Should You Reimburse for the Wine?

A Guide to Job Candidate Travel Expenses


Your top job candidate had to cross three states to interview with your CEO at corporate. The night before the interview, she visits a nearby restaurant and orders a reasonably-priced meal and pairs it with a glass of wine.

Should you, her potential employer, reimburse her?

For the meal? Of course. The wine? Umm . . .

As a general rule, most companies do not reimburse job candidates (or employees) for alcoholic beverages. However, it’s the employer’s call and the decision should be made ahead of time and documented via a candidate travel policy. So when your candidate discovers that she was not compensated for her pour of merlot, there are no hard feelings. Additionally, the receipt won’t have your department seeing red; they’ll know exactly how to handle the expense.

Creating a Candidate Travel Policy

What will you reimburse? Will there be spending limits? Will they apply to every candidate?

Creating or reviewing a candidate travel policy ensures there are no mismatched expectations. However, some companies have multiple policies based on hiring levels and/or business units. For example, if your candidate is interviewing for a c-suite position, you may forgo economy airfare and book a seat in business class.

To get started, consider the standard expense categories and use the following as your guide:

  • Airfare: Most companies will pay for or reimburse economy-class airfare.
  • Lodging: A majority of employers pay for and/or reimburse lodging with a capped maximum on nightly rates. Some specify hotel chains.
  • Car rental: The bulk of companies reimburse car rental expenses and may have negotiated a discount with one or two rental companies.
  • Meals: Nearly all organizations compensate meals and have a daily cost limits. Those limits can be as low as $25 and as high as $100 or more. Alcoholic beverages are typically excluded.
  • Mileage: Most employers offer a reimbursement for the miles driven by the candidate when he or she uses their own car. Some companies may have a minimum (i.e. 80 miles round-trip or 50 miles one-way).
  • Miscellaneous Incidentals: These include parking, tolls, taxi, ride share services (i.e. Uber and Lyft), shuttle, train, or bus fare.

Regardless of the policy you choose, communication is key – for the candidate and the team who audits the expenses. Create a travel guideline to share with candidates, ensuring that it’s clear, simple, and positive – you don’t want the communication to be off-putting. Chances are it will only improve the candidate’s experience by addressing questions that often go unasked.

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