In the August 21, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter wants to know whether it’s okay to interview with a company, when another company paid the airfare:
When a company flies me in to interview, is it okay to interview with other employers? Here’s the situation. A person is interested in two or more companies in the same industry and in the same locale. Obviously, the most efficient way to interview at these companies would be to fly out for a stretch of time (say a day or two), and interview at all of the companies over that time. My question is, should I let all the companies know that I will be talking to other companies on that trip? Or am I cheating on the company that pays my airfare?
When a company pays to fly you out for an interview, you owe them two things: serious interest in the job, and the time required to interview you. They own your schedule for the time they want to meet with you. If they expect to see you for more than one day while you’re there, you must live by their schedule. They paid for the trip.
What you do the rest of the time is your own business. Do you need to tell them you’re going to the movies in the evening? Having dinner with an old friend, or with a manager from another company? I don’t think so — as long as it doesn’t interfere with the time they need with you. If you call the airline and arrange to extend your stay so you can meet with other companies (or to vacation) at your own expense, that’s up to you.
One thing you should not do is ask another company to split the cost of your trip with the company that’s flying you out anyway. (I have seen this done, but I think it complicates matters. Suddenly, you have two competitors trying to cooperate for your benefit.) You may, however, ask the second company to cover the cost of your hotel for the extra day you’re staying over to meet with them.
Keep the arrangements separate, and keep each company’s activity with you confidential. Make sure you’re giving the company that’s footing the bill all the access they need while you’re in town. But by all means, interview with as many companies as you’re interested in while you’re there. I see nothing unbusinesslike or unethical about it.
There is no need to tell any of the companies what you’re doing, unless you think it will aid you in getting offers. Personally, I think flaunting one company’s interest to another can backfire — and it’s inappropriate. But that’s your judgment call.
When’s the last time a company flew you out for an interview? It doesn’t happen often nowadays! When it does, be ready to capitalize on a visit to your target city. How do you optimize out-of-town interview trips?
Bonus Question: If you’ve got one interview out of town, how do you get more while you’re there?