Can Having a Long Commute Ruin Your Chances at a Job?

John Krautzel
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A long commute to work might actually affect your chances of landing a job. Although discriminating against someone based on where they live isn't illegal in the United States, companies may favor people who live closer to their place of employment because there is a perception that it cuts down on tardiness and truancy.

Survey Says

A survey conducted by the University of Notre Dame found out that employers are 14 percent less likely to call someone back for an interview if that person lived a long distance away from the place of employment. In essence, a long commute may reduce your odds of landing a job. The methods used by researchers told a stark tale.

People who ran the study sent out 2,200 fake resumes with real local addresses in diverse areas. For each job posting, researchers selected addresses that represented workers of similar educational, economic and ethnic backgrounds. The study found that for every 1 mile away from the place of employment, your chances of getting a position decreased by 1.1 percent. If you live 20 miles away from work, your chances of earning a position lowers by more than 20 percent with such a long commute.

What Does It Mean?

Economics professor David Phillips, one of the lead researchers, says that living 5 to 6 miles away from work amounts to a callback rate penalty equivalent to someone having stereotypically African-American names. Companies may discriminate against you for having a long commute, even though they don't call it discrimination and it's not illegal.

Employers that recruit workers in one place and not another may actually discriminate without realizing it. Older applicants filed a lawsuit against Pricewaterhouse Coopers for alleging the company only recruited new workers from college campuses. That may or may not discriminate against older workers, which is illegal, but it's perfectly within PwC's rights to recruit on college campuses.

Employers may discriminate against certain ethnic groups based on addresses and certain ZIP codes. For example, companies that recruit from one neighborhood and not another may single out minorities as being non-hirable.

How a Long Commute Affects You

Longer commute times affect your bottom line in several ways. If you commute to work 30 minutes one-way, that hour per day is lost without productivity, unless you can work remotely for some aspects of your job. Driving a car to work lowers your take-home pay because you have to pay for gas, car repairs and insurance. Longer commutes may decrease your job satisfaction over the long-term, even if you feel the extra pay is worth the extra time spent away from home.


Companies and applicants have a few solutions that help alleviate any misperceptions about lengthy commutes. Flexible work arrangements, with flexible schedules and work-at-home opportunities, may increase productivity, help employee engagement and cut down on biases against addresses of residences. Employers and employees should focus on skills of the workers, and everyone should understand that arriving to work on time is a requirement.

A long commute should not deter you from seeking a great job. Focus on your dynamic skill set to impress employers and prove you belong on a team, regardless of where you live.

Photo courtesy of kennejima at


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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Karol J thanks for your comments. Nothing wrong with working from home. I do know what you are going through, though. I have been through the same thing. Some employers feel that you are trying to get over on them or that you are lazy. There are some employers who make you download software that will track your time so that you aren't putting time on a timesheet when you weren't actually working. Many employers are still under the old concept that, in order to know you are working, you need to be where they can see you - the butt in the seat concept. The world has changed a lot but there are still some hold-out employers. There are plenty of work at home positions for you to choose from. Don't give up the ship yet.

  • KAROL J.
    KAROL J.

    While looking for this job some employers make you feel like you are lazy or do not want to put in the effort to participate??? Hello have you looked at my resume? How much of an explanation do I owe them? I want to further my career while WAH. Be glad, don’t hold it against me! Help!

  • KAROL J.
    KAROL J.

    I have been looking for a job that I can work from home. There are many reasons why this is a good fit for me at this time in my life and what I am aspiring to do in the future.

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