Tips for Handling an Out-of-Town Job Interview

Businesswoman using laptop in business class airplane cabin
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Job interviews can be stressful enough on their own, but when you have to travel for an out-of-town or out-of-state interview, the experience can become even more intense. You'll need to figure out the logistics of traveling to another city or state, along with planning how you'll make the best impression on your interviewer.

When traveling for an interview, it's important to make an extra effort in your interview preparation. After all, acing an interview for a job in a new city will especially impress your potential employer. Take the time to plan carefully all of the details, including how you’ll get to and from the interview, what to wear and bring with you, and how you’ll make the best impression and sell your qualifications to the interviewer.

Don't let the anxiety surrounding travel impede your focus. Here are some tips on how to ensure out-of-town interview success.

Tips for Handling an Out-of-Town Job Interview

Prepare thoroughly for the interview. Treat this interview like you would any other: rehearse interview questions and answersresearch 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 go hog-wild 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.

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. That will also ensure that you are wellrested and ready to do your best.

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.

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. Check out TravelSmith and Magellan's for men's and women's options; Chico's and J. Jill offer more women's options, too.

Get to know the town. If you have some spare time, try to get a feel for the town culture. Explore 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. Make sure you follow up after the interview; 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.

What to Consider if You Get a Job Offer

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 old one.