Out-of-Town Interview? Your Travel Preparation Can Make or Break It

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buildingLate last year, there was a lot of media buzz over the “Cancun Experience Officer,” or “CEO,” job opportunity created by the Cancun.com travel website. It’s understandable why: The job amounted to a six-month paid stint  hanging out at the top Mexican tourist destination and promoting beach-related events.

Sadly, most job searches involving travel aren’t quite as fun or carefree. If you’ve been invited to interview for a job in a far-off city, the employer may assist with travel arrangements – but that’s not always the case. If the interview process for any job requires you to travel, the first thing you should do is clarify who is picking up the tab for airfare and overnight stays. The firm may not volunteer to pay expenses up front, and that means some negotiation may be in order.

Travel accommodations are rarely deal-breakers for enthusiastic candidates and the companies invested in hiring them, but it is important for employer and potential employee to be on the same page.

“These first conversations about travel plans are a business deal, in a sense, and they’re among the first ones you have between a candidate and an interested employer,” says Chris Rivett, a travel expert with Hotels Combined. “It’s fair to assume that both parties want that exchange to be positive and successful, so be confident in the discussion.”

More than just confident, you need to be intentional and transparent when discussing travel arrangements with a potential employer. What expenditures will the company cover? What sorts of receipts do you need? How will reimbursement be handled? These questions are critical.

The nuts-and-bolts discussion about flights and hotel rooms is just the beginning for your interview travel plans. Here are a few more tips every job seeker should keep in mind:

1. Get to Town Early

Unless you find yourself in unusual circumstances with tight constraints on your time, don’t imagine that you’ll parachute in that morning and fly back out that night. For one thing, if you’re serious about the job opportunity, then you’re equally serious about relocating. Arriving an extra day or two before your interview gives you the chance to explore your potential new home. If you know anyone who already lives there, try to connect with them so they can share their insights on neighborhoods, communities, and the place’s overall culture.

Being able to envision yourself in this new home can make a real difference when you sit down to discuss the opportunity with your potential employer. The interviewers, meanwhile, will appreciate the effort you’ve made to connect with both the company and the community.

city2. Stick Around for a Day

Don’t rule out the possibility that the company may want to see you for a second-day follow-up meeting. If you tell the company you’re still in town for another day or two and happy to meet, you’ll appear more prepared and accessible. If the company doesn’t need to follow up, well, you have some extra time to explore what may be your new home. Considering visiting some art galleries or talking a walk in the park.

3. Look Sharp

It’s usually easier to dress to impress when you’re at home – not when you’re holed up in a hotel room. To ensure you put your best foot forward and keep your stress levels down, plan ahead for this aspect of your trip. Make a list of everything you’ll need to be well dressed and well groomed for your interview.

You may want to check out TheVane, which has a neat feature that helps you build a packing list for your trips, including outfits, accessories, and toiletries. If that’s not your style, there are a few things that most people agree on:

– Bring the essentials in a carry-on bag. The last thing you need is lost luggage, leaving you with nothing to wear to your interview.
– Bring two interview-appropriate outfits, just to be safe. This also helps if it turns out the interviewers do want to meet again for a second day.
– Learn ahead of time what the interviewers have planned for you. If it turns out that dinner is a company luau or you’re expected to hit the golf course, you’ll want to have the appropriate attire.

4. Prepare, Don’t Party

A few nights in a new city seems like the perfect time to check out the hotel bar or head to a trendy nightclub, right? Wrong – unless your host invites you. Even then, it’s all the more reason to be on your best behavior.

Spend your evening(s) preparing for the interview, and be sure to get a good night’s rest the day before your interview. Once you’ve landed the job, you’ll have all the time in the world to explore the new city you call home.

Dan Blacharski is a thought leader, advisor, industry observer, PR counsel to several internet startups, and author of the book Dotcloud Boom .

By Dan Blacharski