The Secret of Geographic Undesirability

The Secret of Geographic Undesirability

I broke code again today – for a good reason. I did it to help a friend.  I don’t like to give away secrets of our trade – the dastardly doings of recruiting professionals. What does a “you’ll be moving forward” really mean? When is a smile and nod really more of a “no way, no how?”, etc. But, I broke code today and let a friend in on the Secret of Geographic Undesirability.

It’s no secret that we don’t like those who are geographically undesirable.  Whether you are looking at a new house or dating, hiring an employee or considering a career move yourself, it’s not actually a secret that distance can create a serious emotional barrier, in addition to the obvious physical one. So, where was the big recruiting secret? How did I break code?

I explained to my friend, that his geographic limitations could cost me my client.

You see, I want to believe you, dear candidate, when you tell me you’re up for an hour-plus commute. I want to accept at face value that if the opportunity is awesome, you will drive. I mean, why would you lie? Let’s move forward, right? Well, here’s the problem. You are not likely to take this geographically undesirable opportunity – if offered – if you are able to secure a closer opportunity. In fact, in our experience, you are likely to turn down the faraway offer if you are merely interviewing for closer opportunities. The bird in hand argument does not have a chance when up against the murderous commute.

So, how this goes down for recruiting folks, is as follows:  We present our fabulous candidate (you). We convince our hiring manager that you are fine with the commute – her obvious first concern when she saw your address. When you ultimately turn down the offer – and trust me you are likely to do just that – you send a beautifully written note explaining that the commute was just too difficult. You see, you believe you are preserving a relationship. You know your path – and that of the  hiring manager – will likely cross again. So, you will blame the commute distance in your ultimate declination.

Unfortunately, our client will fire us. We are expected to vet this upfront. We knew where you lived, and where the employer is located. So, how is it only now, after rounds of interviewing that we learn this is a problem for you? We can’t tell the truth – that you assured us that the problem was nonexistent. We can’t imply that you lied or misled. Because again, why do they need a recruiter who would have missed such obvious signs.

It is easier not to pursue your candidacy from the start.

Lest I leave you mad at the lack of control on your part, if you are in the one per cent of folks who like a long commute, I will leave you with some steps you can take to remain in consideration in situations such as these:

  1. Point to long stints with equally long commutes. “Please see the position at ABC on my resume. I commuted 60 miles each way for over 3 years and only left that position when the company shut down operations…”
  2. Let me know if you have friends or relatives with whom you can stay two or three days per week.
  3. Let me know if you would consider relocating to be closer to your job, if you like it.
  4. Point to examples of you having moved closer to your jobs, in similar situations.

In other words, know and acknowledge the fear and then work to truthfully assuage all doubts. Otherwise, we’ll file you in the Geographically Undesirable category, and you may not know it.


Marilyn Weinstein is Vivo’s founder and Chief Executive Officer, responsible for overall strategy and business growth and development. Prior to starting iTalent Solutions in 2006—the successful effort which paved the way for Vivo’s launch in 2009—Marilyn was Vice President and General Counsel for AlphaSoft Services Corp., where she served on the company’s Executive Team for over seven years. She helped AlphaSoft grow from a start up to a $50 million per year, multi-office success story.