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  1. #1
    Beetlejuice!
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    Potential Employer not Keen on Bike Commuting - Anyone Else?

    So I try to keep my ranting to a minimum, but today I experienced something that is still kind of bothering me so I thought I'd share and get feedback from those who have experienced this as well.

    I went on a job interview today for a place that is known to, lets just say be very....hippie. At the end of the day it is a business, and I get that, but the overall vibe of the place and impression to the general public is that of woo woo quality. I think it might be a bit more woo than I can handle, but anyway. So I drove today because obviously you want to dress nice and not show up for an interview all sweaty and gross. My interview is with two people and the first comes out to greet me and give me the tour. As we are touring around he casually asks where I live and how long my commute took to get there today. I answer and think nothing else of it, seems like a reasonable question. We go to the second persons office to conduct the actual interview and somewhere along the way she too asks me about where I live and how long the commute took. I'm thinking to myself wow the previous employee must have had trouble getting here on time. Its at this point that I decide to play my hippie environmentalist card and mention that I do like to bike commute to the office when I can and when it isn't 120 degrees outside....thats when I get 'the look'.

    You know, the look.

    The look of, "I can't believe you ride your bike to work" look.
    The look of, "You must not have reliable transportation because you have to ride a bike" look.
    The look of, "You must be a poor bum one step away from living on the street" look.

    I live in Phoenix, where bike commuting is growing, but I think most people see people on bikes and think they are too poor to own a car, or unable to obtain proper ID (illegal). But honestly I was kind of surprised when it happened, I figured of all places this place would embrace someone like me. Anyway, we carry on with the interview and on my drive home I'm still left wondering what happened. The only thing I think of is that maybe this is a position where I could potentially be called in at the last moment to cover so riding a bike wouldn't be feasible. If thats the case, I'm probably not interested in working there anyway because I refuse to be married to my job.

    At this point I'm not worrying about it. I have to go through a second round of interviews (if I get that far) before I can even seriously consider working for this place. Maybe I read them wrong and they were just surprised in a positive way?

    Thanks for listening. Has anyone else experienced this? Or does anyone else currently work for an employer who is not hip to your chosen method of transportation?
    "too weird to live, too rare to die" - HST
    "Oh Gravity, thou art a heartless *****" - Sheldon

  2. #2
    weirdo
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    Weird. I would have thought your hippie green card to be a good play, too. Like you say, maybe it was more surprise? Unfortunately, I guess we`ll never know- whether you get further along the interview process, or even get hired there, or whether they never call back, there`s no way to be sure if the bike had anything to do with it. Anyway, I`ll hope for the "surprise" look, and good luck with the job hunting.
    Recalculating....

  3. #3
    Beetlejuice!
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    Meh, I'm not worried about them not hiring me because I ride a bike, but if thats their decision then perhaps its not a place I should be working anyway. The whole conversation just struck me as odd. Personally if I was an employer I might be more inclined to hire someone who commuted by bike than not, but thats just me.
    "too weird to live, too rare to die" - HST
    "Oh Gravity, thou art a heartless *****" - Sheldon

  4. #4
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    that's kinna weird, I'm with you and would have thought they would support bike commuting. I work for an energy company and they completely support us bike commuters (and people who work out at lunch), there's a secure area in the garage (which for cars is only available to mgmt above a certain level) to lock up our bikes, lockers, and showers

  5. #5
    Moderator Moderator
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    Actually, last week I was surprised to get an email from our Commissioner, who is enough levels above me that I rarely deal with him... it was sent after 10 p.m. no less. It said "Thank you for being a role model for all of us. Your dedication to using bicycle and mass transit is truly amazing. " This was after I sneaked my annual bike commuting mileage into the "weekly report" that goes up the chain.

  6. #6
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    Really? They'd think you're too poor to own a car? What a strange thing. O_O (In my usual experience, at least)

    I'm too poor for a car, but my parents have one. still, both of them use the bike as often as possible to commute to work. Some might think it's smelly, when you get in from really heavy biking (I don't think they have showers at work), but mostly it's just a way to get around cheaply and environment friendly.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Solrider View Post
    As we are touring around he casually asks where I live and how long my commute took to get there today. I answer and think nothing else of it, seems like a reasonable question. We go to the second persons office to conduct the actual interview and somewhere along the way she too asks me about where I live and how long the commute took.
    You should know that an employer cannot legally ask you those questions in an interview, therefore they were unprofessional.

    If you felt like you were obviously judged in a negative manner by your response (especially by something you are proud of) then you probably don't want to work there. You made it clear that they did not provide a good "first impression".

    Good luck with your job search.

  8. #8
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    I like to answer questions with questions in job interviews. Throw the ball back in their court. How long is their commute? Did they buy some house where out in the desert and always struck in traffic?

  9. #9
    MTB, Road, Commuting
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    Weird, so what does this employer do?

    I'm a novelty at my work. I park my bike right in the front lobby being very careful not to scratch the cherry trim. People know I don't have to ride and that I'm just "crazy".

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by in2theforest View Post
    You should know that an employer cannot legally ask you those questions in an interview, therefore they were unprofessional.
    +1

    The only thing they could have asked you was, "do you have reliable transport?" That's it. A simple "yes" would be appropriate for you in that situation. They don't need to know what, from where, or how you get to work, just that you can get to work when you're supposed to be there.

  11. #11
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    It is possible that it is a carbon footprint thing. Hiring people with long commutes burns more oil, yadda, yadda

    My return question would be why they'd want to know, I mean if you are on time and regular as clockwork, that is all they need to know. Don't they have your address on the forms? How hard can it be to look up where you say you live and the distance to work?

    Now if they were considering a person who needs o be available quickly in an emergency, they should ask about such a scenario. My guess is they want to be green but a bike is a bit too weird. If so, and they think about it, they may call for another round.

    BrianMc

  12. #12
    DIY all the way
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    Quote Originally Posted by bedwards1000 View Post
    I'm a novelty at my work. I park my bike right in the front lobby being very careful not to scratch the cherry trim. People know I don't have to ride and that I'm just "crazy".
    Same story here.

    The responses I have gotten from showing up to a meeting on a bike, range from ave to to respect, but nothing negative.


    Magura

  13. #13
    Beetlejuice!
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    Thank you for the responses everyone. Luckily for me this is not a dire situation, I already have a job (three in fact), and this was just an opportunity that I couldn't pass up without finding out more information. I am in no way in a desperate situation where I might end up taking a job that wasn't right for me.


    Quote Originally Posted by bedwards1000 View Post
    Weird, so what does this employer do?

    I'm a novelty at my work. I park my bike right in the front lobby being very careful not to scratch the cherry trim. People know I don't have to ride and that I'm just "crazy".
    Without getting too specific this is a small private college that teaches holistic and alternative therapies. I'll be more than happy to name them after the process is over.

    Quote Originally Posted by FKMTB07 View Post
    +1

    The only thing they could have asked you was, "do you have reliable transport?" That's it. A simple "yes" would be appropriate for you in that situation. They don't need to know what, from where, or how you get to work, just that you can get to work when you're supposed to be there.
    Thanks for the info on that, I was not aware that it was actually illegal to ask. I was not offended in any way and had no problem answering the question. After sleeping on it I still really get the feeling that either the previous employee in this position had transportation issues, or this is a position in which I may be called in on days off for emergencies and they need to be sure I can get there quickly.

    You'd actually be surprised how many job postings in the Phoenix area request specifically that people have a car. Not just reliable transportation. I see it all the time. Perhaps because we are a giant sprawling city and it is not uncommon for people to have a 30-40 mile commute or more into their jobs, with no real reliable public transport option unless you happen to live near the very limited light rail system.
    "too weird to live, too rare to die" - HST
    "Oh Gravity, thou art a heartless *****" - Sheldon

  14. #14
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    My company is quite keen on bike commuting as 5 of the 25-30 salaried employees at my company are bike commuters but its just been because of word of mouth hiring of friends so our company supports the bike commuter culture.

    BUT, our property was just bought by a company that changed the rules and outlawed bikes in the building. Hasnt been a big deal except for two times when the property manager stopped one of us announcing how we should be glad that she's installing a bike rack OUTSIDE of the building and again to tell a coworker he cant bring his bike inside the building. Our CEO went to bat and shut her down, even threatened renewing our lease if that stipulation remained. We're all riding nice bikes and some of the commuters have been bike commuting for 5-6 years at this company.

    But yeah I get the looks from a lot of folks in the building since we're in the ritzy part of town (Buckhead area in Atlanta) and every other car in the deck is a Lexus, BMW, Audi, Infiniti, Benz, etc. Getting off the elevator the other day, I heard a guy remark about how much it had to suck to only have a bike to ride around and a few of the other tools in there chuckled and I just didnt even care enough to point out that I've got the fastest car in the parking garage and choose to ride my bike to work most of the time.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by GTscoob View Post
    We're all riding nice bikes and some of the commuters have been bike commuting for 5-6 years at this company.....and every other car in the deck is a Lexus, BMW, Audi, Infiniti, Benz, etc. Getting off the elevator the other day, I heard a guy remark about how much it had to suck to only have a bike to ride around and a few of the other tools in there chuckled and I just didnt even care enough to point out that I've got the fastest car in the parking garage and choose to ride my bike to work most of the time.
    I think "My other bike is a Carrera, Ferrari, BOSS 302, or Bugatti, whatever would have been a reasonable quip, under the circumstances.

    Turnabout is fair play.

    BrianMc

  16. #16
    Squeaky Wheel
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    Quote Originally Posted by in2theforest View Post
    You should know that an employer cannot legally ask you those questions in an interview, therefore they were unprofessional.
    Are you sure about this? I do a lot of hiring and as it has been explained to me the information requested through the interview process should be limited to those essential for determining if a person is qualified for the job; whereas, information regarding race, sex, national origin, age, and religion are irrelevant in such determinations. The ability of one to actually get to work consistently on time is usually a very important component to a job, and as long as an employer can show a business need to ask a question then it's fine to ask that question. You cannot ask questions that show an intent to discriminate. You can ask questions that determine ability to perform the job.

    Back on topic, my company is very supportive of bicycle commuting. It's very helpful that the CEO is a fulltime bike commuter.

    To the OP, if you go further in the interview process and are still concerned about the bike commuting part, I would raise it at the next appropriate moment and make sure to emphasize that it won't impede your ability to arrive to work on time, yes you own a car and are willing to drive to work when needed, and then stress the other benefits of commuting (healthy employee leads to lower health care costs, etc.). Better to be proactive about it. Good luck!

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodway View Post
    Are you sure about this?
    Woodway, Yes, I'm sure. I do a lot of hiring too. The question the employer asked Solrider, the original poster is "where I live and how long my commute took to get there today". That is none of their business to ask.
    An employer may ask "Are you able to arrive at work everyday at 8:00am?". They only need to know that a potential employee can arrive at work on time, punctually and consistently. They don't need to know where you live or how long it takes you to get from point A to B.

  18. #18
    namagomi
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    If "rides a bicycle" is going to be one of the negative points these morons write I can only imagine what the office environment will be like for you. If "needs a car" for this job is a requirement be aware you're about to get robbed of a significant amount of your paycheck to personally maintain/operate/insure a car on behalf of that company.

    Yes this happens elsewhere, i'm sure it is illegal, many employers just don't have a clue what is unlawful to discriminate against or simply don't care.

    If you show up to work on time ready to go it really isn't their business which way you got there.

  19. #19
    Squeaky Wheel
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    I think we are generally in agreement - it was just the part about the question being "illegal" I had an issue with. It's only illegal if there is an intent to discriminate. A poor question that should never have been asked? I agree with you 100%!

  20. #20
    Beetlejuice!
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    After much consideration, meditation and conference with my significant other I've decided that this is probably not the right time nor place for me to seek new employment. Even if I make it to round two I will decline to continue the process.

    I'm totally jealous of all you guys who have really supportive companies. Where I work now isn't what I'd consider non-supportive, but I do still get strange looks and I am one of a handful of other employees I know of that ride their bikes to work. We just hired a new employee and yesterday I was talking to my director about him and she mentioned that he didn't have a cell phone or a car and that 'he rides his bike to work".....like it was a bad thing. I just kind of looked at her and said well I think thats pretty cool! But thats the attitude I'm afraid in a majority of this city.
    "too weird to live, too rare to die" - HST
    "Oh Gravity, thou art a heartless *****" - Sheldon

  21. #21
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    that's an odd situation. a hippie employer not keen on bicycle commuters? strange.

    I'm even allowed to stash my bike in my office in the middle of a VERY non-hippie part of rural Texas.

    as for appropriate interview questions and appropriate answers to inappropriate questions, my wife appears to have very little filter on this sort of thing. she's looking for a new job now (a little sooner than we'd like, but it is what it is) and she got an e-mail response from one potential employer the other day who was concerned about her willingness to commit long-term to his business due to her prior ~3yr terms at previous jobs. a valid question, but she responded with FAR too much detail that the employer does not need to know to judge her willingness to commit.

    but she does have issues with directly answering questions in general. she eventually gets there, but when she is directly asked a question, she implies several other questions that she then needs to answer first.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by velocycling View Post
    I like to answer questions with questions in job interviews. Throw the ball back in their court. How long is their commute?
    That is confrontational and isn't going to score points. In an interview if you're a smartass you can kiss the job goodbye.

    A good reply would be something on the order of:

    "Am I correct that you place great importance on employees being punctual? Please be assured that I share your concern and am totally reliable when it comes to arriving on time."

    Heck they have your address on the application so let them figure it out.
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  23. #23
    weirdo
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    my wife appears to have very little filter on this sort of thing. she's looking for a new job now (a little sooner than we'd like, but it is what it is)....

    ....but she does have issues with directly answering questions in general. she eventually gets there, but when she is directly asked a question, she implies several other questions that she then needs to answer first.
    Hey, that`s MY wife!
    What the heck is she doing in Texas?
    Recalculating....

  24. #24
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    Too bad you didn't run across cyclists on your interview. I work at a large, bike friendly search engine company that also works hard to be green. They make a huge deal over Bike To Work day, as do other companies in Silicon Valley. To encourage people to be green there is a program where Self Powered Commuters earn $$ charity for each day you self power to work. The formula is they donate 30/N dollars for the Nth day in a given quarter you self power to work. So if you only bike to work one day each quarter, you earn $120 for a charity that you select. The max is $600 per year. There are bikes parked all over the place on campus and in buildings. It is really nice working for a company that empowers bike commuters.

    I don't know why they asked you about commute. Perhaps they were just trying to make small talk. You have to be careful what you ask people about during an interview. Trying to be personable without asking too many personal questions can be tricky. I stick to pets rather than kids :-)

  25. #25
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Too many hippies who can't be bothered to learn to take care of their bikes maybe? I find it interesting just how ingrained into some regions' cultures cars can get. I grew up in San Francisco and have lived in Santa Cruz, New York City and now Seattle, and while I have a car at present, having a car has been fairly sporadic in my adult life. Way too much trouble and expense in NYC, for example.

    A friend of mine who's determined not to be stuffed into the mold of her Southern California upbringing, on the other hand, can't use alternatives to her car when they're right in front of her and convenient. Despite how awful it is to drive in this city.

    Personally, I'm happiest when my choice of transportation, whatever it happens to be on any given day, is no big deal. I like riding my bike to be convenient, not a statement or anything.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

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