No offer and commute may be a factor

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Q: I was recently interviewed several times, by the same company.  I think I probably met with seven employees from the company.  I also met with a board member.  Last week I found out that I did not receive an offer.  I was incredibly disappointed.  Apparently, there was another candidate who was stronger than I was.  I asked for honest feedback but they seemed hesitant to give it to me.  Companies seem unwilling, sometimes, to disclose the real reason of why a candidate is not hired.  I don’t understand that.  One of the interviewers seemed to be overly concerned with my commute.   Candidates will never understand what they need to do differently, or if their experience is lacking in a specific area.  What do you think? 

A: When hiring, companies want to make smart decisions and hope that they hire employees who contribute value to the organization.  Companies evaluate a range of factors, but many focus on skills, education and how well they believe the candidate will mesh with the company culture.  Employers are also trying to minimize risk.  A long commute may be concerning to a prospective employer since there has been research which has linked a challenging commute to lower job satisfaction.

It is difficult to land in the role of “runner up,” especially after you invested quite a bit of time in the selection process.  There is always a chance though that, even as a final candidate, you don’t receive an offer.  In your case, the offer was extended to another candidate.  However, sometimes roles are put on hold or an internal candidate is tapped.

Employers and hiring managers are often reluctant to provide candid feedback.  Sometimes a candidate will get angry, annoyed or even behave in a threatening manner.  It is sometimes a gray area.  When our client selects another candidate, we try our best to give honest feedback, but we have had it received many different ways.  When a candidate asks for feedback, they should be certain that they are also ok receiving the feedback.

An excessively long commute might be a valid concern for an employer.  It would be unreasonable for a company in Cambridge to hire an engineer, who must be onsite, and who also expects a commute from upstate New York to be reasonable.  With hybrid schedules, there is often less of a concern as the employee only has to commute a certain number of days per week usually.  In some instances, eliminating candidates from a certain geographic could be linked to a discriminatory practice.  For example, it would be discriminatory and unlawful if the employer said, “We don’t hire from that part of Anytown” and truly it was a way for them to discriminate based on race, ethnicity or something similar.  Clearly, this practice is both discriminatory and illegal.  This practice is sometimes called “redlining.”  Although redlining is more commonly identified with consumer lending practices, it can happen in employment too.  Redlining is the concept of identifying certain geographic areas and treating residents of that area differently and in some cases limiting access to mortgages, credit and insurance.  This can happen with employment opportunities too.

If you believe you have been discriminated against, consulting an employment attorney can provide valuable guidance. Addressing issues like tackling job-related bias is also essential. Additionally, concerns such as long commutes might worry potential employers.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.