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They asked how far away I live from the office?!

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

And you got angry saying it’s geographical discrimination.

You need a job, like yesterday. You don’t care if you have to drive 45 minutes or an hour and a half each way! You just NEED. A. JOB.

And this job is one you are perfectly qualified for. You can do the job, and well! So why do they care where you live or how long your commute might be???

Don’t worry - I got you.

There’s a thing those of us in HR have been droning on and on about for like… ever.


Retention is when a company is able to keep employees on their payroll. When retention is down it means employees are either leaving the company fast, or being fired fast, or both.

When a company is able to retain employees they’re saving money by not having to recruit, hire, onboard, and train new employees.

So, what’s a commute got to do with it? People have been commuting to work for centuries!

This is very very true. Many people still have decent commutes to and from work. There’s a few reasons for this particular breakdown:

1. The company found that people in this specific organization or this specific role who had a hefty commute were regularly late for work.

2. The company needs the person in this specific role to be available to come in for emergency situations, and typically someone who lives 45+ minutes away either won’t be able to, won’t want to, or won’t make it in a timely manner.

3. The company is worried that if they hire someone with a long commute, that person will keep looking for a job that is closer to home.

In any of these three situations, the result will likely be a short retention time. The company would rather hold out for an employee who is qualified and willing, and also close to work, in order to protect their bottom line.

The big question: Is this geographical discrimination?

I’d say generally no, depending on how far of a commute the company is willing to go with.

For example, if the company is willing to hire someone with up to a 30 mile commute in any direction, it’s really just logistics.

However, if the company is only willing to hire someone who lives in a certain neighborhood, this could be unintentionally discriminatory if the effect is that it screens out disproportionately large numbers of a protected group.

Should you still apply to jobs that give you a long commute?

Yes (within reason)! Apply to jobs with an hour and a half commute if you’re able and willing to do it. The worst they can say is no, right?

Please do not apply for jobs with a 3 hour commute unless you are willing to relocate and have indicated so on your application or resume. Yes, I’ve been in this situation before and it’s just a waste of everyone's time to even have the conversation in the first place.

Are you currently in a tough situation at work, in an interview, or with a job application? I've made an anonymous google form where you can tell me all the details and I'll choose one situation per week to respond to on my blog with my personal opinion!

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