04/17/2014 by Carney Sandoe Staff |

Business Class: Travel Etiquette for the Interviewee

Two businessman hands shake

We say it all the time: one of the best ways to improve the quality of your job search is to remain flexible.  This means a lot of things: stay open to different types of schools (Single sex?  Boarding?  Charter?  All of the above!), different age groups, and—perhaps most importantly—different geographic areas.  When you’re this flexible, though, interviewing on-campus at your dream school across the country can be expensive as well as exhilarating.

Often, schools will cover most or all of the cost of travel for teachers and administrators they interview on-campus.  When a school decides to spend a significant sum of money (and big chunk of time) on you, it’s your responsibility to make sure your etiquette is appropriate.

In certain situations, this can be tricky.  Here’s what to do.

Situation One: I’ve been invited to interview on-campus at a school that’s far away.  I’ll have to book a flight and a hotel room, and I’m on a tight budget.  Will the school reimburse me?  No one said anything on the phone….

In this situation, you’ve just got to ask.  You might feel uncomfortable talking about money, but don’t—you’ll be a lot more uncomfortable down the road if you’re a few hundred dollars out.  You can’t make assumptions in this situation, because schools’ policies vary widely.  Some reimburse everyone for everything, from gas money for a five-mile drive to airfare for a 500-mile flight, while some reimburse interviewees who live a certain number of miles away.  Others offer to split the cost down the middle with candidates.  Still others don’t offer reimbursement at all.

Before you get into an awkward or stressful situation, talk to your hiring contact.  There is nothing rude or untoward in asking about a school’s reimbursement policy; rather, it demonstrates foresight and consideration.

Situation Two: I’ve been invited to interview for my dream job, and I’d have to spend a significant amount of money to get there.  The school has a no-reimbursement policy.  What should I do?

This is a tough situation and, hopefully, a rare one.  First things first: weigh the cost of the trip in relation to your interest in the job.  If it truly is your dream job, then you might decide that absorbing the cost is worthwhile.  If you’re planning to relocate to that city anyway, try to coordinate with the school so you can maximize the return on a single trip.

If traveling is still not financially feasible, you can consider explaining the situation to the school.  Reiterate your extreme interest in the position, but tell them the financial strain would be too much.  You can provide as many details as you choose.  In certain circumstances, a school might relax its reimbursement policy.  If it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to suggest alternatives, such as a Skype interview.  Just make sure you indicate the extent of your excitement about the opportunity.

Situation Three: I’ve been invited to interview at a school, which has reimbursed me for the cost of my travel.  Now I want to cancel my interview, though—can I?

This is the most complicated question of all.  In most instances, the answer will be no.  If a school has already spent money on you, then you should carry on with the interview.  If you feel lukewarm about a school for whatever reason, you should be sure to address those concerns and determine your level of interest before the school spends money on you.  If you’re unsure about a position, interviewing can always be helpful.  You might have a perception about a school or a job that is completely different from the reality.  That apathetic feeling that’s tempting you to cancel your interview might transform into genuine excitement once you’re on-campus.

If you want to cancel an interview because you’ve been offered another position, this complicates the situation.  In most cases and if you’re still deciding between jobs, you should still proceed with the interview, both out of respect and because the second school might be a better fit than the first.  If you know you want to accept the first offer, though, be up-front with the school.  Tell the hiring contact that you’ve accepted your dream position, and you don’t want to waste his or her time.  Be as honest as possible: it’s not an ideal situation, but at least you won’t appear rude or insensitive.

Travel etiquette can be tricky, particularly if you’re tight on funds and eager to interview at schools in different locations.  Stay honest, stay empathetic, and try to stay flexible.

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