Rewinding to January, I was pretty bummed I had to decline a job offer in Philly because I knew I couldn’t handle working part-time for a company while attending my last 6 months of school (even if I quit my part-time in my old lab). Also, I just followed my gut that it was the right thing to do; I definitely did not want to disappoint my almost-employer with sub-par performance! Despite my ever impending fear that my degree will never get me any type of substantial income or job that will satisfy my career goals, I sent the painful decline emails and calls.
Then, a pleasant surprise: I got a call back from a big company that they wanted me to travel out of state to their site for an in-person interview! All said and done, I must say it was an interesting experience.
If you are planning or want to also go to an out-of-state interview, here are a few things to consider:
First and most important, how are you getting there? The coordinator for my interview was definitely surprised when I told her that would need to fly and be provided ground transport to the site instead of doing the 6 hour drive myself. Why you ask? Well, ashamed as I am, I have yet to get my driver’s license. I have lived in two big cities my entire life, so it seemed impractical to drive. Welp, this place definitely didn’t have public transportation, and I am not legally allowed to drive or rent a car outside of NY state.
Don’t be discouraged to interview in an area that requires driving even if you can’t drive at the moment! After much research, I found I was able to get to the state via plane and move around using the airport shuttle and taxi service. It was pricey, but worth it for a chance at this job. If you are planning to drive down yourself be sure to look up directions, have your GPS ready, as well as money for tolls and gas.
I typically like to travel light, so this was not an issue for me. For a two day trip, I would pack 1 small duffle bag with at least the following:
- Hair brush or comb
- Deodorant & fragrance
- Glasses/contacts (if you need either)
- Interview outfit: blouse, suit, shoes
- Purse (for ladies)
- Portfolio (with notepad and pen)
- 1 additional set of travel comfy clothes (besides the one you are wearing!)
If you are not used to traveling and didn’t know, hotels typically provide you with shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotions, towels, and an iron and ironing board to smooth out your travel-wrinkled garments. Sometimes they also have a small store that carries small things, like toothbrushes, in case you forget yours.
Unless you have family in the area or you can make the travel in one day, you are most likely going to need a hotel room. It was strongly suggested for me to travel the night before the interview because of time constraints. According to the schedule, I was going to be meeting people from 9 am to 4 pm all day. I scrounged up any money I had to book a room as soon as I found out I had an interview. Luckily it was post-holiday season, so there was a vacancy for me! Just a word of caution, as soon as you call to book, the hotel will potentially charge your card to hold the room. Remember to bring that credit card and your ID when you arrive for check-in.
Figure. This is the kitchen side of the snazzy hotel room that I stayed at before my out-of-state interview.
Again a trivial thing to worry about if you can drive, but I didn’t have that option. Never fear! Most hotels have room service that you can bill to your stay. If there isn’t food service (like my room), most hotels at the front desk will have menus of nearby restaurants many of which can deliver to your hotel room. Also, some places actually offer a complimentary breakfast starting at about 6:30 am – 7 am, depending on where you stay.
Don’t be silly like me and sleep a grand total of 3 hours the night before your interview . You had a long day of travel and tomorrow is the big interview day! Spend time relaxing and get a good nights rest. No point in worrying now! Definitely wish I could have told myself that in the past haha.
6. Thank You’s
My sister had suggested to me that I should draft my thank you emails while waiting for my plane or while traveling back to Philly. It probably will be a long interview day and you will be tired, but it is best to write personalized thank you’s while everyone you met is still fresh in your mind. Plus, you can send them out faster so your interviewers will also remember you much more clearly.
7. Money & Convenience (a broke student’s perspective)
This is more of a slight rant about why you should go to an out of state interview, if given the option. Believe me, I know that it is an inconvenience to leave in the middle of classes and what ever else going on in your life for 2 weekdays. And I know how it’s like to be a broke college student with no money for books, let alone pay out of pocket to travel, book a hotel, and get to a far away interview. And going to a new place on short notice can be a scary thing. Not to mention, this in no way guarantees you have secured a job.
But as my wonderful sister told me, this is a great experience to have! For me, it has definitely changed my perspective on how to interview well and the importance of making a good impression. When you have come so far to pass the phone screen and then go out of your way physically attend an interview, you start to realize how badly you want (or not want) the job.
8. Post-Interview Feels
So, when you are sitting in the library, barely able to afford a meal a day until the company reimburses your money back, tirelessly trying to catch up with the work you missed, just remember it was worth it because you gave yourself the chance to get the job, regardless of what offer you did or did not get. As they say, you never know unless you try!
Best of luck job hunting!