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I was interviewing for a faculty position in a large city. When I was done I took a taxi to the airport... the wrong airport! I ended up taking another taxi to the correct airport and catching my flight. However, the second taxi ride was around $100.

Should I include this when asking the school for reimbursement, or just pay out of my own pocket since this was my mistake and makes me look like an idiot?

70

Assuming they liked your presentation, and consider putting you on the shortlist, but are not sure at which position compared to some other candidate; now, reflect, which impression this makes.

  1. You made a nontrivial mistake which is also quite costly.
  2. You ask them to cover that mistake of yours.

Even if they would be willing to do so (and assume it would be eligible at all, which is also not clear - why should they reimburse you for your mistake?), consider how this comes across.

Unless you really are in dire need of the money (and it's not clear you are going to get it anyway), it's probably the wise thing to let things be.

  • 80
    In general if I make a mistake on a work trip, I would expect the employer to cover it (because there is always a risk of making mistakes when travelling). But you are correct that in an interview situation, it is to the candidates benefit to just cover it himself. – jpa Jan 19 '17 at 6:41
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    @jpa Exactly. Mistakes happen - but even then, I'd rather err on the side of me covering mistakes and ambiguities; in cases of audits, this puts you in a much stronger position. Most certainly, in a job interview, you do not want to be seen as stickler for details when larger things are at stake, because that is also an indicator (among others) how you will prioritise things in the department. – Captain Emacs Jan 19 '17 at 10:09
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    @jpa's point is particularly important in that even if you're in an unfamiliar place (or even language) by going for an interview you're saying your capable of living and working there, while on a business trip you haven't necessarily chosen to go to that particular place. – Chris H Jan 19 '17 at 13:15
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    I made a similar mistake, got reimbursed for it, got stared at, made a bad impression. I would not ask for money if it was my interview. They don't test only professional competence during interviews. They also try to figure out what kind of person you are. One that messes up and gets others to pay for it would only be hired as a defense secretary. – user21264 Jan 19 '17 at 13:15
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    I'd certainly pay $100 to prevent a potential employer I really wanted to work for from finding out I got lost on the way back to the airport. – Shufflepants Jan 20 '17 at 21:48
22

I actually made a much worse mistake when interviewing for the job I currently have (I booked the plane ticket for the wrong month), and paid a few hundred dollars out of pocket to make the change. I don't actually think it would have made a difference, but I was honestly too embarrassed to even try to ask for it.

The risk/reward difference is such that it's probably better to just keep your mouth shut, but I do find the other answers oddly ignore a crucial issue: there is no unitary "they" who is both making a decision about your job and the reimbursement. Of course, it comes from the same institution, but not really the same people. Your reimbursement will probably go directly to a secretary, and be signed off on by the chair without her/him even really looking at it. At my own institution, I doubt anyone would even notice if you sent in both receipts (maybe the secretary would think it was odd for a moment, but s/he has other stuff to worry about). Of course, there is some chance that it would be questioned, or go over some limit, and then maybe the secretary would mention it to the chair (or the chair might notice the bill being unusually high), and maybe the chair would mention it to other people in the department. That is the risk.

  • Or you are asked to send it to the chair, which not rarely happens. – Captain Emacs Jan 20 '17 at 11:42
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    I would expect the person reviewing the expenses claim to have a rough idea of what things ought to cost and to query things that are far outside that range. If a plane ticket usually costs $700, having an $800 ticket probably won't be a problem because ticket prices vary a lot and we're only talking 15%. But if the taxi to the airport is usually, say, $50 and there's a claim for that plus another $100, that is far from the norm (300%) and would surely be queried. I'd be very surprised if a secretary at a UK institution authorized that without checking higher up. – David Richerby Jan 20 '17 at 11:53
  • People talk, and a secretary or staff member probably talks to the decision makers in the department constantly. I haven't heard anything about faculty, but I have definitely heard of prospective graduate students who lost favor because they treated department staff rudely, even if all the professors loved them. If the charge is unusual enough, you could definitely become "that one candidate who must have taken a cab all around the city." – Bryan Krause Jan 20 '17 at 22:43
  • @BryanKrause: "a secretary or staff member probably talks to the decision makers in the department constantly" - It depends a lot on the university administration whether the travel expenses people and the researchers in a department are anywhere close and in any position to talk to each other. Of course, the possibility does exist. – O. R. Mapper Jan 20 '17 at 22:52
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    @O.R.Mapper Certainly; in my case everything is reviewed by a departmental specialist before entering the black box of academic accounting and benefits that eventually spits out a check; I'm sure in some institutions the middle step is skipped. For the OP, I just think this is a case where one shouldn't bet heavily on an idea that it will just slip through the cracks, especially for only $100 vs a job. – Bryan Krause Jan 20 '17 at 23:00
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When do you need to submit your expense report by? Is it possible to delay submitting your expense report until after they have reached a decision? This may allow you to submit the expense report with the expense without it impacting your ability the secure the job.

Looking at whether the expense is valid is an interesting question but in my experience, things like this are a cost of doing business. The University always has the option of not accepting your expense report if they don't think it is a valid expense.

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Considering the importance of the interview for your career and the amount of money involved, I'd suggest you pay it yourself. You probably earn that amount of money in less than 1 day (correct me if I'm wrong), and getting a new interview may require more time than that.

2

Under the circumstances I'd say the extra cost should be paid by whoever booked the cab. If you booked it, it's your error: having them pay for it seems neither fair nor advisable. If they booked it, it's their error: having you pay for it is not fair.

  • I'll agree as long as you mean the organization, either the single person organisation that is me, or the large organization where I have the interview, but not for example the lowly employee who booked the taxi ahead. So once you are employed, every mistake you make is the organization's mistake. – gnasher729 Jan 21 '17 at 23:52
  • Of course, I meant the organization. Thank you, I was imprecise in my comment. – Keith Davies Jan 22 '17 at 19:00

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