Paying job interview expenses is standard procedure


Dear Joyce: I have more than 15 years' senior management experience directing manufacturing, engineering and distribution. I was called to an interview for a position for which I am well qualified by the vice president of manufacturing of a name corporation at a site 75 miles away from my home.

After receiving a follow-up call from the veep saying that he had selected an internal candidate for the position, I wrote a letter thanking him for his consideration in letting me know the outcome and asking to be notified for future appropriate hiring needs. I enclosed my expenses of $47 for mileage, toll and lunch.

Since it is customary for companies to pay interview expenses, I was stunned to receive a letter by return mail from the veep claiming I had taken "a presumptuous position that expenses related to seeking employment are the responsibility of the possible employer."

He went on to say, "I must now insist that the situation be treated equitably and tender the following for your attention: hourly rate for interviews -- $250 an hour for two hours: $500, less expenses alleged of $47. Balance due: $453."

The veep closed his letter by thanking me for my best wishes regarding the future of the veep's company and adding, "However, may I assure you that we chose the best man for the position, a man of integrity and tact."

This all may be some sort of joke to the manufacturing vice president but I fail to see the humor. What do you think? -- L.B.G.

Dear L.B.G.: My immediate reaction is to consider yourself fortunate that you escaped working for this dinosaur brain.

Grant Cooper, president of Executive Job Search Programs Inc. in St. Louis, has years of experience in the job market, both in recruiting and in outplacement counseling. "In at least 200 job searches I've personally conducted, I can't remember when a candidate did not receive reimbursement for out-of-pocket distance interviewing expenses. The companies always paid them and I've heard no recent rumblings to the contrary."

Jack Erdlen who heads the Erdlen Bograd Group, a human resources consulting firm in Wellesley, Mass., and who is a former executive director of the Employment Management Association, also knows the interviewing turf well.

He agrees that expense reimbursement for out-of-town job interviewing trips is standard operating procedure.

"Even though the vice president could not have been serious about charging for his interview time, the whole situation was handled with extreme insensitivity. This vice president should go back to school and take a course in public relations and effective managerial techniques," Mr. Erdlen says.

Even so, Mr. Erdlen adds that it's always a good idea to confirm in advance the understanding of expense reimbursement, "I assume you'll pick up expenses related to the trip." Cliches become so because their dots connect to truth. In this case, it's "penny wise, pound foolish."

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