Congratulations – you’ve got the interview lined up; problem is, now you’ve got to get there! With rail travel and petrol prices soaring, should companies be offering to reimburse your travel expenses?
Imagine the scene – after months of planning, preparing, and hard slog, you’ve finally been accepted for an interview for your dream job. The catch – you live in York and the interview is scheduled for 9am in London. The big question is how do you get there and most importantly, who pays? In this scenario, a typical return journey for a candidate to attend the interview on time would cost £245. That’s a huge sum of money to gamble on a journey where a happy outcome isn’t necessarily guaranteed. But if you don’t attend the interview, you’ll have absolutely no chance of bagging the job. It’s a catch-22 situation and one that is causing huge anxiety amongst job seekers.
Policies on reimbursing travel expenses for interview candidates vary from company to company. Usually the bigger organisations will be more open to honouring expense claims, especially when it comes to graduates – most graduates don’t have a spare couple of pounds, let alone hundreds of pounds, to spend attending interviews, while for the company, travel expenses could be a small price to pay if it means attracting the right calibre of candidate.
Deloitte, for example, have a generous reimbursement scheme for graduates attending interviews, of up to £100 a time. The company says that interview times are flexible and candidates are given plenty of notice so they can arrange to have an interview when it’s a more convenient (read cheaper) time to travel.
But what about those of us whose university days are long gone?
“The standard practice regarding interview costs is for the candidate to bear them and it is increasingly rare for a firm to pay them. However if you don’t ask, you don’t get!” says Jonathan Fagan, MD of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment.
This certainly seems to be the case if you look at some of Britain’s leading companies. UK high street favourite, Boots, says they will ‘take into consideration any significant travel costs of an interviewee with regards to reimbursement, if requested to do so’. The BBC says that ‘the hiring department should offer reasonable travel expenses (in line with the BBC Expenses Policy) to employees invited to attend a selection process. External candidates may also be eligible to claim reasonable travel expenses, depending on individual circumstances. Payment is at the discretion of the hiring department and must be approved in advance’. British supermarket giant, Waitrose states: ‘Our policy on travel reimbursement varies across our business and we will always look to consider the individual concerns of each candidate when inviting them to interview. Where candidates are invited to a second interview, we will normally reimburse their travel costs’.
How to approach the subject
Asking for your travel expenses to be reimbursed can be as daunting as going for an interview. You worry about how you might come across, when you should broach the subject, and what is a reasonable amount to claim. A sensible thing to do would be to telephone the HR department of the organisation you are interviewing at beforehand to ask about their policy. If this isn’t possible, try asking at the end of your interview; if nothing else, it’s a good way to see the kind of organisation you are potentially going to be working for. If they get sniffy about your request, you may think they are not the company for you; on the other hand, if they are sympathetic to your request then you know they’re a fair employer.
At the end of the day, you might just have to be prepared to take the gamble and fork out for your fare. After all, if you’re offered your dream job, you could be laughing all the way to the bank!