Job interviews can be stressful on their own, but when you have to travel out of town or out of state for an interview, the experience becomes even more intense. For an out-of-town interview, you need to figure out travel logistics as well as planning how you'll make the best impression on your interviewer.
If you're traveling for an interview, you'll need to set aside time for your interview preparation and to arrange your travel plans. You don't want to skimp on anything or force yourself into feeling rushed because you didn't give yourself enough time to prepare.
How to Have a Successful Out-of-Town Interview
What to do in Advance
- Prepare thoroughly. Treat this interview like you would any other. Rehearse interview questions and answers, research the company beforehand, and make sure you have what you need for the interview.
- Figure out your travel expenses before you make the commitment to go. Not sure who will pay for your travel? If you don't have any information about who's paying when you are asked to travel for an interview, it is acceptable to ask if the company will be making the travel arrangements for you. If not, ask if there is a possibility of being reimbursed for all or part of the costs you would incur to get to the interview.
- Find out who is booking the trip. In addition to finding out who is paying for your interview expenses, check how the travel arrangements will be booked.
In some cases, the company will book the trip for you. In others, it's up to you to make your own reservations.
- Be economical. If you're doing the booking and your potential employer is paying for your expenses, don't be extravagant on their dime. Find an inexpensive flight, book a standard hotel room, and keep your room charges to the bare minimum. It doesn't hurt to ask your interviewer if they have any suggestions for their preferred airline or hotel.
- Consider buying wrinkle-free business clothes. You want to look polished and professional for any interview, but unfortunately, wrinkles (along with stains and spills) are sometimes unavoidable when you're traveling. Look into purchasing business travel clothing that is wrinkle-resistant and versatile.
Give Yourself Plenty of Time
- Give yourself a time cushion. Whether you're traveling by car, bus, train, or airplane, don't cut it close when it comes to time. Give yourself more time than you think you need to get there because being late is a surefire way to blow the interview. If you're flying, arrive at the airport two hours ahead of your boarding time; if you're taking the bus or train, give yourself an hour.
- Consider arriving a day ahead of time. If punctuality is a problem for you and you have a long way to travel, consider arriving the night before your interview. This is particularly recommended if you're traveling across time zones. Arriving a day early will also ensure that you are well-rested and ready to do your best.
During Your Trip
- Stay professional during your trip. Even if you have a few days to spare, it's not a good idea to go out drinking the night before your interview—no matter how fun the new area might be. Instead, rest up as you would before any other interview.
- Driving? Don't rely on just your mobile GPS. If you've never been to the interview destination before, make sure you have a physical, hard-copy of the directions you need in case your phone or in-car GPS device fails.
- Account for day two. If you ace your interview and you're asked to return for a follow-up interview, you definitely do not want to decline. Make sure you're prepared to stay an extra day. If you can, clear your schedule for the next day and bring an extra set of interview clothes, as well as your overnight toiletries.
- Get to know the town. If you have some spare time, try to get a feel for the town culture. Explore the main street, visit a cafe, walk around town, and consider the housing options and local school districts if you have a family. That way, if you do get the job, you won't have to make a return trip to see if the place is right for you.
Follow-Up After the Interview
Just like you should practice before the interview (as you would for a local position), it's important to take the right post-interview steps too.
For example, you should send an email thank you message specifying your gratitude for the opportunity to travel and the employer's consideration of an out-of-town candidate.
If you're offered the position, you'll need to consider more than the salary and benefits package when evaluating the job offer:
- When will the job start, and how much time will you be given to relocate?
- Will the company cover some or all of your relocation expenses?
- Will the company cover short-term housing if you need time to plan a permanent move?
Use a cost-of-living calculator to figure out what it will cost you to live in the new location vs. the former one.