A reader writes:
I’m in a long-distance marriage. My husband lives in Canada — we are about a 10-hour drive away, so visiting is still a plausible part of our lives. However, I’m currently looking for a job that will bring in more income; I’m applying to different things and trying to see what our options are.
How early in the process should I be telling prospective employers about my marriage? For a full-time job (especially one that might require odd/extra hours), I understand that a HR manager might be a little wary because it’d be easier for them to hire someone else will less ties/freer to dedicate time to the company. For instance, one job I interviewed for was a full-time job with “some odd hours/weekends.” Especially if they’d be wanting extra availability / hours from me on short notice, I guess someone like me wouldn’t be ideal for that position because what if I have plans to visit my husband that weekend? Then I’m not available, whereas someone with fewer ties COULD be more spontaneously available.
Or even if there was no issue with the hours, maybe if I was in HR, I’d also think things like, “Well, if we have an employee that might be regularly taking out-of-state trips, what if she has a transportation issue and can’t make it into the office?” Or something like that.
I’ve also applied for jobs with more flexible hours, too, and one question that has come up is why I want those flexible hours — and of course, it’s because flexible hours would be ideal as they would enable me to still visit my husband.
My general thought was that the first interview would be an okay time to drop hints that I am married, etc., and let them work out what that means to them for themselves. It is very possible that my husband will immigrate here soon (at least for a few years), but it isn’t a 100% definite thing.
How early should I talk about my marriage? How might HR managers respond — for a full-time job, for a flexible job? Also, I am fairly young — a recent college grad, actually, and also sort of wondering if they will judge me for being married at my age?
Obviously, from my end, I would put in 110% to make sure whatever arrangements I had with my husband didn’t conflict with whatever job I took. But I was just wondering how this might feel from an employer’s perspective.
I wouldn’t mention it at all, actually. It’s really none of their business. What is their business is your availability, but the reason for your availability (or lack thereof) isn’t the relevant part.
If you’re concerned that a job might need to you to be available on weekends on short notice, then once you get an offer you can ask about that. And when you do, it’s up to you how specific you get. You could certainly say, “My husband currently lives in Canada, and so I visit him one or two weekends per month. Does this position often require last-minute weekend work?” But you could also be less specific and simply say, “How often, if at all, does the person in this position usually end up needing to work on weekends? I ask because I often see out-of-town family on weekends.”
And if you’re directly asked about weekend availability at an earlier stage, you can use versions of those answers to respond.
But being in a long-distance marriage isn’t anything you’re obligated to disclose.
As for what an employer is likely to think about your situation if you do disclose it … Most people aren’t going to judge you for being married at a young age (if anything, employers might be inclined to like it, because — rightly or wrongly — they’ll think it signals maturity and stability). But what they might worry about is whether the long-distance thing is going to become too difficult for you, and they’ll lose you to Canada within the year. So that’s an additional argument for keeping it to yourself at this stage.