienthal Oct 27 '15 at 14:03
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This is a very subjective question: I've had three commutes of around one hour. One was 70 miles, another 28, the other less than 15. The first was on a motorway, the second a major road, and the latter through country lanes. This will be very different in downtown LA (where an hour may take you 6 miles through the city), or Germany (where an hour could be 130 miles on the Autobahn, if you had a good run), or Japan, where if you got a bullet train you could travel 200 miles in an hour if your home and office were next to the station

Pick some nearby towns and put them in Google/Apple maps etc for directions: that should tell you how far away they are (roughly) by both time and distance. Then simply repeat for different towns until you find an approximate distance that translates to an hour.

You could also just put in a smaller radius to start with, then when you've applied for every company you like in that radius, slowly expand it until you hit a sensible limit. That way you're going for closer jobs first, but not diluting your applications by doing too many, too quickly.

  • "Germany,where an hour could be 130 miles on the Autobahn". I take it you've never driven in Germany, in a reasonably populated area, during rush hour... – sleske Oct 26 '15 at 14:20
  • Could be not is - equally my 70 miles on a UK Motorway could have been 10 miles on the M25. That's why I didn't specify an area of Germany - it's certainly possible to find jobs very close to the autobahn in areas of lower population. My point was that the time can vary hugely depending on geography, where an hour could be a few miles, or potentially hundreds. In fact, there's a guy who commutes from Barcelona to London (admittedly only a few times a month).... theguardian.com/cities/2015/aug/11/… – Jon Story Oct 26 '15 at 14:23
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I would strongly suggest the three factors to keep in mind are:

  1. Time it takes not distance.
  2. Method of travel i.e. public transport or car.
  3. Flexibility, does the company have a policy to work form home, on the train or come in early to dodge the worst of the traffic. This can make a massive difference, if you're able to work from home once a week or travel in for ten instead of nine.

Don't use your interview travel as a good benchmark unless it occurs during the same hours you'd be commuting. What can be a pleasant ride on an empty train or an easy drive for 15 miles for an 11am interview can be a nightmare a few hours earlier.

Just remember you'll be making this journey 200+ times a year so be honest with yourself about how this might impact upon your personal life. I worked for four years driving 55 miles a day and spending three hours in the car and grew to hate it.

  • The first two factors in your answer are stated in the question. – Joel DeWitt Oct 26 '15 at 14:53
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    Yes, I listed the factors that were important in calculating if someone should decide to apply for a job. – Dustybin80 Oct 26 '15 at 15:04
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If there is a rule of thumb for this, I don't know what it is. That said, I don't think there is one, because everyone's situation is going to be different.

A couple personal examples to illustrate:

  • When I first got out of college I took a job in a town about 25 miles away from my hometown. I continued living in the home in which I'd grown up. The commute only took about 30 to 35 minutes because it was nearly all highway driving and the two towns were (relatively) small and in a rural area, so there were no traffic jams to deal with.

  • My next job was in a suburban area adjacent to a large city. The commute was less than five miles. However, there were no highway roads that were useful for my commute. Even during off hours the trip took 15 minutes, due to numerous stop lights. During the morning and evening rush hour periods, the commute was never less than 25 minutes and at times became 30 to 35 minutes.

About the only thing you can do is look at how traffic is in your area and make an educated guess at what commutes would be for any job you might want to apply for. If you get to the interview stage, you might use your trip to the site to see what the drive is like. If things look promising and your schedule allows, you might even do a "test drive" during the times in which you would be commuting to see how long the trip would take.

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