Would You Pay For An Interview?

My younger brother is graduating from college in December, and after we gave him tips on getting an internship last summer, he recently was put into an interesting situation that is just asking for a discussion.

The Situation

He’s been applying to jobs the past few months and recently he’s gotten some call backs and some initial phone interviews. One company was very interested, but said they could not bring him from Maryland to Boston to be interviewed. While some companies are able to pay for travel and hotel expenses for all interviewees, some have policies that they can’t do that. It can be expensive to fly someone roundtrip and put them in a hotel for at least one night and pay for their meals.

The company said that since he is from Boston, if he comes to the area, let them know and they could set up some interviews for him. The only problem was that he had no plans of going home to visit yet and he did not want this opportunity to slip away.

The Options

He could have waiting until Thanksgiving, come home a day or two early or stay a day or two late and try to schedule an interview. But would the position still be available by then?

Alternatively, he could have told them he’d be there in a week or two, pay for his own ticket, and find out far sooner if he was the fit they were looking for. Everything was lining up and he thought he had a good chance at the job, but if it didn’t work out, he’d be out the money for those flights, which definitely aren’t cheap!

What Would You Do?

While this situation is unique, we can envision situations where we’re between jobs and are looking for a new position. If you have to fly to headquarters to meet with a few members of the team. Would you pay the costs out of your own pocket or just move on to the next job?

What He Did

My brother decided that he would pay the costs himself. He really liked the company and knew they had a lot of interest in him. And he did not want the opportunity to pass him by, so he let the company know he’d be coming home the following week and could interview then. They set up the appropriate interviews and all he had to do from there is wait for an answer.

He Got The Job!

He interviewed and within a week got a job offer! He’s really happy and he still has a few things to figure out, but clearly paying his own way for this interview worked well for him.

Would you pay for your own interview? How much would you pay for an interview (which would lead to a whole lot more money than the costs of transportation)?

12 Responses to Would You Pay For An Interview?

  1. In the world of North American symphonic musicians, (orchestral players) every “interview” is called an audition. We are responsible for our own travel, accommodations, meals, AND they always require a deposit. They generally do NOT cash the cheque if you show up. However if you apply and decide to not show, they do.

    NB: these are like “casting calls” for actors. You show up, you get your few minutes in front of the jury and after a few hours you’re informed whether or not you advance to the next round. Additionally, unlike actors, we perform from behind a screen so the jury can NOT see us.

  2. I think I’d probably outright ask to make sure that they had considerable interest before committing those costs. You’d think that while a company might not be able to pay for the travel costs associated, that if you let them know that you’ll be bearing significant costs, that they wouldn’t bring you out if you didn’t have a good chance at the job. More of a ‘it’s yours to lose’ situation. If I got that feeling and it was a job I really wanted, then I’d do the same thing.

    Glad it all worked out.

  3. Michelle says:

    I think if you have good faith in the interview going well, and it’s a company that you really want to work for, that paying your way for an interview can sometimes be a good thing. You don’t want to think back and regret passing up a good opportunity.

  4. Emily @ evolvingPF says:

    My husband is starting to apply for postdoctoral positions, and we have heard that it is typical for the interviewing lab to pay for flights or accommodations but not both. For a small number of labs he is very interested in (post-phone interview) we would definitely pay whatever travel expenses they are not picking up. However, we would be careful to know that they are seriously considering him. For that type of position there are generally not job postings so it’s unlikely that they would be interviewing multiple candidates simultaneously.

    • Yah, it sounds like post-doc positions are often like this or candidates have to pay for the whole thing themselves. And since it’s specialized, it’s much more unlikely to have a lot of people interviewing at the same time for just a few positions.

  5. J Ascher says:

    No, I wouldn’t pay for an interview. If an employer is interested in you, the company will make the investment to hire you.

    • Well this company was interested, has a policy of not bringing in every potential employee, and they hired him in the end. Do you think he made the wrong decision in paying his own way?

      • J Ascher says:

        In this specific instance, I don’t think he made the wrong decision. As a rule, I wouldn’t pay to be interviewed. If I had near-complete confidence in the interviewing company, I’d consider it.

  6. Squeezer says:

    why can’t they do a telephone/skype interview?

  7. Ira says:

    First of all, for many postdoctoral fellowships, the university cannot pay for the interview, accommodations, or anything. So, if they paid for either the airfare or accommodation, that’s already a win!

    Second – the issue of Skype or Google Chat interviews. I have conducted those (as the employer), and they can work fine. However, from the perspective of the job candidate, there is a big loss in not being able to view the site, and get a sense of the workplace environment in some of the informal ways that one can do on site in between interviews, having casual chats, and observing how people interact outside of the interview situation.

  8. Job search costs are typically tax deductible. Presumably, he will be able to deduct the travel costs of the interview, assuming he reaches the deduction floor.

    However, I wouldn’t pay for an interview. In tech, if a company wants you, they’ll pay for your travel and hotel. It’s a good faith gesture that they consider you attractive enough to make that investment.

    At the very least, if you’ve decided it’s worth the risk, I’d negotiate with the company that you’ll front the costs for the interview, but if they hire you, they have to reimburse you. Call it a signing bonus, call it reinbursement, call it what you want, and long as you’re calling me from the bank after cashing the check!

  9. Brent says:

    I think, even if your brother didn’t end up getting the job, that he made the right decision. Worst case scenario, he had an interview during a short vacation to Boston.

    congrats on getting the job!

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