15

I am submitting reimbursement requests following two interviews. I am particularly interested in general guidelines, but have provided specific examples for context.

I would generally expect that company-wide standards should apply when interviewing (ie. they would be the same when I interview as if I were to work there), but since this is the first point of contact following an interview, I hesitate to give a bad impression.

Here are some specific examples:

  1. tips (meals, taxi, cars otherwise paid for by host)
  2. bus ticket replacement (I had to purchase a new one after losing the print-out sent to me by the company)
  3. hotel stay because I missed my bus (see above)
  4. day-pass to an airline club / lounge. (I had a 4 hour layover)
  5. room service - standard breakfast fare when other options were limited.

Does it depend on the position that I am interviewing for? The company?

  • 2
    The only thing I see here that might be a flag is the airport lounge. Even when I had the most generous travel policy (I expensed a $180 meal for 2 people where we had lobster and at least 4 beers) they did not reimburse for airport lounges. Unrelated, but in flight internet is an expense that my current company reimburses. – Bill Leeper Aug 20 '14 at 16:35
12

On or two more ideas:

  • What's OK and not OK is definitely a factor of country, business domain, and role. There's generally rules out there that are distributed ahead of time to cover the guidance. The goal for most companies is to communicate this ahead of time so you don't get suprised by something you wouldn't have paid for had you known it would be on your nickel.

  • Before you ask, it's worth a recheck of your interview materials to see if a big guidance document was sent to you ahead of time. I seem to remember from my days of traveling for interviews that this was typical - that they'd want you to know ahead of time what you were in for.

  • Bear in mind that the person doing the reimbursement paperwork for your interview is likely NOT a person involved in the hiring decision (unless your company is quite small) - so routine questions stated politely will likely not even hit the radar of the person making the hiring decision (for example - "oops, can't find the guidance for your reimbursment policy, can you send or resend. My apologies if I've misplaced it" - is likely to be a non-issue).

  • BUT - in most companies, anything viewed as interesting, noteworthy, or particularly nuts WILL get remarked upon and people talk. Figure the person who is paying off your reimburesment has a desk next to the HR person coordinating your interview. So if you happened to send in a request for something that was truly bizarre, you will be the talk of the lunchtable. Case in point - I remember a manager hitting the roof over reimbursement requests for pet travel. The idea of a person and their poodle traveling to a business meeting was too funny not to make local gossip.

  • A query is far better than a formal request for reimbursement - when in doubt, asking is better than demanding.

For the most part, here's some rules of thumb:

  • Anything considered normal and nearly obligatory behavior in the country and location is fine - tips are the classic - in the US, a 15% tip is standard and nearly obligatory, 20% is totally normal. 50% would be weird. Similarly - a guy without a car, who took the bus and asked for room service is fine IF there was no continental breakfast at the hotel and if the other local options are extremely limited. However, a $30 breakfast when there's several decent chain restaraunts nearby serving breakfast for $10 is odd.

  • Things that support nearly standard connectivity or productivity needs are typically reimburseable - for example, pay-for wireless once a day is a pretty standard expense. Especially if the hotel doesn't have free wireless... but even if they do, and you needed to check email and bought 2 hours in a coffee shop - not a problem.

  • Things that save significant amounts of time are typically OK - plane vs. bus for example. It is unreasonable to expect the candidate to spend 6 hours getting to the interview if he can spend 2 and $200 more.

  • Things that are modest money that support a necessary work/life balance - for example, taking a cab or paying for parking near the transit point.

  • Things that add purely to comfort are not expenseable - that includes having a nicer place to sit and wait (airport lounge), or a better seat on the plane. UNLESS it was a safety concern. I have been totally willing and within my rights, for example, to demand that I am booked into a better hotel with better security when I find out that my "per diem approved" hotel is in a sketchy part of town with scary looking people loitering about. Similarly, if I was waiting in a downtown bus terminal and I could pay to sit in a lounge near a security guard I just might take it. I would, however, expect to be clear about this in my expense report, because paying for the safety may be percieved as paying for luxury. And this does not just apply to females, minorities, people with disabilities, etc. EVERYONE has the right to feel safe.

  • Usually things that are attributable to mess-ups ARE expensible - lost tickets, stolen tickets, missed flights - sometimes screw ups are inevitable. For regular travel, I would expect that not only does the company pay, but also they have a program with their preferred carriers to handle employee mistakes (for example, we had some no-fault reimbursement policies with some airlines). For an interview, this a hard call - as another poster says - you are balancing the perception of looking careless with the need to get reimbursement. A hard call and a judgement call only you can make. If it was a theft or honestly unpreventable issue (I once blew a rental car tire on the way to a flight!) - ask for it and explain the issue.

Many of these are a fine line - in everyday travel, most folks coordinate informally to figure out the best deals - both for themselves and the company. You get a sense, working in a company of what is "par for the course" and what is even "acceptable weirdness but with pain and suffering".

The challenge as an interviewee who is travelling without many contacts in the area is figuring out what's "normal" when you know so few people.

There is definitely no harm in asking about any of the things you've cited. And you can even expect a company by company answer. It might even be enlightening. I found that when I moved into positions with higher travel expectations that company's philosophy on certain travel allowances had a BIG impact on my satisfication with the job. And almost as important - my manager's way of enforcing and communicating those rules.

16

You should ask the place where you interviewed for their guidelines. They probably have a standard list that they can give you. If they don't and they ask for clarification, bring up the tips and perhaps the airline club.

In an interview situation I would not ask for reimbursement for anything that can be seen as my fault -- the replacement ticket and the resulting hotel and meal sound like your problem, not theirs. As an employee I would ask, something along the lines of "I messed up; is there anything that can be done to help?", but not in an interview where what they'll remember is one or both of "he messed up" and "he cost us extra money".

Does it depend on position? Possibly -- the more senior the position, the more you should avoid this. A college student interviewing for his first real job who makes a mistake will be more-easily forgiven than a senior manager who ought to have known better (and anyway will be presumed to have the cash to cover his mistake).

  • 2
    @JBKing, wining and dining is more likely at higher levels, but in that case the interviewee would never have the expense -- the host would put it on the corporate credit card. If you're seeking reimbursement for an expense, chances are very very good that no representative of the company was present when the expense was incurred. – Monica Cellio May 24 '12 at 0:22
  • Nice! I particularly like your point that it is both company-specific and person-specific. Side note - US norms on things like tipping are quite different from other countries, so getting the standard expense report guidelines is a great idea. – bethlakshmi May 30 '12 at 16:35
11

Disclaimer: I am the type of person who will take public transportation even when told explicitly that taking a cab is acceptable because I tend to be frugal and sort of enjoy the sense of adventure. This is probably not the norm.

From my perspective, this is what I would conclude from each of the items, if I got word a candidate had submitted those expenses:

  • tips (meals, taxi, cars otherwise paid for by host)

Not a jerk. Takes care of service personnel (positive)

  • bus ticket replacement (I had to purchase a new one after loosing the print-out sent to me by the company)

Makes careless mistakes and expects the company to bail him out (negative)

  • hotel stay because I missed my bus (see above)

See above

  • day-pass to an airline club / lounge. (I had a 4 hour layover)

Makes good use of time (positive)

High maintenance. Will use company resources for personal comfort (negative)

  • room service - standard breakfast fare

See above, and my disclaimer -- I have never ordered room service in my life, regardless of who's paying, since I am viscerally offended at the idea of paying $18 for scrambled eggs. But this may not be the norm.

--

I'd say the biggest variable is how your actual interview went. If you did well, then people probably won't be looking for reasons to knock you down.

If you did poorly or fair, then submitting questionable expenses could make you the butt of water cooler jokes at the company for the next several years. Remember that guy who couldn't even code fizzbuzz, then expected us to pay for his room service and airport lounge and a replacement for the bus ticket he lost?

  • +1, I'm not that frugal person, but I agree with all that. If I take on extra expense through either my choice or my error, I'll absorb it. – pdr May 23 '12 at 19:06
  • @pdr My rationale was that if I had taken a flight as originally offered, the ticket would have cost more and I would have had to stay another night anyway. – Abe May 24 '12 at 1:59
  • regarding room service - it was the only breakfast in the hotel and without crossing major intersections, and I was being picked up for the interview at 7AM (coffee, pastries, and fruit were provided at the interview, but I did not know this in advance). – Abe May 24 '12 at 2:01
  • 1
    If it is a large, bureaucratic company, the person doing the hiring may not see the expense report. – Gort the Robot May 24 '12 at 2:36
5

Everything except the replacment bus ticket, airline club daypass and room service are appropriate for most American corporations. For sure they will be disapproved if your are applying to work for a U.S. government contractor.

Unless you are applying for a senior position you very well may get push back on those items even in a pure private sector organization.

You really have three options:

1) Claim these expenses, and shrug your shoulders if they don't reimburse you. In the past this would be my choice, but since participating in this forum I've been astounded at the many trivial and unimportant things that seem to worry some interviewers and hiring decision makers (tie color, shoes, email addresses, etc).

2) Don't claim them out of an abundance of caution. In case you have a 'tie color is critical' hiring authority why risk claiming a questionable expense?

3) Contact the admin or HR person who coordinated your interview and ask the question before you file your expense report. This is commonly done and shouldn't raise any eyebrows. Unless you are applying at a place that considers tie color etc as important.

  • 2
    Hmmmm... I'm not sure submitting out-of-scope expenses is in the same category as tie color. I'm avoiding using the word "fraudulent" because that's a little heavy for what we're talking about, and I am a bit frugal by nature, but I wouldn't want to set a tone of being cavalier with the expenses of the company I wanted to employ me. – JohnMcG May 23 '12 at 18:41
  • 2
    Also, some of the expenses listed are a result of the OP's carelessness, which I would be reluctant to bring to people's attention to. – JohnMcG May 23 '12 at 18:42
  • @JohnMcG "fraudulent" is not a little heavy, it is inaccurate. Fraud implies lying, cheating, e.g. the definition "A deception deliberately practiced in order to secure unfair or unlawful gain." My (proposed) claims could be interpreted as: greedy, indulgent, excessive etc., but not fraudulent. Turning in an expense that I did not incur would be fraudulent. – Abe May 24 '12 at 2:11
1

"I would generally expect that company-wide standards should apply when interviewing (ie. they would be the same when I interview as if I were to work there), but since this is the first point of contact following an interview, I hesitate to give a bad impression." If you don't want to give a bad impression, don't "nickel-and-dime" them. What do you want to be remembered as: "The guy with out-of-line expectations?"

  1. "tips (meals, taxi, cars otherwise paid for by host)" Let me get this straight: you want the job, but also want to spend practically nothing on the interview?
  2. "bus ticket replacement (I had to purchase a new one after losing the print-out sent to me by the company)" NO! It was your fault that you lost the print-out. How much did the replacement cost? = "nickel-and-diming"
  3. "hotel stay because I missed my bus (see above)" Probably "No," because the hotel stay was only necessary b/c you missed the bus. Look at it this way: at least you'll have an incentive to pay attention to important details. "My dog ate my homework" is long past.
  4. "day-pass to an airline club / lounge. (I had a 4 hour layover)" Unless you are a very senior applicant (Director or other), I would frown about claiming expenses like this. Unless you have won a Nobel Prize, nobody really cares about how comfortable you are, harsh as it may seem.
  5. "room service - standard breakfast fare when other options were limited." No and no. Room service is an extravagance. If the standard fare was unacceptable, buy yourself breakfast, and pay for it yourself. What are you, an epicurian?
  6. "Does it depend on the position that I am interviewing for? The company?" - Yes and yes. If you are a "C" level executive, you can ask for more. If not, no.
  7. "I would generally expect that company-wide standards should apply when interviewing (ie. they would be the same when I interview as if I were to work there)." But you DON'T work there, so this expectation is invalid.
  8. Finally, you seem preoccupied with what the company can do for you.

I hope this helps you. The general rule is, "go with the flow."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.