You've found your dream job -- the only problem is, it's in another part of the country. In the perfect world, that dream employer will want you so badly that they'll spare no expense to get you to the interview. But in the world of tight budgets and recessions, that's kind of a pipe dream. There's still a chance that the employer will pay for your travel expenses, but don't make any assumptions. Do your research and be prepared to use some negotiating skills to make your dream job a reality.
Review the Listing
If the employer hasn't mentioned anything about travel, take a close look at the job listing. If it's obvious they're casting a wide net to find the right candidate, they may be more willing to pay for travel. For example, if the employer says they're conducting a "nationwide search," that typically means they're ready to fly in a good candidate. Conversely, if the job listing states specifically that they're looking for local candidates, that means they're not ready to shell out extra cash for travel. That doesn't mean you can't apply for the job -- just don't expect them to pay you to come to the interview, or pay for relocation expenses once you get the job.
Ask Up Front
If you don't find anything indicative in the job listing, the next step is to ask the hiring manager up front. Don't be bashful -- this is your career and you should be assertive enough to look out for yourself. Call or email the hiring manager and let them know you're really interested in the job, but you need to plan for any expenses that may be included in the interview process. Then ask plainly whether the company will be paying for any expenses. Simple as that. If you get a flat-out "no," you may be out of luck. If the manager seems unsure, try to negotiate a little; ask for them to pay for airfare and hotel, and tell them you'll pay for the rest.
If the employer is not going to pay for any expenses, one option is to ask for a pre-interview via video chat, in which you can "meet" the hiring managers and get a feel for the job. Let the hiring manager know once again that you're really interested, but that money is tight and you want to make sure it's a good fit. This may be a win-win for the employer as well, since the hiring managers may see it as a time-saver. A video call typically won't take as long as an in-person interview, and they may be able to weed you in or out more quickly. If it goes well, it's now time to beg or borrow to get the funds you'll need to make it to the interview.
Even if the employer does agree to pay your travel expenses, don't assume that's going to mean you don't have to shell money out of your own pocket. Some employers will ask you to make your own travel arrangements and will reimburse you at a later date -- typically within a few weeks. This may be a money-saving measure on their part, since they may assume you'll find the cheapest flights and hotels available to save yourself the up-front cost. Whatever parameters they give you, follow them to the letter to ensure you get reimbursed in a timely manner.
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