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Paying for an Interview

Posted by Elaine Varelas  December 15, 2010 10:00 AM

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Q. I have not looked for a job for many years. I have been happy where I am. I now have an opportunity to interview with a company which involves travel. For the first on-site interview, the company wants me to pay for the flights while they cover hotel and ground transportation. Is this normal? Should I simply oblige or try to negotiate?

A. “Many years” in one job may mean that you have not been open to interview for other opportunities, or even engaged in conversations with organizations, or entertained meetings with search firms. For some reason, this time is different, and you are interested in an on-site meeting with a potential new employer.

Why? That is most likely the question the company representatives are asking themselves. Is the destination somewhere spectacular? It seems the company may be trying to gauge your sincere interest in the opportunity as opposed to the idea of a free airplane ticket.

Many companies and recruiters are carefully watching their recruitment travel spend, and are choosing to use video conferencing for initial screening interviews, in addition to a phone screen. Many organizations set a level of employee beneath which they will not pay for travel, and may say "no relocation" in an ad or posting which conveys a similar message.

I have seen this recruiting and cost containment strategy used in higher education when interviewing graduate students leaving graduate programs. In the early stages of a career, everywhere can be considered a reasonable location, and lots of roles look interesting – especially when there is no financial or vacation time restriction to travel to interview. Colleges and universities developed an interesting way of assessing potential commitment by asking candidates to pay for travel expenses. If they were not asked back for a second interview, they split the cost. If they were asked back and chose not to have a second interview, they split the cost. If they were asked back, received an offer which they declined, they split the cost. If they were asked back, received an offer, and accepted, all costs were reimbursed.

So, how serious are you? If this situation turned into an offer could you see yourself accepting? If you are seriously interested in exploring this opportunity, you can ask why they have that type of policy, and then decide to try to negotiate, to ask to video conference first to see how interested you really are, or move ahead.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.

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Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.

Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.

Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.

Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.

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