This visit is at the employer’s invitation and is often at the location where you will begin work. You have been invited as a result of your presentation in the initial interview. The first interview was the one you arranged by sending a cover letter and resume, a telephone interview you initiated, or as a result of a campus interview.
In most situations, the employer will pay all reasonable expenses; however, it is your responsibility to verify before you go what expenses are to be covered and how. These invitations are usually made on the telephone, and you are not expected to accept or decline immediately unless you are sure about your interest. You want to put your impressions of employers in priority order before you begin to make travel plans. Do not accept the invitation unless you are serious about the opportunity. This is not the time to tour the country.
You have made a good first impression; otherwise, you would not be invited. However, an offer of employment is not automatic. Employers usually invite more people for site visits than they expect to hire. The purposes of the day are for you and the employer to get to know each other better and for both of you to decide if there is an appropriate match. It is your opportunity to meet the people you might work with, to see the facility, and to discuss your special strengths and interests in greater detail. The employer will try to ensure that you are impressed with the people, the facility, and the career opportunities.
It is impossible to outline the typical day or two. Some employers will send you very specific details about what will be expected, and others will tell you when you arrive. Some will have a representative meet you for dinner or breakfast, and others will let you find your way to the office. Some will arrange for you to have as many as eight individual interviews with various managers, and others will arrange a few individual interviews with time for business simulation activities. In some cases you will be the only interviewee there, and in others you will be part of a group.
Regardless of the agenda, your responsibility is to discuss your strengths in detail and to ask intelligent questions. When you plan your questions, develop ones that will initiate discussion about the specific employer or about the industry and can be used more than once. ”In your opinion…” is usually good. You want the interviewers to be sensitive to your knowledge and enthusiasm.
You probably will have lunch with new staff, and that is a good time to get some general impressions of the work environment and the community.
Though more casual, any dining situation is also an interview of sorts. They want to see how you handle yourself. Dining with a candidate is one way to test maturity and people skills. Be nice to the waiters. Avoid ordering alcoholic beverages unless everyone else at the table seems to be, but remember that it is always acceptable to say “no thanks” to such an offer.
When You Return
A thank-you letter is always appropriate to the person who will ultimately make the decision as well as anyone who did something special for you. Consider sending a handwritten note as an indication of special interest.
Know when you expect to make a decision about accepting offers. Be realistic because some employers will not grant extensions of deadlines. Take some extra copies of your resume and one copy of your transcript with you. If you wear casual clothes on the plane, do not check your luggage. (You wouldn’t want to get caught in New York with your suit in Chicago!)
If you have carefully followed your search strategy, you should expect a number of offers. You will have formed impressions during your site visits, and it should be fairly easy for you to put your observations in priority order. The most common objective factors used to weigh choices are advancement opportunities, training programs, continuing education, location, travel, and salary.
The final choice might be made on subjective factors, such as people, social life, or your feelings. Remember, too, that your direct supervisor will be the most important person in your professional life for the first year or so. It is important, in other words, that you get along with and like your supervisor.
You may decide that you don’t like any of the offers. If you turn them all down, see a career counselor to help you determine what ingredient was missing and to help you identify new employers and design a new search plan/schedule. Read our section on salary negotiation.