Quick--name two things everyone talks about when it comes to their job. If you guessed how long they've been working and how long it takes them to get there, you're well positioned to make use of some surprising new data on which subject matters more in a potential hiring situation.

Employers know that, all things being equal, it's good to hire quality applicants who live within a convenient distance from the workplace. Candidates living closer might be seen by employers as more likely to be reliable, on-time, and happy with the job because of the reasonable commute. Just the same, it's nice to see that potential hires have the right experience. But weighing the relative importance of these factors on a case-by-case basis can be puzzling, time consuming, and, often, both.

Data Shows Proximity Generally Trumps Experience

Current research gives a window into how much employers value proximity. At Workpop, we looked for patterns in more than 300,000 applications to figure out whether proximity or experience correlates more closely with getting hired. All applications we reviewed in this research were submitted between August 1 and December 15, 2016 and read by employers using our proprietary hiring and recruitment platform.

What we found out was intriguing: although there's no strong relationship between an applicant's years of experience and the likelihood that he or she will be hired, applicants living within 3 miles of their prospective job location were more likely to receive and accept offers of employment.

The advantage is significant: the 18 percent of applicants in our data set who lived within this 3 mile-or-less radius were a whopping 50 percent more likely to be hired.

It's fair to infer that it's worth your time to go ahead and contact those close-by candidates, assuming their application otherwise passes muster. Candidates, likewise, would be well-advised to apply to jobs that are closer to their homes.

And yes, if you're curious--there is a small measurable effect that experience has on how likely a job applicant is to get messaged. Applicants with four years of experience, reasonably enough, do get a jump in getting contacted over those without any years of experience. But after that, perhaps surprisingly, we found that likelihood of messaging a candidate actually ticks downward, with employers' apparent interest in reaching out diminishing as years of experience accrue.

Employers Must Prioritize What Matters Most

We could interpret this data in a few different ways. First, if you're trying to decide between hiring for location and hiring for experience, the clear trend among employers is to go for location.

On the other hand, if experience is of special importance to you, or you already know that location just doesn't matter as much (because you're comfortable with remote work, for instance), you could have an opportunity to connect quickly and effectively with experienced applicants that other local employers aren't really reaching out to.

To sum up, our data analysis strongly suggests that proximity to work correlates much more closely than experience with likelihood of employment--so much so that, other details aside, employers tend to give nearby applicants an edge. But if you're already determined to put a premium on proximity or on experience, you may get a great shot at good applicants who are more likely to be messaged by employers, but not as much as you might think. Time to open that email tab.

Published on: Feb 7, 2017