Talking about what percentage of time you’re willing to travel for work is something that trips up a lot of applicants. They often say what they think an interviewer wants to hear instead of an honest and well-prepared answer.
This guide will help you understand what interviewers are looking for when they ask this question, and how you can develop a response that works for everyone.
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What Does Travel Percentage Mean?
When a position requires travel, employers typically discuss how much time you’d have to spend in cities other than your own in terms of percentages. For example, a company may advertise a position as requiring “50 percent travel.”
In that case, it means that the employer wants the person hired for that position to spend half of their working days traveling. For every ten days of work, you’d spend five traveling between cities or working in an area outside your home city.
Most travel jobs have a percentage of 50 percent or lower. But you can easily find positions that require more. For example, some engineering, training. and sales jobs have workers traveling 70 percent of the time! Some companies even offer positions that require 100 percent travel time.
It all depends on the industry and the unique position you’re applying for.
Understanding what a company means by “travel percentage” is important to grasp what an employer wants from a new hire. Travel jobs can be fun, but they’re also demanding. You’ll need to spend time away from your family and friends, and the lifestyle is much different than a standard nine-to-five.
While not always the case, many travel percentage requirements are negotiable. A question like this opens the door to that, giving hiring managers a better idea of what you can realistically do if hired.
How to Answer “Are You Willing to Travel?”
Many job seekers fear answering a question like this because they believe that interviewers have something specific they want to hear. However, you can still be honest and set limits without hurting your chances of getting further into the hiring process.
Here are some tips on how to answer this question the right way.
1. Decide What You Want Ahead of Time
The most important thing you need to do is decide how much you’re willing to travel before you head into the interview. Nothing will ruin your chances faster than interviewing for a position that requires traveling, and saying you can’t travel at all (or aren’t sure how much you’re willing to travel). You likely won’t be in the running at all if that’s the case.
Do your research and read the job description closely. Employers are usually upfront about travel expectations. Travel percentages can be negotiable, but do note if the job posting mentions travel, some travel will be required.
Know what you want before you head into the interview. Think about how much travel you can do and how that might affect your life moving forward. Then, have a general travel percentage in mind.
Deciding how much you’re willing to travel will give you everything you need to answer this question confidently.
Interviewers don’t want wishy-washy answers or the dreaded “I don’t know.” If you want to sound confident and serious about this position, know what you want before your meeting.
It’s also important to look into how travel is structured for each position. While companies discuss travel time in percentages, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll spend X amount of days on the road and X amount of days in an office in your home city.
Some positions require you to travel several weeks at a time before spending a few weeks off at home. Those trips could be regular or sporadic based on the company’s needs.
Understand what you’re getting into and what the job requires. Do your research to avoid any surprises!
2. Be Honest & Clear
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to say that you’ll do whatever the company wants in order to get a job.
Travel is a big commitment. Employers and hiring managers know that. They understand that considerable travel is not for everyone, so they appreciate the honesty.
Be clear about whether you’re willing to travel most of the time or can only be on the road a few days out of the month. Be honest and set your boundaries.
The last thing any hiring manager wants to hear is a vague answer. Your response is important because it directly impacts your fit for the job. For example, some companies might have hard travel requirements that are non-negotiable.
In those cases, they need a firm confirmation that you can or cannot meet their required travel percentage. Otherwise, you’d waste their time and yours moving forward. That’s why you should consider what you want from your job before the interview.
Be honest and clear. Don’t lie because you think it might increase your chances of getting a job. While lying might help you move further into the hiring process, it won’t do any good when you can’t hit the road once hired.
The best scenario is already knowing what travel percentage you can work. Discuss those limits during your interview. But you can also express interest in negotiations.
You can tell the interviewer you’re willing to travel but want to learn more about the other job expectations. While not as ideal as providing a percentage, that’s usually enough for interviewers to proceed. Interviews aren’t job offers, and you’re not signing contracts at that point.
So, there’s still room for further discussion. The most important thing is that you’re upfront and have some idea of what you can do going into the interview.
3. Show That You Understand How Travel Relates to the Job
Another important thing to do when answering this question is to demonstrate that you understand the job.
Travel jobs are appealing to many people. One concern that many hiring managers have is that applicants try to get the job because they simply think it’s a cool way to see new places. While that can be true for some jobs, you’re not getting hired to explore new cities and go on vacation!
It’s still a job, and you’ll have important responsibilities.
Show that you understand the job and are there for the right reasons. One way to do that is by talking about some of the unique responsibilities of the job or demonstrating that you know how important travel is for this position.
For example, you can connect the reason why this job requires travel to your work. If the job revolves around sales, you can mention that you understand that traveling is crucial to gaining more clients across the state. If it’s a consulting job, you can discuss how traveling to companies allows you to better assess the situation and build better connections inside companies.
This seemingly small detail makes a difference. It shows that you’re seeking this job for the right reasons and are committed to doing a fantastic job.
4. Highlight the Positives
Finally, highlight some of the positive aspects of travel. That doesn’t mean you should lean too heavily on wanting to get out and explore. Remember: You still have a job and must demonstrate your commitment to doing it.
However, mentioning some of the things you love about jobs that require frequent travel can reassure hiring managers that you’re up for the challenge. An example of this could be networking and meeting new people in a professional setting.
Travel jobs can be overwhelming for some people. It can lead to burnout, and many employers struggle with low retention rates for these positions.
The ultimate goal for hiring managers is to find someone who thrives in a job that requires traveling. The best people are those who love getting on the road and don’t mind some of the common pitfalls of being in a new place and spending time away from friends and family.
If you show this job will be a positive experience, hiring managers may put your application at the top of the stack.
Connect your past experiences to what you hope to gain from this new job. For example, you can refer to how great previous travel jobs were for you. If you don’t have any related work experience, you can mention times when you studied abroad or spent significant time on the road.
Focus on your love of new experiences and highlight all the great things you’ll gain from this job.
There are many ways to answer “Are you willing to travel?” and how you respond depends on your needs. But these examples will give you a good idea of the type of answers that interviewers love to hear.
In the first example, we have a candidate with some experience traveling in a previous job. They leverage that work experience to reassure the interviewer that they can handle the responsibilities.
“I am willing to travel for work. I traveled about 40 percent of the time in my last job. I’m prepared to do the same here because I know I’m comfortable with that amount of time on the road.
I’ve learned how to manage and succeed despite the time away from home. In my last job, I’d spend weeks traveling to cities across the eastern seaboard. I got to work with great people in cities I enjoyed plus I found time to explore many beautiful states.
I’m excited at the chance to do the same here while working to fulfill your company’s objectives.”
Our next example is straightforward. The candidate demonstrates that they understand the company’s expectations and use their previous experience to reassure the interviewer that they’re up for the task.
“I’m definitely willing to travel.
In my last sales job, I spent about half my time on the road while traveling to cities around the state. It was a great experience, and I had no trouble getting comfortable doing it.
The roughly 30 percent travel percentage mentioned in the job posting sounds more than acceptable to me. I have questions about the frequency and the average length of business trips, but I’m certainly willing to spend time traveling.”
Our final example comes from a candidate who has no travel experience. However, they go into the interview knowing what they want and provide a confident answer, demonstrating their understanding and willingness to work hard.
“I’m more than willing to travel; I’m looking forward to it. Not only do I enjoy working with new people, I also like the excitement of traveling to new places.
Your job posting mentioned that the position will require at least 50 percent travel time. I can travel as much as 75 percent if the job requires that.
I know that your company has offices across the western United States. As a trainer, I understand that visiting those offices and working with people directly makes a big difference in their success. I’m eager to get my hands dirty and do what I can to help others while improving the collective expertise of this company’s employees.”
As you can see, spending some time thinking about the percentage of time you’re willing to travel is just part of the equation. You also need to be honest with the interviewer about what works for you!
If you practice your answer and follow these rules, this question won’t cause you any trouble.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.