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Getting the recruiters to pay for a flight to an interview


I'm from central Europe, looking for programming work in UK.  After doing the phone interviews and more or less silly tests, it's time for some face-to-face interviews...

Now, I'm not quite comfortable of paying the expenses of flying and accomodation if they just want to chit-chat with one more candidate, and it's kind of hard to tell over the phone if this is the case.  They didn't bother to ask for a skype-alike kind of interview, despite me having suggested it.

What is your opinion about getting (or trying to) the recruiting agency (or the hiring company) to pay for the flight?

Some background...  Salary range is around £40-60k / year (depending on the position and my negotiation skills).  Position: programmer or senior programmer.  My technical skills: fit or exceed the needs.  My commercial experience: barely enough, compared to what they want.

I'm rather confident I can get all of the jobs I'm applying for, *if*: they're serious and didn't forgot to mention some of the requirements.  Which is not a `sure thing'.

So, what do you think?
bronek Send private email
Friday, June 08, 2007
There is no question that they should pay. You should not pay.
Friday, June 08, 2007
If they are truly interested then they should have zero issue with paying.

Friday, June 08, 2007
Repeat what previous posters said: They should pay. If not, don't even think of paying for the trip yourself and get rid of them.
Friday, June 08, 2007
I agree with everyone else: The hiring company should have no problems with paying *ALL* of your expenses if they want you to do an on-site interview.

There is one additional issue to look for, though...

I was recently visiting with someone who told me of an interview where they were promised to be reimbursed for all of the expenses ("Just send us copies of all the receipts once you get back home and we'll cut you a check..."). Needless to say, this company never did reimburse him for the flight, hotel or meals that were incurred. Nor did they ever offer him the position.

So, if the hiring company promises to reimburse you for your expenses, be wary.
Daniel Hedrick Send private email
Friday, June 08, 2007
Yep, they should totally pay for it.  When I interviewed with a company in Boston, I drove there (my choice), but they paid for hotel/meals/etc.
GiorgioG Send private email
Friday, June 08, 2007
If you're currently "signing on" you can actually claim back travel costs from the council (something I didn't get told until I'd been to countless interviews and travelled out of my own pocket!)
benjymous Send private email
Friday, June 08, 2007
I saw Joel's blog entry. Ok here we are in the real world. If they did not offer to pay first they probably won't pay. Joel is being very optimistic that if they know you have multiple interviews they will want you more. Many will want you less because they just want to fill the spot.

There are alot of move and interview at your own expense jobs in the US. They are typically filled by H1Bs. Most jobs are generic run of the mill jobs and they want a semi-competent body to fill it.

Also, most companies will not schedule interviews at your convenience. They will not wait for you to schedule a week in England and set up 3 other interviews. There are a few that will, but Joel is being optimistic.

Living in the US, I will not go at my own expense for an interview unless we return to the great depression. That being said, the economy in Eastern Europe is much weaker than it is here so you have less options.

However, alot of interviews fall through. Alot of times they interview 10 people for a job. Alot of times you get there and they spring some new technical skill on you that you did not discuss and are not qualified for. I am VERY skeptical about going for an interview at my own expense.

Just a warning: Employers generally do not care about wasting interviewers time or money for interviews. They will forget your name in a week if they don't hire you.
Friday, June 08, 2007
Hi Bronek,

Knowing recruitment companies in the UK (and I think I do) - unless it's a really top job, they will not pay your expenses.  Recruitment agencies are about one thing 0 making every penny they can.  They won't spend a single penny that they don't have to.  Employers, however, might pay your expenses, if it's worth their while.

If I may say, that sort of salary is generally only paid to senior developers (possbly with niche skills) and usually in London.  If that's you, best of luck. 

The UK site Jobserve is one of the most popular job sites, just FYI.
Just passing...
Friday, June 08, 2007
Would you mind me asking - what skillset do you have?  The UK market is quite bouyant at the moment, which means that although there is a shortage of really top people, there are still quite a few UK developers moving jobs.  The more niche/extensive your skillset and experience, the better the chances are that an employer will pay your expenses.

Most blue-chips will pay your expenses - to a point.  However, if they can find five UK other developers to interview with similar skills, they are unlikely to bother.  This is not the US; people don't usually have to travel very far to jobs/job interviews and being asked to pay for flights and hotels by a candidate is quite out of the ordinary.

The sort of job you're talking about pays well - surely well enough for you to fund a trip over here out of your own pocket (maybe a week, as Joel suggests).  The reward would obviously be worth it.  Besides which, if you happen to mention the fact (somehow) that you've funded the trip yourself to a potential employer, you will look really keen.
Just passing...
Friday, June 08, 2007
I've been led to this discussion through Joel's post. I'm afraid, there is a big chance Joel got it wrong this time.

It all really depends what sort of position you are being interviewed for. If it pays less than GBP 40K p/a a prospective UK employer is very unlikely to pay you travel expences. Even when you travel within UK, nevermind from outside the country.

Lets say, in my experience, nor me neither any of my friends/collegues had their interview expences reimbursed by an employer. Regardless of if they got a job offer or not. We talking about jobs in paying the range of 30K-50K a year.

Moreover, most of UK employers won't be very flexible on interview dates.

I guess, you're from Poland or Czech Republic? Now, imagine in UK most employers are constantly bombarded by CV-s from Eastern and Central European EU states. People from over there don't need visa to come work here. Talk about scarcity. Count HSMP candidates from other parts of the world in.
John Watt
Friday, June 08, 2007
"If they are truly interested then they should have zero issue with paying."

I agree.
Meghraj Reddy
Friday, June 08, 2007
Joel, those who cared to respond: thanks.

@Andrew `Just Passing' - about my skills: I'm from the open source camp; hardcore programming (mostly server-side WWW) and Linux, at least competent with databases (DBAs don't pull their hair and I can do their job most of the time), decent networking... and everything related.

I can't say I'm in a niche (like, say, the COBOL guys), but it's not the mainstream PHP/Java either.  The salary range I've mentioned (£40-60k) is what average similar job offers say.

"Besides which, if you happen to mention the fact (somehow) that you've funded the trip yourself to a potential employer, you will look really keen."

Well, this is what bothers me.  I don't think I would look keen, rather desperate - being the side of the negotiation which has invested much more than the other one.  I'm showing concern, they don't - this tends to be disrespected.

On the other hand, I could imagine a company here, posting a job ad and getting an offer from someone from Northern Siberia... `He wants WHAT? To refund a reindeer sleigh?! OK, this is new. We'll pass.' :-)

A similar thread with mostly `no way' answers: http://forums.contractoruk.com/thread17823.html
bronek Send private email
Friday, June 08, 2007
Undoubtedly the exact same companies that won't pay a cent to bring people in for interviews are also ranting and raving about the dearth of qualified candidates.

The fact is that any company that can't cover the costs to bring you in for an interview is doing so poorly financially that it would be a disaster to consider accepting such a position.
Meghraj Reddy
Friday, June 08, 2007
Sounds as if hiring practices differ in US vs UK.

In the US, reputable *employers* (never recruiters, as far as I know) will generally reimburse travel for interviews.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
When I came to the UK back in 01 it took me two weeks before I got an interview. I was answering job ads daily and I had a very reasonable CV. I got the job but it took another two or three weeks for signing the contract, etc. No reason why this cannot be done through the post abroad.

At this moment I am sitting on the other side of the fence and my company has a limit for those expenses (can't remember how much but probably £30 or £40) and it is very rare that we use them at all. On the other hand we are willing to wait several weeks for an interview (when we are hiring) so Joel's advice is spot on. Even better is to get phone interviews where you phone in.

The agencies will tell you that the jobs are flying out the window and you should be there interviewing pronto. Don't believe them.
anon for this
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Instead of getting someone else to pay for you trip, ask the companies for relocation bonus. When I moved from Sweden to London I went over for three days, paid for everything myself, went to six interviews, was offered five jobs and got a relocation bonus that not only paid for the trip but the move as well.

Let them know you have interviews lines up. It will probably increase the salary offers you get.
Roger Wernersson Send private email
Saturday, June 09, 2007
As a candidate, I would never travel for an interview outside of driving range on my own dime.

At my current employer, we don't pay for out-of-town candidates to come interview. To me, this indicates that our hiring pool is limited to the local area. However, our recruiters occasionally pass us resumes of people from out-of-town (usually they have family in the area and would like to move back). I always feel uncomfortable when the higher-ups in the company suggest that the candidate fly here on their own and interview. If we're going to even consider them at all, I think we should arrange some sort of thing where we interview them when they're already in town visiting their family.

There's too much uncertainty in interviewing and hiring to ask a candidate to pay for their interview trip. Even someone who sounded great in a phone screen might be a complete washout when you put them in front a whiteboard and ask them to reverse a string.
Jesse Send private email
Saturday, June 09, 2007
As an employer in London we have only once paid for a candidate's flight here, and we weren't keen to do it but the recruitment agency persuaded us. After interviewing him we decided not to make an offer. It does put you off interviewing candidates who are not local.

However we do understand the cost and inconvenience of travelling, and out of courtesy we would only invite a long-distance candidate to interview if we were serious about them.

On reflection - and with more money in the bank than we used to - the cost of flying a couple of candidates in is small relative to the overall cost of recruiting, so I would be more willing to do it in the future. But we do have a good labour pool in London so I would only expect to do it for quite specialist or highly skilled roles.

Why don't you simply discuss it with the employer? Maybe they'll be amenable. If not then you might at least get some clues as to whether they are keen on you.

Leigh Caldwell Send private email
Saturday, June 09, 2007
I agree with Joel's post. And more than that -- that's exactly what _I_ did to land a job in a different country. About 7 years ago and with a crisis looming in my homeland (Argentina) I started jobhunting in New Zealand. Took a couple of months to arrange, but I ended up travelling to NZ for a 7-day/16-interviews trip.

As Joel says, they knew I had a packed week, and as a bonus I really got into the "interview" mood by doing many in a row. So I had no problem getting a job after that.

And the most important thing: only 2 of the 16 turned out to be only-kinda-interested guys that didn't mind meeting me if I was going to pay for the trip. If I had flown across the world to meet either of these idiots, I would have been VERY unhappy.
martin langhoff Send private email
Saturday, June 09, 2007
So Martin what you're saying is that although you paid for the trip, the companies that weren't willing to pay for the trip weren't worth interviewing at.
Meghraj Reddy
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Perhaps my experience is unusual... I'm from the UK, and mostly applied for positions through graduate recruitment schemes.  The jobs tend to be in the £20-26k range, and I've always had my travel expenses repaid.  Granted, I've never tried to claim a flight or hotel expenses, but I've seen other candidates at the same interviews get at least B&B accommodation paid for. 

I'm now on the other side of the fence, at a company that pays expenses incurred by interviewees as a matter of course.  As far as I know, there's no hard numeric limit on this, and if we invite someone to interview, we expect to pay whatever expenses they necessarily incur.
Martin McNulty
Monday, June 11, 2007
I've had travel and accommodation expenses paid for interviews, although most companies are keen to avoid such arrangements. Bringing someone in from Eastern Europe though... well it's going to purely be a matter of how much they want you versus how much you want the job. Unfortunately, it's rare that everyone in the chain required to OK several hundred pounds in expenses will be capable of understanding that a candidate might be worth that outlay.

Most Eastern Europeans wanting to get jobs in the UK come in on their own money for a week or so at a time and arrange interviews as local candidates. As most of them are just after work in the UK first and foremost and not targeting just a single job, it makes sense for them.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Hi Bronek

I am French and I recently found a job in the UK : I will be relocating by next month.

I did pay for my interviews travel expenses most of the time, and I meant it to be a proof of my true desire to relocate to UK.

I think some UK companies may fly people to UK for interviews but only if they prove to be truly outstanding after some phone interviews.

You have to keep in mind that you are competing with UK natives : They will probably handle relocation & travel expenses by themselves and if not will cost less than you will.
That's why I didn't ask neither for travel nor relocation bonus : unless you truly are an outstanding developer, you  will want to compete evenly with the locals, including the outstanding ones.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Joel is right - he had very good jobs in the past, so he knows how to get hired, he hires people now, so he understands the other side of the hiring process.

Some more very practical comments:

Looking for a job is a game of numbers, you want to contact as many people as you possibly can, preferably in person - to find the one who will appreciate your particular blend of skills and attitude.

Be open, ask. Some employers will pay for your flight for  the interview, most will not (agencies almost never do and they are mostly waste of time anyway) - but it doesn't hurt to ask, it is pretty obvious: you are looking for a job, therefore you cannot afford to throw money around, this might change once you do find the job, but not yet, you can be frank about that part too. Employers are human, they do understand facts of life.

Try to estimate the total cost, with cheap flight from the lines like Ryanair and staying in a hostel - like Globetrotter Inn (around 20 pounds per night in a shared room) - you might surprise the prospective employer how little it actually costs.

I did pay the costs of an interesting job applicant for my team in the past, but only if they were direct and reasonable about it: "I can do it for less than $xxx, would you reimburse me?"

If the cost was reasonable, why not, hiring costs money. "Yes, keep the receipts and present them at the interview" But - nobody in his/her right mind will buy you the ticket or pay for it up front, they don't know you, so you must be prepared to pay the costs, present receipts and accept cheque in reimbursement, few companies keep cash on hand, cheque book works for them.

I would present my case as a give-and take: "If you are prepared to reimburse me, I can fly to London any time and meet you at your convenience" 

If the answer is "no" you can still suggest that you are planning to be in London for several interviews in - let's say - 4 weeks and try to schedule the interview then.

If you can schedule 2 or 3 interviews with employers (not agencies) within a week - it is probably worth a try, I would just buy a cheap ticket, book a cheap hotel and go.

Once you decide to go - spend the rest of your preparation time trying to fill your calendar, even agencies are worth an hour of your time, if you have nothing better to do and you are in London anyway. One of my friends found a crappy job through an agency, but he took it because it allowed him to meet a lot of people and show his skills, that lead to a much better job; you never know.

If you do your homework over the phone and e-mail, you will probably get to meet somebody every day of your stay in London, you might even have a conflict. If that happens - remember that meeting with an employer is worth 10 times more than meeting with an agency, cancel the agency and meet the employer.

Good Luck !
Tuesday, June 12, 2007

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