“Since you’ve flown to Chicago through O’Hare, let’s do a flight problem. Tell me how many planes fly in and out of O’Hare on an average day.
Here's a calculator. Here’s a dry erase marker. You can write on the window. You may have no resources. And begin.”
I was in downtown Chicago, in the tallest building that this 21-year-old farm boy had ever set foot in. Outside, there was snow and a fierce wind. The building felt like it was swaying. I stood there with my red marker, holding it up against the snow-white background. I felt like I was going to throw up.
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This job interview was not my finest.
But there’s good news. I learned a lot from it. Being brought down to earth in the way that I was floored in that skyscraper that day makes you a quick learner. Naturally, my next away-from-home job interview went much better, as I had prepared well in advance.
Leading up to the interview, you are in touch someone from HR. Save their number to your phone so that you can quickly call them, should a problem arise. If your flight gets changed; or your rental car reservation isn’t found; or if Delta ran out of Biscoff cookies… then you need to call ahead.
Top tip: Don’t call HR about the cookie situation. You can get some at Walmart when you land.
Make sure to pack everything neatly into folders – resumes, cover letters, samples of work you’ve done, etc. But keep your luggage to a minimum.
If you’re flying, you’ll probably have to keep everything with you much of the time. It’s super awkward trying to shake someone’s hand while lugging a giant suitcase.
Even worse is when your shampoo explodes (I still don’t know what happened there) and oozes all over your resumes.
And you don’t even notice until you're asked for one. Yeah, that really happened to me once. Keep your toiletries separate from your resumes.
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One cool thing about traveling to interviews is the food.
Most likely, the company will comp your meals while on the road. Don’t worry about penny-pinching. They want you to have an enjoyable experience. Remember, you’re reading CentSai. You’re more money-minded than most people.
Enjoy your meals out. After all, you may or may not get the offer. And then again, you may find that the offer is not that great, and decide to drop it. But enjoy the experience. Like that wise man noted centuries ago; traveling, even for job interviews, widens your horizon. Don't ask me which wise man.
If you’re driving, the company will probably offer to compensate you by the mile. The larger the company, the more implied this is, I feel.
Know how many miles you are from the business before you get a call from HR. The company will usually use the federal reimbursement rate which is currently 54 cents per mile. This is likely more than you need to operate your car. Enjoy pocketing a little extra.
You can even consider making a personal trip out of it. When I flew to Chicago, I was there for a few days and I spent time visiting sites. This is also good because it shows your potential employers that you’re genuinely interested in the city. And you can smile with confidence when they ask you what you know about their stomping grounds.
When the interview(s) conclude, send thank you letters.
This is always a good thing to do, but when traveling to interviews, it’s even more important. It’s like sending a postcard. It means more from those who are far away.
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Don’t worry about the cost of mailing envelopes or missing time from your current job or having to pay for driving your car to the airport or anything like that. That would be silly.
A job interview is an investment. Who cares if it has a front-end load fee?
Spending a little money upfront will pay off in a massive way. Spend a little more than the other candidates. It may be the difference between no job at all and tens of thousands of dollars each year. Just make sure not to bribe someone.
I almost sent a large gift to a government employee when I was trying to work in government, but apparently anything over a certain amount is considered a bribe.