Travelling for interviews.

So in my quest to escape the Midwest over the last six months I have been applying for design jobs all over the country. Some of these applications have led to phone interviews, which in turn have sometimes led to invitations for me to come visit a potential employer. Unfortunately, I am a young designer without a lot of money on hand and traveling halfway across North America on short notice can be quite pricey. I also have a limited amount of vacation time where I currently work. For these reasons I am always nervous about what to expect when a potential employer wants me to come see them.

Should these companies be assisting me in any way financially in order to come visit them? The people around me that I have talked to have told me that when they have interviewed at distant companies in the past, those companies paid for their trip. Is that a trend that is dying? Most of the people I have talked to about this are older and not always in a design related industry.

Should I even ask about this during my conversation with a potential employer? I feel like I may have turned off some good prospects because I brought this up. I usually only ask once they mention wanting me to come to their offices.

If the company isn’t willing to pay for the trip, I find myself having to make some tough cost benefit decisions about whether or not I really want to work for a given company. I would love to leave the Midwest and work in New York or Los Angeles, but the cost of the process of getting those jobs seems prohibitive.

Is this an unreasonable request to make of a potential employer?

I suppose you can always ask, but prepare for a No answer. Sometimes you need to find a way to commit to something, and other times you need to make a reasonable decision.

Besides, what’s wrong with the Midwest? I guarantee its cheaper here…

Perhaps “escape” wasn’t the best word choice. I grew up in the Midwest and my desire to leave stems more from ambition and curiosity about the world than it does from not liking the Midwest. I see moving to somewhere like NYC or eventually somewhere abroad as a way to test myself against the world, get outside my comfort zone and grow as a person.

You’d be surprised how you can test yourself and push your comfort zone close to home…

But, you do what you need. If you can’t afford the travel expenses, don’t do it. Work where you can afford for a couple years, save your cash, then move East.

I think it depends on the the size of the company. I recently interviewed at a large toy company and they told me that would pay for my travel. I would probably not expect a small company to do so.

Keep in mind there is also a difference between “come visit”, and “we are prepared to have you interview with us, in person”. Interview expenses vary by company and also position as well as competition for the job. If they are Corporate hiring a Senior Director, sure they’ll fly someone in. A small studio hiring a junior that may or may not work out, probably not.

I would think the circumstances would dictate pretty clearly what the situation is. If they are scheduling an interview, setting the date, agenda, etc. they most likely will volunteer to make travel arrangements. I can’t really imagine a situation where you would have to ask. That is, unless somehow it wasn’t clear that you don’t live nearby, which may be the case. Often a designer may have an address in one state where they are at school, but live in another. You should make it clear at the start of the process where you are at and if you can travel/re-locate.


Keep in mind there is also a difference between “come visit”, and “we are prepared to have you interview with us, in person”.

  • rkuchinsky

Excellent point here - I’ve personally made the mistake of not clarifying between the two. I drove 600+ miles (each way) for what I thought was an interview only to find out that they saw it only as a “meet and greet”. They had no job open nor were they looking to hire anybody.

Shame on me for not getting the proper clarification on that beforehand. Could have saved me a few hundred bucks (which I really didn’t have to spare at the time). Yet another lesson I had to learn the hard way. Hopefully others can benefit and not make the same mistake.

Overall though I can attest that it really is a mixed bag when it comes to companies willingness to pay for travel expenses for interviews. I’ve had some companies basically take care of the travel ahead of time for me. I’ve had companies simply reimburse me afterwards. I’ve had a company offer to reimburse me only if I actually got hired. And I’ve had companies say quite frankly that they would not pay for interview travel…period.

I think it largely depends on a number of factors that vary from company to company and industry to industry (location, size of company, position hiring for, etc)

Best of luck!

Only once have I traveled on my own dime for an interview and that was from Indiana to Santa Cruz. Not exactly a cheap trip, but I was still a senior at the time. Ever since then, all meetings have been paid for and I wouldn’t expect anything less.

To me, it seems like we are grossly undervaluing ourselves here, and it hurts everyone in the profession. You have a skill. Company needs that skill performed. You both have needs so why should we come begging to them, pleading for work?

I suppose if you still must pay, remember to claim it on your taxes as an expense.

I’ve traveled paid for both large and small, and don’t think there’s a definite yes or no answer about when travel expenses are appropriate. Probably your best bet, would be to plan meet and greets or formal interviews with as many companies as possible within a 2-3 day visit. Plan your trip on a budget, and try to connect with as many places and people while you’re in town.

I would also agree that as a general policy, it’s bad practice for a company to expect unpaid travel expenses (especially if it’s cross-country). It’s one thing from NYC to BOS, but totally different if you’re in the Midwest and traveling to LA.

Good luck on the search.

I don’t think I would ever pay to travel for an interview. Companies are not doing you a favor, you’re either valued or not. If they are interested, it’s a small investment for them.