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I am being considered for a very nice industry scientist position but this involves many interviews and assessments and can take some time.

However I have also accepted an invitation to the US (I'm in Australia) to give a presentation in relation to high likelihood of employment as a postdoc in a research institute.

The postdoc supervisor has arranged for sightseeing and lab visits and hotels. I feel bad if somehow I wish to pursue the industry position.

Has anyone had a similar experience and have you turned down something like that before?

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    What would you do if you would interview at two places and both PIs pay for your expenses? – Hatschu Mar 11 at 16:27
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    I really hope this is acceptable, because I did exactly this a couple of years ago (being paid for flying from the US to Europe, and later offered a position that I eventually rejected). No one seemed to be annoyed with me at the time. :) – Denis Nardin Mar 11 at 17:27
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    The PI arranges for sightseeing and lab visits and hotels either because they think that's the polite and normal thing to do when offering a job, which puts you under no obligation, or to increase the likelihood of you accepting, i.e. by betting on exactly that sense of obligation, which at least I personally would consider a bit of manipulation. Nothing to be offended about, perhaps, but certainly enough to void any sense of obligation I would have. The result is the same in both cases. – sgf Mar 11 at 18:40
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    The answer to questions of the type "Can one do X?" tends to be a straightforward yes. What you (and many other posters) are asking is "What are the consequences of doing X?" I wish that was said more clearly in the title of these questions to stick to the actual issue. – user2705196 Mar 12 at 12:35
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    Don't forget that the interview process is two-way. The institution wants to see if you are a good fit for them. You need to find out if the institution is right for you. I've been involved in faculty hires. Sometimes the person you want turns you down. We held no ill feelings toward these folks and moved on. The institutions you are interacting with will do the same, I would imagine. – Chris Leary Mar 12 at 23:28
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It sounds like you are in the interview phase with no stated commitment in the form of having accepted an offer. Having your travel expenses reimbursed for an interview is not in any way a commitment to accept a position should it be offered. This is a completely normal expense that's part of finding good candidates. It is not expected that everyone they offer a job to will accept.

As long as you approach the interview in good faith, meaning that you haven't already accepted a job elsewhere, and that there is some reasonable non-zero probability that you'd take the job if offered, you shouldn't feel bad about having your interview expenses covered because of the possibility you might not wind up there.

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    +1. I'll note also, that the funds aren't coming from the PI personally, but from some funding s/he has. That is their responsibility to manage, not yours. But congratulations that they are showing strong interest in you. – Buffy Mar 11 at 14:41
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    +1 This is the right answer. However, given the large expense to fly you in, please be sure that there's a reasonable chance (not just nonzero) that you might take this job. And yes, congratulations. – Ethan Bolker Mar 11 at 14:46
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    Having your travel expenses reimbursed for an interview is not in any way a commitment to accept a position should it be offered. That is not universally true. When I applied for a post-doc in England, I was told that expenses are not refunded in a case where an appointment is offered and then refused. For this reason, I opted for a Skype interview instead. – gerrit Mar 12 at 8:44
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    @gerrit That's an interesting and extremely unusual situation that I, nor anyone else who answered that question, have ever seen before. It seems like the the rational strategy is to decide partway through the interview if you'd accept a job if offered, and if there's a reasonable chance you wouldn't, to tank the rest of the interview to ensure you don't get offered the job. – Nuclear Wang Mar 13 at 0:41
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    @NuclearWang The way I read it, the postdoc isn't hiring anyone. They asked the OP if the OP wanted to give a presentation (not get a job), the OP said yes, THEN the postdoc supervisor spent the money ONLY BECAUSE the OP said yes. Now if the OP backs out the postdoc supervisor will have wasted that money and may not be able to get it back. I see no other way to interpret the question so it baffles me that so many people are upvoting your answer. – Clonkex Mar 13 at 2:04
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In addition to the other good answers given here, I think it's also important to understand that what feels like a large sum to a graduate student is often not a large sum for the interviewing organization.

Australia's a bit on the farther side, but a quick bit of searching shows that a ticket is still likely to only be on the order of $1000 US; hotel accommodations and meals will likely bring the total only up to around $2000 US.

In contrast, if you're there for a two-year postdoc, the total cost will likely be on the order of $200,000, when you count in all of the benefits and overhead.

Spending a couple percent on investment to make sure you have a good match is entirely reasonable, as long as everybody involved is being honest about intentions and not wasting anybody's time.

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If your date pays for dinner are you obliged to go home with them? Of course not! Same in this instance - you are under no obligation to accept, but as the prevoius poster says it's only good manners to go only if you are seriously considering the role, were you to be offered it.

Good luck with the whole process and hope you find a position you're really excited about one way or another!

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    This analogy is not appropriate for the workplace, which includes this site. – Reid Mar 11 at 21:34
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    @Reid: I don't see how it's not appropriate. It's comparing power dynamics and how spending money on interest in someone doesn't place some obligation on them, and is a pretty good analogy. – R.. Mar 11 at 23:50
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    It's about sex, which is not an appropriate workplace topic. Don't be lazy; there are plenty of power dynamics analogies that do not involve sex. – Reid Mar 12 at 23:17
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    Independently of whether this answer is appropriate, it seems unrelated. Why should I believe that dating mechanics and job search mechanics are the same at all? When I am being considered for a job, shall I offer my interviewer a job just because going dutch is all the rage on dates these days? – Daniel Wagner Mar 13 at 1:39
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    I don't think the sex part is inherently inappropriate, but having someone pay significant money for you to have interview if you're certain you're not going to take the job is not okay. Going on a date with no intention whatsoever of having sex after is perfectly fine, even if your date pays for dinner. It's just not a good analogy. – tomasz Mar 13 at 13:11
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After Skype interviews we brought the top two candidates over from another continent for face-to-face interviews, tours etc. It's part of the recruitment process to get people on site and spend some time with them, though of course sometimes the money just isn't available.

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I feel bad if somehow I wish to pursue the industry position

Yes, I have experienced such feelings. Don't worry too much about it. Job application and interviewing is just that: process. You spent your time flying, making presentation, they spent some amount of money because they are interested. There is no obligation or expectation that you'll say yes just because they organized your visit.

Also, they probably have institution account that pays for flying candidates, or grant funds potion that is dedicated for travel. Don't feel like you are cheating anyone if you are just exploring your options.

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When I had something similar, my rejected host took it rather unkindly. However, it works both ways, what if the only compensation for a rejection from them would be the "tour" they paid for? In most cases I would not consider it enough compensation, what kind of jobseeker can go on tours when "the house is burning", meaning those few days you take off other interviews, applications etc may be a hefty price to pay. Sure, only occasionally, but your host would also suffer from the hosting expenses only occasionally.

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