Should A Candidate’s Commute Time Be a Selection Factor?

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traffic jam with rows of cars As a result of the slow economy, the number of workers with marathon commutes has been very much on the rise in America, and has been termed the super commuting trend. The long commute trend is also occurring in Britain where commute times have increased by 50 percent in almost five years. This means that more and more recruiters and employers will be faced with resumes containing candidates with increasingly long commutes, who cannot or will not relocate. The questions are should a candidate’s commute time matter; does it have any bearing on the potential performance potential of a candidate; and should it be considered as a hiring selection factor?

In terms of whether commute time has an effect on performance potential, there are several studies which suggest increased commute time has a negative effect on staff retention. For example, a Regus study has found a positive correlation between staff engagement levels (specifically the likelihood of them defecting) and a long commute. They found that 18.5 percent of people, so nearly 1 in 5, contemplate leaving due to a long commute. But, when you specifically focus on employees who commute for more than an hour, this overall figure climbs to 39 percent; so, nearly 2 in 5 mostly satisfied workers seriously consider leaving the job due to their commute.

Another study by the VU University in the Netherlands   found that workers with longer commutes had reduced productivity, resulting from arriving late, leaving early and reducing effort. I should point out that prior to this, most studies showed that commute time and absence were not linked.

And another study by Erika Sandow from Sweden’s Umea University has found that workers with commutes over 30 miles have higher blood pressure, are more stressed and have higher levels of heart disease than those with a shorter easy commute. Too much stress can of course lead to absence and reduced performance.

So, as you can see, there is plenty of evidence showing a link between commute time and performance, which on the face of it suggests that commute time  should be a selection factor. It seems that a candidate with a longer commute might be less loyal, less productive and have higher levels of stress and absence than a candidate living closer, all things being equal.

To me it seems clear that commute time should be a clear selection factor and any candidate’s performing what might be considered a long commute of 45 minutes or more would be handicapped to some degree compared to a candidate from just ’round the corner’. Of course, there are plenty of other factors that can mitigate this such as being more suited to the role, willingness to relocate, possibility of flexible working and so the commute time should of course be weighed up alongside other selection criteria.

By Kazim Ladimeji