A reader writes:
I recently applied for a job for which my skills ticked all of the boxes. The salary was described as "highly negotiable" (with no equivalent industry salaries available) and was based in London (an 80 minute commute from my house).
Over the course of 2 weeks, I took part in 11 one-2-one interviews, either by phone, or in person, and both salary and working hours were discussed.
After this process, I was informed that I had not been offered the job. When I asked for feedback, I was told (in these words): "It ultimately came down to logistics (commute time) and salary demand. We were able to secure another candidate that fit our needs at this time. "
I have already responded to this email to inform them that I didn't believe commute time was their choice to make.
I would be interested to know if you have any advice on the legal ramifications (if any) of this, and if you have any advice about how to handle "negotiable" salaries which obviously aren't!
I don't know what that's about, but it would definitely have me wondering if these people have their act together.
In any case, in answer to your question, maybe the laws on this are different in the UK than they are here, but I don't know of any law that would prevent an employer from taking commute time into consideration. I live in an area where an 80-minute commute time wouldn't be considered prohibitive, but I've certainly been concerned about candidates with longer commute times -- because it can get wearying and expensive and make people want to find something closer to home. When I have the concern, I'll usually just ask the candidate about it and see what they say -- if they've done it before and are used to it, that might set me at ease; if they haven't, it might remain a concern for me.
While in one sense you're right that if you're willing to do it, they shouldn't make the decision for you, but it's certainly legitimate for an employer to look at context like this and factor it into their decision. Maybe they've had bad experiences before with people quitting because their commutes became too much. You're right that it's not "fair" to have someone else's experience held against you, but hiring isn't a strictly "fair" process; it's all a series of judgment calls.
On the issue of whether they misrepresented things when they said that salary was negotiable: I don't see that they did. Just because they ultimately went with a candidate with a lower salary demand than yours doesn't mean that they wouldn't have been willing to pay more for the right candidate, or that the person they ultimately hired didn't ask for more than what they'd originally hoped to pay.
I think that, overall, you're taking personally something that isn't personal, and looking for some kind of strict fairness in a process that is more about them figuring out their needs than fairness to every candidate.