Travel reimbursement: know before you go

Q. As part of the search for a new position, I’ve had to travel to prospective employers for interviews. In the last two months I had one interview that was 208 miles from home — which cost me a total of $117.10, including tolls. I asked for reimbursement from the Human Resources person the day after the interview. The other interview was 244 miles, totaling $135.20. On this occasion I asked my potential manager who to contact for reimbursement. After numerous attempts, I finally gave up on trying to be reimbursed per customary business travel expense practices. Was I correct in asking for travel expenses? Was my timing correct? I am currently out of work so the reimbursement would be helpful.
A. G., Methuen, MA

A. Timing is everything. Asking after the interview was over is like slamming the barn door shut after all the cows have escaped. If receiving expenses for traveling to the company was an important consideration for you in accepting the interview offer, the time to raise the issue was before you made the trip. “Mr. Smith, thank you so much for asking me to interview, and of course I’d like to. Is it at all possible to receive compensation for the travel expense I’ll incur?” This way you would know up front if there was any travel allowance available which could influence both your decision to interview and your willingness to work for the company.
Q. Both my business partner and I open the mail. I open all the mail addressed to the company, whether it is to my attention, my partner’s attention, or simply addressed to the company only. I do not open my partner’s mail if it is specified as personal or confidential. Is this correct mail opening etiquette?
L. B. M., Hanover, MA
Unless you have your partner’s permission, any mail addressed to the company that specifies it is for your partner’s attention should be opened only by your partner. Mail sent to you or to your attention should be opened only by you. Mail to the company in general can be opened by either of you.

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