Searching for a new job sometimes means taking your “show” in the road for an out of town interview. Given the national and global reach of many law firms and corporations, even if you’re seeking a position locally, you may need to meet key players in the organization’s far flung offices. The interview itself is basically the same whether conducted in your home town or anywhere else; the difference lies in the costs and logistics.
Expenses for an initial interview usually are borne by the candidate rather than the prospective employer. If you want to relocate to a particular destination, plan an exploratory trip there on your own dime and try to include as many interviews as possible during the same visit. When submitting your résumé, use the cover letter to let prospective employers know you’ll be in their city and available to meet on specific dates. Allow sufficient time for them to receive and review your résumé in advance of your visit. If they know you’ll be in their area at no expense to them, they may be more inclined to grant an initial interview.
The costs of second or subsequent interviews customarily are covered by the prospective employer. Almost certainly, if you’re interviewing for a position close to home but need to meet particular people in the firm’s other offices, the prospective employer will pay your travel expenses.
Before your interview, clarify each organization’s policies and procedures for reimbursing travel expenses. Some prospective employers make travel arrangements for you, while others expect you to make your own and present receipts for reimbursement. Find out whether they have in-house travel professionals, or prefer that you use a particular travel agency to make arrangements. If driving to an interview beyond reasonable commuting distance from your home, check with the prospective employer regarding their reimbursement policies before renting a car or requesting mileage allowance.
Remember that prospective employers wish to economize wherever possible, so follow their suggestions regarding transportation and lodging choices. Let the firm know if you plan to stay with family or friends in the area. They usually are pleased to accommodate that and save on costs.
All reasonable and necessary expenses directly related to the interview generally are appropriate for reimbursement. Items typically covered are: airplane and cab (or Uber/Lyft) fares, baggage fees for one checked bag, hotel room and taxes, moderate meal and beverage expenditures (no expensive wine), local telephone calls for business purposes (use your cell phone whenever practicable), and reasonable internet access fees. Even if your host firm is handling the arrangements, be prepared to present your own credit card when checking into the hotel to cover incidentals.
The following items usually are not eligible for reimbursement: extra nights in the hotel, additional days for a rental car and related parking fees, mini bar purchases, in-room movie/game rental, fitness center or spa fees, long-distance telephone calls, laundry and dry cleaning, limousine services, bar tabs, and meal or beverage expenses for additional days or guests. Don’t take advantage of the situation and insist on first-class airfare, expensive hotels, room service, or pricey meals and liquor.
It’s your responsibility to keep receipts and submit them to the appropriate party in a timely manner for reimbursement. Find out if there is a form you must complete. Remember that your expense report reflects on your candidacy. Be complete, timely, and reasonable. Also keep accurate records and receipts of any expenses that aren’t reimbursed by a prospective employer. Out-of-pocket expenses related to a job search may be tax deductible. Check with your accountant for details pertaining to your situation.
To mitigate today’s increased security measures, travel as lightly as possible. You want to arrive at your interview fresh and wrinkle-free, nonetheless. If practical, wear something comfortable for the trip and bring your interview suit. Pack everything, or at least your essentials, in one carry-on bag, to minimize the chances of losing your luggage in transit. Don’t forget to check the weather online ahead of time so you’re prepared not only for your time in the destination city, but also for any travel delays. Wear comfortable shoes since you might need to walk some distances between your hotel, interview, and meal sites.
Arrive in your interview city in plenty of time to be well rested and freshly groomed. You should have access to an iron in your hotel for touch ups, but pack an “emergency kit” for other unexpected mishaps, even if it’s just a day trip. Bring an extra shirt or blouse and stockings, sewing kit, stain remover wipes, shoe polish, pain reliever, pen, cell phone charger, breath strips (faster than mints), umbrella, smart phone or tablet/laptop, back-up prescription glasses and, of course, extra copies of your résumé and other job search documentation.
Do some homework
In addition to researching the prospective employer and job opening, get to know something about the locale beforehand. This is especially true if you’re attempting to relocate and a good idea even if you’re just visiting a prospective employer’s out of area offices for the day. Read the local paper online to learn about the business, economic, social (including sports), and political climate. This will give you something to discuss with your interviewers and impress them with your initiative and interest in the firm and commitment to the area.
Before you go, check an internet map site for the interview location so you know your way from the airport to the hotel and/or to the employer’s offices, and approximately how long it takes to get to each location. Find out about the parking situation, if applicable. Then, give yourself extra time for traffic, weather, and unforeseen circumstances. Print out your travel itinerary and all relevant names, addresses, phone numbers and/or email addresses to carry with you, “just in case.”
With travel expenses and logistics handled, you can breathe easier and focus on the interview itself as a step towards your ultimate career destination.