If a job seeker goes to a job interview some hundred km away and gets a job offer following the interview, which she rejects (for whatever reason - personal or professional - but not related to the company), should she still have her costs covered?
In general: yes, in Germany the interviewing company is obliged by law to cover the costs of interview related travel no matter what the outcome of the hiring process is. See this article (in German) for example.
There are some exceptions though:
- The hiring company may with the invitation to an interview inform you that they won't cover travel costs. However this information has to be made very clear.
- You didn't show up for the interview but there have been costs generated up front, e.g. for a hotel room or flight tickets which could not be returned. In that case the company can refuse to cover the cost or, if they already paid for it, can ask you for compensation. I'm however not sure whether this applies for any 'no-show' or only ones where you have no concise excuse.
Aside from your actual obligations, the reason for paying travel regardless of an accepted offer is that it benefits you as the employer.
Firstly, you have the option to not pay anybody's travel. Clearly, the disadvantage here is that you are excluding any applicant who cannot afford to travel for interview - and you will recieve a smaller number of offers, that are likely of lower quality. Paying for travel at all, is an effective use of recruitment budget to encourage high skilled candidates to apply.
If you have decided to pay for travel costs, it's then even more important that you do so for all people (whether they are rejected, or reject you).
By requesting repayment of travel costs, you are putting candidates in one of two situations:
Candidates that otherwise would not be comfortable working for you, are now being pressured to take the job. If you already decided that you want high-skill staff enough to pay travel at all; you've just undone that by pushing staff who aren't a good fit to take the role.
Candidates that haven't yet interviewed, but are weighing up their options (when you inform them they will have to repay the travel cost), will now see this interview as a financial risk. Importantly, you're also signalling a red flag to them, that as an employer you are tight on money and will potentially exploit them as an employee (whether this is actually the case or not).
If you cannot afford to pay travel costs for those that reject an offer, I'd suggest you cannot afford to pay them for anybody. Simply not covering travel costs is a much less offputting position, than telling a candidate you expect repayment if it doesn't work out.
If it's part of the agreement then yes. Normally these things are made clear before anyone starts spending money.
For obvious reasons it doesn't hinge on whether an interviewee accepts an offer or even if they get an offer. It would be a huge red flag if a company expected interviewees to pay if they don't accept whatever offer they're given.