Answer: It depends.
Scenario: You're a mid-career job seeker and have been applying for jobs left and right. Due to the competitive market, you have expanded your initial local search to include 5-7 key markets throughout the US. You start to make headway, and after gaining momentum, are invited for an in-person interview in one of the out-of-state markets. There's one catch - the company cannot (or will not) cover your travel expenses.
To Spend or Not To Spend
After giving this scenario some thought, two clear viewpoints emerge - either do what you have to do to secure work in this challenging economy OR graciously decline and move on to the next opportunity.
Recently, I experienced both sides of the coin with opportunities to interview at both an out-of-state company (with all interview expenses paid) and an in-state company that was unable to cover any costs (about 6 hours away via car). The latter was a bit of a let down, but understandable since the positions were in very different industries.
As I contemplated arranging a one-hour flight for the in-state interview, I recalled a trip that I paid for out-of-pocket last year for a promising out-of-state job. After weighing the pros and cons of that position, I decided to pay for my own hotel and flight arrangements about four weeks in advance of the actual interview. A week before my trip, I was informed via email that the position had been eliminated due to budget constraints. From what I recall, it was a loss of about $600. Throw money away, much?
Considerations: Core Criteria
To decide if it is worth funding a trip for an interview, consider your top 3-5 "must-haves" in a position. As I made of list of my core criteria, I considered the following:
The Verdict Is In
Using this criteria, I decided to pass on the recent offer to interview in-state and am happy with my decision. If you evaluate your core criteria and feel comfortable passing on the opportunity, then do so.
If the position and all that comes with it - new scenery, change of lifestyle, etc. - is worth it to you, then proceed and make the investment.
But think fast. Employers will often want to know right away (sometimes even before the initial phone screening) that you're able to interview in-person on your own dime, so evaluate the position thoroughly and be prepared to discuss from the onset of the recruiting process.
Web 2.0 and the Interview
Thankfully, more and more employers seem to be embracing Skype and video conferencing technologies, so hopefully, in time, this question will be a thing of the past. Be aware that acing the video interview isn't as easy as it may seem, so do your best to prepare if offered the option.
Ciao for now.
For More on Long Distance Interviewing:
Maisha Cannon is a Senior Recruiter and Researcher committed to introducing employers to talent that will enhance and grow their businesses. Over the span of her 15 year career in Human Resources, Maisha has filled over 1,000 positions, and has coached hundreds of candidates on resume writing, interviewing skills, and career planning. She spends her free time blogging, engrossed in social media, and singing along to the thousands of songs in her iPod.