Editor's note: This is the 11th article in a series providing interview tips and techniques for attorneys. Links to previous articles in the series follow this article.
Long-distance interviewing presents additional cost and logistical challenges. You may need to take your job search show "on the road" if you are considering opportunities out of your immediate geographic area. Even if you are seeking a position locally, you may need to meet key players in a firm's far-flung offices. The interview itself is basically the same whether conducted in your home town or anywhere else; the difference lies in the logistics.
OUT-OF-TOWN INTERVIEWS KEPT TO A MINIMUM
These days, businesses are looking for ways to keep expenses down and interview travel -- like all business travel -- is down. In a booming market where firms are desperate to add talent, or if candidates have exceptional credentials or hard-to-find expertise, employers are much more willing to tackle those challenges. In a tighter market, many employers refuse to consider out-of-area candidates, sometimes even from within the state or perhaps as close as the next county.
Many firms try to minimize the expense of recruiting out-of-area candidates by doing an initial screening by telephone or video conference, or having a local partner meet the candidate, before undertaking the time and expense of making travel arrangements. Even meetings between lateral partner candidates and key partners in other cities are done increasingly by video. Sometimes, however, there's no substitute for a face-to-face meeting.
WHO PAYS FOR AN INITIAL INTERVIEW?
In a tight economy, prospective employers rarely cover an out-of-town candidate's interviewing expenses for the initial interview, whereas in boom times those costs may have been covered. Since the candidate often is expected to pay initial interview expenses, if you are considering more than one opportunity in the same general location, try to combine as many interviews in the same trip as possible.
If you are looking to relocate to a particular destination, plan a trip there on your own dime. When you submit your resume, use the cover letter to let prospective employers know that you will be there on specific dates and will be available for interviews. Give them enough time to receive and review your resume in advance of your trip. If prospective employers know you will be in the area at no expense to them, they may be more inclined to grant an initial interview.
WHAT ABOUT FOLLOW UP INTERVIEWS?
The costs of second or subsequent interviews customarily are covered by the prospective employer. Certainly, if you are interviewing for a position in your home town but need to meet particular people in the firm's other offices, the prospective employer will cover your travel expenses. If you are visiting more than one firm on the same trip for subsequent interviews, let each of them know you are looking at other opportunities, and costs may well be split among the prospective employers.
MAKING THE ARRANGEMENTS
Some firms will make the arrangements for you, while others expect you to make your own, and they will reimburse you. Some firms have in-house travel professionals, or prefer that you use a particular travel agency to make arrangements. Remember that prospective employers are trying to economize wherever possible, and follow their suggestions regarding transportation and lodging choices. If you have family or friends in the area and plan to stay with them, let the firm know. They usually are pleased to accommodate that and save the expense. It is always appropriate to ask for clarification of each firm's particular system for reimbursing travel expenses. Make sure you understand how the firm wants these matters handled before you go on the interview.
Most firms cover all expenses directly related to an out-of-area callback interview. Items typically eligible for reimbursement are: airplane and reasonable and necessary cab fares, checked baggage fee for one bag per trip, hotel room and taxes, moderate meal and beverage expenditures, local telephone calls for business purposes, and reasonable Internet access fees. The following items are generally not eligible for reimbursement: minibar purchases, fitness center fees, long-distance telephone calls, dry cleaning services, limousine services, hotel room movies, bar tabs, and meal or beverage expenses for additional guests.
Even if your host firm is handling the arrangements, be prepared to present your own credit card when checking into the hotel to cover incidentals. Do not take advantage of the situation and insist on first-class airfare, expensive hotels, room service or pricey meals. If you are driving to an interview outside of reasonable commuting distance, check with the prospective employer regarding their reimbursement policies before renting a car or asking for mileage reimbursement.
It is the candidate's responsibility to keep receipts and submit them to the appropriate party in a timely manner for reimbursement. Find out if there is a form you must fill out. Remember that your expense report reflects on your candidacy. Be complete, timely and reasonable.
Also keep accurate records and receipts of any expenses that are not reimbursed by a prospective employer. Out-of-pocket expenses related to a job search may be tax deductible. Check with your accountant for details pertaining to your situation.
RESEARCH THE NEW LOCALE
Especially if you are attempting to relocate, and even if you are just visiting a prospective employer's out-of-area offices, get to know something about the locale beforehand. Read the local paper online to learn something about the business, economic, social and political climate. This will give you something to discuss with your interviewers and impress them with your interest in the firm and commitment to the area.
Enter the interview location into MapQuest or Google maps so you know your way from the airport to the hotel to the employer's offices, and approximately how long it will take to get to each location. Then, give yourself extra time for traffic, weather issues and unforeseen circumstances. Print out your travel itinerary and all of the relevant names, addresses, phone numbers and/or e-mail addresses to carry with you, "just in case."
GETTING THERE IN ONE PIECE
With tightened security these days, the lighter you travel, the better. You want to arrive at your interview fresh and wrinkle-free, nonetheless. If possible, travel in something comfortable and bring your interview suit. Pack everything -- or at least your essentials -- into one carry-on bag, to minimize the trauma of losing your luggage in transit. Don't forget to check the weather online so that you can be prepared. Wear comfortable shoes since you don't know whether you will be walking some distances between your hotel, interview and meal sites.
Try to arrive in your interview city the night before, so you can have a good night's rest and be freshly groomed. While you can expect to have access to an iron in your hotel for touch ups, pack an "emergency kit" for other unexpected mishaps, even if it's just for a day trip. Bring an extra shirt or blouse and stockings, sewing kit, stain remover wipes, shoe polish, pain reliever, pen, cell phone charger, breath strips (faster than mints), umbrella, smart phone or laptop, back-up prescription glasses and, of course, extra copies of your resume.
With travel and logistics handled, you can breathe easier and focus on the interview itself as a step towards your career destination.
Valerie Fontaine and Roberta Kass are senior legal search consultants with Seltzer Fontaine Beckwith, based in Los Angeles. Valerie Fontaine is the author of "The Right Moves: Job Search and Career Development Strategies for Lawyers" (January 2006, NALP). They can be reached at (310) 839-6000, or visit www.sfbsearch.com.
Read previous articles in the "Interview Strategies" series: