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On-site Interviews & Expenses

On-site simply refers to an interview on the employer's site. Some employers conduct interviews on campus through On-Campus Interviewing at Virginia Tech, and/or as part of on-campus job fairs. In that case the on-site interview could be the next step after a successful on-campus interview. Other employers do not visit campus, so an on-site interview could be a first interview or a next step after a phone and/or skype interview.

  • The on-campus interview might be a first interview and a screening process to determine whether to extend an invitation for an on-site interview. On-campus interviews rarely result directly in a job offer, especially for permanent post-graduation employment.
  • Of course not all employers visit campus, so the on-site interview might be your first in-person interview with the employer.
  • The interview process could begin with a phone and/or skype interview, and that might lead to an on-site interview.
  • The on-site interview is often a second or third interview, and thus might determine whether or not you are offered a job. In some instances, there could be more than one on-site interview.
  • The questions asked during the on-site interviews might include questions that are more in-depth, job-specific and more technical in nature.
  • Don't be surprised if you are asked questions already asked in a telephone interview or an on-campus interview; you will likely meet with additional people you have not previously met. 
  • In an on-site interview, you typically meet with many individuals. Each individual with whom you meet has not heard your interactions with others, so you should expect to answer similar question more than once.
  • Usually you are given a tour of the facility (office, building, plant, etc.) and you may meet potential supervisors, managers, or co-workers.
  • Meals are often a part of on-site interviews. Your dining etiquette will be observed and can be a make-or-break factor in whether or not you get a job offer.
  • You as the interviewee have the opportunity to observe the organization's environment, ask questions, provide more in-depth information, and evaluate the community.
  • If your on-site interview is not the first interview with that employer, you have already been screened once. Thus you are expected to be familiar with interview dos and don'ts, and to know how to present yourself professionally, cordially and ethically.
  • By offering you an on-site interview, and especially if your travel expenses are being paid by the employer, the employer is investing considerable time and money in you, and you are subject to even more scrutiny and the highest conduct expectations. You are being judged on your judgment.
  • If the on-site interview is not the first interview, this means you've made it through that hurdle, but it doesn't mean you have the job "in the bag." You are still being evaluated, so it's essential to be professional, prepared, pleasant, and keep your energy level up throughout a long day.

Schedule and length of the interview:
Interviews vary from organization to organization. Some may last an hour and others may involve a two-day itinerary including meals, and extending before and after business hours for breakfast and dinner. A community and/or real estate tour might be included in the schedule. Ask for the agenda / itinerary in advance if it is not provided. This should tell you the schedule for the day and with whom you'll meet.

Format of the interview:
You might encounter individual interviews, group interviews (with multiple interviewers and/or multiple interviewees), testing (aptitude assessment, drug testing, psychological testing), meals with Virginia Tech alumni or other employees, receptions, etc. When meals are involved dining etiquette is critical.

Maintain detailed records related to your on-site visit. Keep track of names and titles of persons with whom you met, copies of letters and resumes sent, dates of interviews and follow-up correspondence, date of intended employment decision(s) to be made (on their part or your part). The itinerary provided by the employer should assist you in keeping track of names and titles.

Travel arrangements:
Find out from the contact person whether you should make travel arrangements and hotel reservations or whether the organization will provide that service. Keep track of expenses incurred (i.e., parking fee at the airport, meals, car mileage). (More on this under expenses.)

Prepare and bring updated copies of your resume. Take enough copies for each individual involved in your interview process. Don't assume that each person with whom you meet will have already seen your resume or, even if they have seen it, will necessarily have it in hand or recall its contents.

If not told, ask in advance whether you need to bring any materials (i.e., writing samples, portfolio, other documents).

If meals are on the itinerary, dining etiquette is critical.

Consider the clothing you will need to take and wear when traveling. Are there dinners, receptions, or presentations involved? A tour of the community? Pack light so you can carry your luggage with you; this should help avoid embarrassment if your luggage is delayed or lost. You'll need interview attire, and perhaps business casual attire. If you are unsure of appropriate attire, ask the employer.

If this is a follow-up to your on-campus interview, you will have already researched the organization. If this is an initial interview, be sure to do your pre-interview research.

Put ample preparation into questions to ask the employer. Construct questions such that your knowledge of the company and the field will be apparent.

If possible, collect business cards from everyone with whom you meet during the interview process. If you are unable to get a business card, make sure you do verify name, correct spelling, and title.

Make notes of pertinent information — before details slip your mind.

Send thank-you notes to all pertinent individuals who met with you.

Know before you take an interview trip whether you or the prospective employer will be responsible for your expenses and for making travel arrangements. Ideally your contact in the organization will explain the process. If not, and if you have any doubts, ask. You can simply say, "I know that I will have travel expenses for the interview. Is there any assistance that might be offered to offset these expenses?" Be prepared that the answer could be yes or no.

The employer organization should explain:

  • expenses they will pay directly (such as airfare and hotel booking);
  • expenses you'll incur that they will reimburse (such as parking, mileage);
  • expenses you must cover (which could be all travel expense if the employer does not cover this).

Discuss timing and scheduling and whether there is a preference on your part or the part of the organization to have you travel by car, by plane or other. Obviously much of this will depend on the locations you are travelling to and from.

For reimbursements, keep an accurate account of all expenses, including meals, tips, cab/ride service, vehicle mileage, parking fees, etc. Keep receipts, especially for major expenses, such as transportation and hotel. Some employers might provide a form for you to fill out when you return home; otherwise, you should itemize expenses on a daily basis. Procedures will vary by employer. Follow the instructions the employer gives you; don't hesitate to ask the employer if you are unclear about any detail; you can indicate this is a new process for you and you want to make sure you comply with instructions.

This is a business trip and you should only incur appropriate expenses. Excessive expenditures by a candidate (such as a large room service bill or a bar tab on the hotel bill) are viewed by employers as a serious sign of poor judgment; employers will eliminate candidates for this type of behavior (and will report this to the candidate's university if it occurs). It should go without saying, but to be clear: Don't run up a bar tab in your hotel. Don't bring a friend along on your site visit. Don't charge inappropriate expenses to the employer.