how to handle an out-of-town interview

If you’re invited to interview with an out-of-town company, you’ll need to do more interview preparation than if you were interviewing locally. Here are seven things to think about as you prepare for an out-of-town interview.

1. Ask ahead of time what the company will and won’t pay for, and how expenses will be covered. For instance, some employers will pay for a plane ticket and hotel room, but won’t cover meals or transportation while you’re in town, while others will pick up the bill for everything. You also want to know whether they’ll be paying some bills directly, or whether you’ll be expected to pay up-front and get reimbursed later.

2. Try to arrive early if you can. If you have to race from the airport straight to your interview, you risk arriving flustered and on-edge. Try to arrive early so that you get take your time and don’t feel rushed. In fact, if you can arrive the night before, that’s often easiest.

3. Keep any other plans for the trip flexible. If the employer is paying for your travel costs, you should be available when they want you to be. That means that if you make plans to see a friend who lives there for dinner and at the last minute the company invites you to dinner, you should cancel with your friend so you can accept the invitation. (Obviously, let your friend know in advance that this might happen.)

4. Bring two sets of interview clothes. Even if your interview is only scheduled for one day, there’s always a chance you’ll be asked to come back the next day to talk further or to meet with additional people. If you are, you’ll be glad you have another set of professional clothes to wear.

5. Be frugal in your expenses. If the employer is paying for the trip, don’t spend their money extravagantly. Fly coach, choose a mid-range hotel, don’t splurge on fancy meals, and don’t rack up room service and pay-per-view charges. Assume that the employer may review your expenses with an eye toward whether you were financially responsible for their resources or not.

6. Be in interview mode the whole time you’re in town. It’s entirely possible that the employer will hear about it you’re rude to the hotel staff or to the person they sent to pick you up from the airport, or if you drank too much and fell asleep in the hotel bar. Be on your best behavior the whole time you’re in town.

7. Explore the area. If you’re considering taking a job in this area, it’s important to make sure not only that the job is right for you, but that the area is too. If you have time to explore, don’t just hit the tourist destinations; try to get a feel for the neighborhoods, walk around downtown, hang out in a central location and people watch, and do other activities that will help you envision what it would be like to live there.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 6 comments… read them below }

  1. JM in England*

    Most definitely agree with 1,2 & 7. Being currently unemployed and hence on a limited income, if an employer won’t cover travel expenses then I sadly have to decline the interview. For long distance travel, I always arrive the day before so that any rail or road delays won’t impact on my stress levels (also has the added advantage of my suit not being creased by sitting in a car/train for long periods). Also, arriving the day before gives me an opportunity to explore the area and evaluate living costs such as house rental etc.

  2. Elizabeth West*

    Re #5 – might they suggest something as far as hotels? My last company had deals with local hotels for out-of-town visitors and executives. We were often asked which ones those were, and I do believe our managers suggested them to traveling execs, since they were told to ask for the company rate.

    I’m keeping this bookmarked. The way things are going, there is NO telling what may happen.

    1. Jamie*

      Absolutely they can/should suggest hotels. When we’ve had people come in to interview we put them up in the hotel which is safe, convenient, and easy for our driver to shuttle them back and forth.

      Funny story, we put a consultant up once and we were paying for the hotel – straight up on our card not reimbursing – and we reserved a room at a nice hotel nearby – he thought it was much too fancy and tried to insist on one he found online which was a much cheaper rate.

      The reason the other rate was cheaper was because the neighborhood was so bad none of us would volunteer to pick him up. The sentiment of trying to save the client money was great, but at some point just know that the locals know more about the area than you can learn online and follow their lead on stuff like this.

      Oh and on a related note when they buy lunch don’t try to find someone with whom to share a sandwich because you don’t want them to waste money as you won’t finish a whole one.

      Being careful with their money is great and leaves a good impression. Acting as if a whole Italian beef per person will bankrupt the place isn’t so great.

  3. Kelly*

    My tip: Stay cool under pressure, a lot could go wrong! I’ve have one out of town interview where I had to stay in a hotel (complete opposite side of the country!) Unfortunately my luggage did not arrive with me and my interview was the next day! I called right away and explained and said I could come to the interview anyway even though I just had my travel clothes on and no portfolio. I was mortified. Thankfully they were able to reschedule for the following day and I received my luggage in time. I think they might have respected my offer to come in anyway and roll with the punches. Go figure it was the only time I’ve ever NOT had my bag show up!

    Otherwise it was a great trip, besides wearing the same clothes for 2 days. And I did get that job.

    1. Anonymous*

      Stories like this are why it’s always a good idea to keep a change of clothes in your carry-on! (Not ragging on the OP, just stating the obvious ‘moral of the story’ for those like me that miss it sometimes)

  4. steve branson*

    Hello there,
    If an applicant receives an email from the HR manager after 1st interview regarding travel/ parking expenses (<$100) instead of invitation for 2nd interview, does that mean he is out of the game (not getting hired) ?

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