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I'm from Eastern Europe and I've been applying to UK's companies for a graduate software developer position. I have been invited to face to face interview, however the company does not offer any reimbursements for the expenses. I did the maths and plane tickets + hotel + meals + transport would come up to about half of average monthly wage (which I do not earn at the moment, due to still studying and being unemployed). I have some savings, however I want to spend them on the relocation, rather than on interview that might not lead anywhere.

I thought of three options

  • Politely decline the invitation, stating no reason/saying I'm no longer interested in the position.

  • Decline the invitation, but state that I can't afford to fly to UK few days.

  • Ask if it's possible to do the interview over Skype/Google Hangouts or similar service

I'm afraid the first one might burn some bridges, the second one might (if they change their mind and pay for the costs) make my position weaker when it comes to salary negotiations. I'm guessing the third one is improbable, since we did phone interview over Skype, and they asked me to come to their offices for face to face.

Which course of action should I take?

  • 24
    @JuliaHayward 2 way plane ticket (Prague-Luton) + luggage + check-in = about £136. 2 nights at hotel 2x£25 (WizzAir has flights at really bad times, have no choice but to stay 2 nights), £30 for travel, food etc comes up to about £220. Average net monthly wage about £460. It adds up, sadly :(. For them, it's probably nothing, for me, it's quite a lot. – PQLG Feb 3 '15 at 14:04
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    Check you can abort to live near to the office on the wages they are offering! This may not be the case if the job is in London. – Ian Feb 3 '15 at 14:59
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    @PQLG Those costs don't surprise me too much, but £460/month? That would be less than half the minimum wage here. I understand your problem much more now! – Julia Hayward Feb 3 '15 at 16:15
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    Ask them whether they can pay for you flight and accommodation. It does not matter whether you can afford it or not. Look at it this way: they already spent time/money speaking with you. And it looks like they consider you. Finding a talent right now is pretty hard. So if they are willing to fight for 400$, most probably this is not the right place to work. Also what if you have 5 or 10 interviews? Would you pay 2200£ to visit all of them? Not relevant, but in US every company I was interviewed paid for food/place/tickets. – Salvador Dali Feb 4 '15 at 4:01
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    I'm a London manager who has in the past recruited IT people (although I'm not doing so right now). If a candidate from another EU country (with the right to work in the UK) explained that they couldn't afford to fly in for an interview and suggested a phone/skype interview instead then I wouldn't hold that against them. I'd want to do the phone/skype interview as an initial test to see whether it was worth our company paying to fly them into London. FWIW, my opinion is: just be honest and say that you can't afford it. It doesn't reflect badly on you at all. – A E Feb 4 '15 at 23:48

11 Answers 11

78

If you've passed the initial Skype screen then you have a reasonable chance of success, and my experience right now from trying to recruit in London is that good graduates are in short supply - your position is certainly not that weak. It is worth asking the company if they will contribute, say, the cost of the flight - they may say no, in which case you're no worse off than had you tried options 1 and 2 in your post, but realistically the cost of a budget flight to them is tiny compared to the potential gain of getting a talented member of staff on board. You could also offer to reimburse them after they employ you.

A second thing to do is find as many London-based recruiters on LinkedIn and get them to put your resume around - then arrange to do a whole slew of interviews in one trip (we had a couple who were doing exactly that). Most companies will be flexible if they sense they are seeing someone worthwhile.

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    I really liked the finding other recruiters suggestion; great option +1 – Burhan Khalid Feb 3 '15 at 11:53
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    I would also add that if they say they won't help with travel costs, then they probably don't want you very badly anyway and it would be a waste of your time and money to take the trip. – David K Feb 3 '15 at 13:14
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    "You could also offer to reimburse them after they employ you" -- would that help? That means if you're good they get their money back (but if you're good then they won't care about that, since paying to interview good people is fine). If you're bad they don't get their money back, and dropping money on multiple bad candidates is presumably what their "no interview expenses" policy is specifically intended to avoid. Where "bad" here covers two things: either you're unappointable or you turn down the job. – Steve Jessop Feb 3 '15 at 13:26
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    A decent company will pay for your transportation. If they don't pay, its a possible sign that they have less respect for their developers. – Mark Rogers Feb 3 '15 at 20:05
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    @MarkRogers: or at least, it's a sign that they don't agree with Julia's assessment that "good graduates are in short supply" in London, and therefore are happy to recruit from the local pool without shipping in equally-good candidates from across Europe. That said, being unwilling to go out and find the best at modest cost is still a possible sign they have less respect for their developers... – Steve Jessop Feb 3 '15 at 23:41
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You should be honest with them. If you are an interesting enough candidate for them, they will possibly make an exception in reimbursing you for travel. If not, then you can amicably part ways.

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    I agree with this answer, but want to make one additional comment. If they have 100 applicants and can find 10 that have enough on their resume and phone interview to warrant a face to face interview, the fact they have to spend money to fly you in is enough reason to skip you and just interview 3 or 4 of the other 9. Asking never hurts, but the real question is how to conduct a job search in a country I don't currently reside? – mhoran_psprep Feb 5 '15 at 15:17
  • If they're recruiting software developers in London right now, I'm pretty sure they don't have 100 decent applicants! – lambshaanxy Feb 6 '15 at 11:10
19

Answers above are perfectly right in my opinion, but in case you're not totally convinced yet I'd like to add a few words about the company's perspective.

The odds are they expect you (or at the very least, will be far from shocked if you do) to ask them to contribute to travel expenses. It's no secret that a student is unlikely to be able to spend that much money for a trip that is not 100% sure to get him a job. If they interviewed fresh-out of school candidates before you're probably not the first one in this situation.

On the other end, even if they are ready to pay for the plane tickets, hotel and so on, there is no point for them to offer it first. If you don't say a thing and pay for the trip yourself, they save money. If you ask them to contribute, well that's money they already planed to invest.

  • I like this, but I would not ask them to pay for the trip. I'd merely say that, sorry, I can't come because I can't afford to. Then they either offer to pay for the trip or not. – Olin Lathrop Feb 5 '15 at 19:40
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    "there is no point for them to offer it first." ... not true, many companies offer this unprovoked. It signals real interest to the candidate. I know of people who have turned down interviews for the sole reason that the company didn't preemptively offer reimbursement. To me this seems a bit crazy without at least asking, but it happens. Good developers are in demand. – WetlabStudent Feb 5 '15 at 23:43
17

Good answers, but to be specific about strategy, I would suggest your option 3. Ask them if the next interview could be via Skype, and make sure to explain that the reason you're suggesting this is that you've worked the numbers and as a student you can't afford the trip. This is proactive (you're offering a solution), and it seems to me to be a polite way to let them offer to pay without immediately asking them outright.

By proposing a solution and explaining why, you're indicating that you're interested, which you are. Turning down the interview without reason is misleading and closes a door that they might've opened for you.

EDIT: If you mention Skype and explain your reason and they turn Skype down and don't offer to help pay for your trip, I'm not sure what I'd suggest. On the one hand, you could follow up with something like, "Well, I'm still interested in your company, but since I can't afford to come to London and Skype won't work, do we have any other options?", and you could even throw in, "Do you have a budget that could help pay my expenses?" That would show a certain level of determination and desire to solve problems. On the other hand, a company that couldn't get the idea that I can't afford to travel there might be one that I would not want to work for.

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    I think this is a good strategy, going to a prospective employer with a possible solution to your mutual problem is better than asking them outright to pay for your trip. That said, as @ero mentioned, you're almost certainly not the first graduate they've interviewed who isn't able to easily pay for their trip. Possibly one of their "interview questions" is to see how you attempt to solve the problem. – delliottg Feb 3 '15 at 16:20
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My personal experience is that if a prospective employer will nickel-and-dime you for interview travel expenses, they'll then do so for everything else, including compensation, workplace equipment and so forth.

So, if they refuse to reimburse a reasonable proposal (and budget flight surely is reasonable) I would simply decline the job... unless you're somehow really desperate to work for them in particular. Remember that's them who want the face to face interview. If they'd be happy with Skype, they'd say so, especially after the prelim was over Skype.

EDIT: And it seems that people with more experience would advise that as well. From http://lifehacker.com/ask-to-split-the-cost-of-your-next-interview-if-you-ha-1603124289

Of course, if they decline to front any costs for your trip, you must decide whether to gamble. My advice is: Don't. A company that won't pay to fly you out is trouble.

If only I had read that when I was applying for my first job...

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    I can't agree more. The company that's going 'the cheap way' isn't an attractive employer for reallocation. – user1023 Feb 6 '15 at 7:49
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As someone mentioned already, in my opinion being honest never hurts.

I'm Spanish, been in the UK for 5 years now, 3 of them in London and work ethics and culture is quite different with Spain, in terms of how they believe in people's potential, help you and nurture you. That said, of course businesses try to make the most out of their money, so my advice here would be:

  • Be honest, tell them about your situation but be ready to prove why they should pay of it, why you are the best candidate for such position, if you truly are motivated by the job make sure they believe that.
  • Think about the fact that nothing beats a motivated individual, with willingness to learn. Sometimes lack of experience can also be a positive, since they can provide you training according to their procedures and operations, which is easier than making someone already used to some procedures, change their behaviour.
  • Push them further so they have a clearer understanding of your position, make sure they understand the fact that your only issue is money to get here, yet you are willing to do anything else to get the job if they give you the chance, again, someone determined and motivated to get the job is a really strong point for someone to recruit.

Hope that helps!

  • The business will more than recoup the cost of the travel on giving you a lower offer given how much they are learning about your financial straits. – user1084 Feb 3 '15 at 14:37
5

It's not clear whether or not you've actually asked them to pay for travel, or if they just didn't offer it up front. I would say the following:

Unfortunately on my current finances I can't afford to make the trip. I'm completely open for another Skype chat, but I'd love to come out their to meet you face to face if you could help pay the travel expenses.

Also, if you are willing to cover the cost of the trip for several interviews (and can reasonably line them up within a couple weeks), you could add:

Also, I'm in the process of lining up in-person interviews with several companies that I can do all together in one trip, if you're willing to be patient while I hammer out those details over the coming weeks then I'd love to come see you then.

... which has a side benefit of reminding them they aren't the only ones interested in you in a non-combative way.

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    and has the side effect of them saying "If you aren't coming to see just us, why should we contribute 100%?" – MJB Feb 5 '15 at 17:27
  • @MJB - "if you are willing to cover the cost of a trip for several interviews" - if he's seeing several companies he doesn't expect them to contribute anything (in this scenario). It could be worth the investment to take one trip to see several companies, but not to take many individual trips to see several companies. – Jason Feb 5 '15 at 19:34
3

Look at it from the employer's position:

  • Software development is facing a severe shortage of talent today. Many have hundreds of thousands of dollars budgeted towards hiring engineers, but not all of them could find the right people to hire.

  • They pay quite a lot of money to hire - the costs of HR filtering out applications, the cost of the job ad placement, the opportunity cost of management spending time interviewing you on the phone (assuming that it wasn't HR that did all the interviewing).

  • A large portion of software development expenses goes into staff.

So you hold a lot a strong advantage to request reimbursement for travel expenses. If they say no, they'll probably skimp on other claims as well and it would be safe to decline the invitation then.

However, never say no for no reason. It does burn bridges and the community is smaller than you think. I regularly bump shoulders with people with bad reputations from years back, so burning bridges will likely bite you back in the future.

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Always be honest and you will find yourself magically navigated to the relationships (work or personal) that are positive and away from relationships that are negative. If the guy will not skype and says he needs you to pay for it, spend your time looking for other jobs. I would have the feeling there is more negative stuff coming down that path.

Do not get into any discussion about "if he could pay this...". Just tell him you cannot afford it. Can we skype instead?

  • this doesn't seem to offer anything substantial over prior answer that was posted 2 days ago – gnat Feb 5 '15 at 11:01
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You could also try to use less money

  1. Buy just a one way ticket, as you are unemployed, you have the time to use hitchhiking, ride sharing etc. on your way back. There are cheap busses like studentagency (2way ticket for 90 GBP)
  2. Stay in a hostel (saves about 30 GBP), i have seen people in suits having breakfast between backpacker hippies in hostels before.
  • question asked is not about options to save money. See How to Answer – gnat Feb 14 '15 at 20:59
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You could propose they take care off the flight + lodging and in case they hire you, they can deduct it from your salary.

Perhaps even in small monthly downpayments as you will have the costs of relocating to deal with...

Good luck man!

  • 5
    I'm not down-voting you because your rep is 1 right now, but this is a bad idea. Business travel expenses are normally reimbursed for employees. If you start encouraging your employer to have you pay out of pocket and not be reimbursed... you can quickly find your whole salary gone that way in some circumstances. – Fizz Feb 3 '15 at 18:50

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