A reader writes:
I have a few things working against me as I start my job search, and your blog has been such a help with navigating those issues. One that you haven’t covered is transportation.
Through no fault of my own, I don’t have a car or driver’s license. Besides avoiding jobs that explicitly require these, how should I handle the situation? I am temporarily staying with a friend while I seek a job and apartment. He lives on the interstate (meaning public transportation is very limited and I can’t safely go on foot), so I am applying to jobs in the nearest city. Consequently, I am uncertain if I would need special accommodation, like only working shifts that match the bus schedule, because I don’t know how far my future residence would be from my future job. Depending on if someone could give me a ride, I used to walk between 5.5 and 1.5 miles a day at a previous job (in Buffalo, NY during winter, no less), so I know I’m reliable.
Would it be a disingenuous to treat my transportation as none of my employer’s concern, or should I bring it up? If I should mention it, do I bring it up in the cover letter or wait for an interview?
Definitely don’t bring it up in your cover letter — the cover letter is to explain how you’d be a great match with the job, and you don’t want to raise concerns there that might end up not even being concerns.
And you don’t need to raise it in the interview either, if your interviewer doesn’t raise it herself. Assume that your transportation is strictly your business unless you’re asked about it.
If you are asked about it, you want it to sound like as much of a non-issue as you can honestly make it. Employers definitely don’t want to hear about the details of your transportation situation — if they ask, they want to hear “yes, transportation is no problem” or “no, I don’t have reliable transportation.” (Well, they don’t want to hear the latter, but they’d rather hear it up-front than find out after they’ve hired you.)
Now, if you know that you’d need to only work shifts that match a bus schedule, and if those shifts are likely to be significantly different from what everyone else works, then yes, mention it if you’re asked — because you’re going to have to say it at some point if you get the job, and you don’t want to look like you misrepresented things earlier. And if you’re not asked, wait until you get a job offer, and bring it up at that point.
But if you’re going to be able to get to the job on the same schedule as everyone else, and you’re going to be able to do it reliably, I don’t think it’s anyone’s business how you achieve that. Busses and feet are just as reliable as cars, after all. When someone is unreliable, it’s usually because of their own behavior (sleeping in and missing the bus) or because their plan was never a reliable one to begin with (like counting on a neighbor for a ride).