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I recently interviewed with a company I want to work with. The role is exciting and the pay is good. They have a "distance-to-work" policy I was unaware of. How should I handle it?

More details: I applied for a particular post and went through the interviews and assessments; from what I gathered they were very pleased with my performance. On the very last (phone) interview though I was informed about the company policy not to employ people living over 30 miles away from work (Point A). This was not mentioned in the job description nor was it mentioned in the earlier interview rounds.

I knew I would be relocating to get this work but the area that my family was expecting to live (Point B) is ~40-45 miles from work. Train connections are good between the Points A & B and I was planning to commute. I mentioned this to the interviewer and he said that "Point B would be too far". At the time I told him I would need to rethink this carefully but I thought this would not be a "deal-breaker". We left it there.

It turns out it is a deal-breaker for me. We do not want to live near Point A. (Nothing wrong with the Point A per se, but it really limits my wife's chances of finding a job.) Splitting the distance won't work. There is a town ~35 miles away from there which would be an option but again I find it daft to negotiate over miles ("I cannot do 30 but I can do 34, we OK?").

The job will require me to be in office every day during standard office hours. I am not expected to be "on-call" for emergencies.

How should I handle this with the employer?

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At some point you are going to have to tell them "I really can't accept that constraint, due to the needs of my wife's career."

You could ignore the issue until and unless they make the offer. That has the advantage of waiting until they are emotionally invested in bringing you on board, and may be more willing to stretch their rules. On the other hand, it also puts more pressure on you to reconsider your own stance.

The quicker way to resolve this would be to tell them now and force them to make the decision.

Given how explicit they were about the requirement and your decision that you can't live with it, I'd tell them now, get it resolved (probably not in your favor, I'm afraid), and go on from there. For some reason this is important to them, and if it forces them to give up a good employee, it's their loss. Personally, I'd worry that anyone drawing this line -- with the exception of governmen offices, who often want their employees to live in the area they are serving -- may have other unusual restrictions that they didn't tell me about.

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    +1 for "if it forces them to give up a good employee, it's their loss" It's their fault if they failed to mention this policy earlier, wasting both your and their time. – Trickylastname May 2 '16 at 14:38
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    Just to let you know, this one had a happy ending. After speaking with the hiring manager I was told the company is fine for me live in my place of preference given I show up on time! – OceanicDrive Jul 23 '16 at 10:28
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This may not be salvageable but it's worth trying: Firstly, you need to understand why that regulation is in place. It's a pretty unusual requirement and there is probably a business reason for it. Normally, it really doesn't matter to an employer where you live: as long as you are working and are on-site at the times where you should be, it's okay. It's up to the employee to decide how much time they want to sink into their commute.

Obviously, it's different if you are a fire fighter on call, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. So understand the reason and then try to come up with a creative solution that addresses that very reason from 45 miles away.

Could be that it's response time if you are on-call: are there occasionally emergencies that need to be resolved on-site quickly? If yes, you could offer getting a crash pad close to work when you are on call.

If it's mostly about response time, figure out what your travel time would be and it's in the same ballpark like other points in the 30 mile radius. Distance does not equal time and traffic patterns and infrastructure can make a big difference. Maybe you can show them that your response time is not worse than that of some co-workers inside the allowed distance.

There are studies that show that commute times are a significant factor in job satisfaction and maybe your prospective employer is worried about attrition. Demonstrate to them that your commute is long but productive and/or relaxing: since you are planning to take the train, you can work or read books. That's very different from sitting in traffic.

All of this is contingent on first figuring the real reason why this policy exists.

  • Thank you for your answer. As I mention in my post this role is unrelated to a time-critical job function (it will have deadlines as any other office job but nothing aside these). Prompted by @keshlam comment I looked into this more carefully. It appears that the largest department in that facility has a time-critical function; I am not joining that department. My job function definitely is not time-critical in the sense that "every minute counts" so I suspect that this is a blanket rule for all employees. I will look into the attrition aspect too - good point. – OceanicDrive May 1 '16 at 18:09
  • Just to let you know, this one had a happy ending. After speaking with the hiring manager I was told the company is fine for me live in my place of preference given I show up on time. They were indeed worried about attrition but I alleviated their worries at this point at least! – OceanicDrive Jul 23 '16 at 10:31

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