Some things don’t travel well. Usually, it’s the “good stuff” that is better enjoyed in situ, or in its original place. Wedding cakes, crystal chandeliers, and fresh, hot pizza are perfect examples. Similarly, employees who are excellent at their jobs may not perform so well if asked to do their job on the road. One of the biggest challenges for anyone who needs to hire a group of traveling employees is trying to decide, “Should I hire a good traveler who I think could perform the job at a high level?” or “Should I hire an excellent employee who I hope will be a good traveler?”
There are two parts to this puzzle: locating high quality employees who are capable of doing the job you need them to do and then taking that package and making sure it’s fit for the road. Successful managers do this well, and it’s not easy. What qualities or traits should you look for in a prospective new traveler? Whether you’re hiring them off the street or transferring them in from another department, when it comes to the corporate travel game, you’ll definitely want to learn these things about your candidates:
- Where do they keep their calendar and notes? How comfortable are they with these tools? If you ask an interviewee, “What does your week look like next week?” They should be able to tell you quite readily without having to look through their calendar or computer to get that info.
- Without straying from within the legal bounds of your company’s interview procedures, you really need to find out about their marriage and family situation. Young and single people are eager and willing to travel all the time. Folks married 10 years or more with grown kids have adjusted to the situation and they travel well also. Proud fathers and mothers of young kids will not last, no matter what they may tell you.
- Medical issues can sideline a traveler. Hearing a new employee proclaim, six months after their hire date that, “I can’t travel to the South in the fall. I have severe allergies,” doesn’t do anyone any good.
- A great question to ask is, “What elite status do you hold on airlines or hotels?” If they’re platinum with an airline and diamond or platinum with a hotel chain, they definitely understand the game. If they hold “elite” status with your company’s preferred hotel chain, that’s even better.
- You might ask how they prefer to travel in some big cities. San Francisco and Boston are very pedestrian-friendly cities and it’s easier to walk and use public transportation than to rent a car, for example. Anyone who rents a car in New York is obviously not a seasoned traveler.
- How long have they been away from home on their longest travel stretch? Back-to-back trips can be difficult to deal with. Back-to-back-to-back trips definitely separate the pups from the “big dogs.” If you find someone who’s definitely “been there” and who can still shrug their shoulders at the notion of being away from home for four to six weeks in a stretch, you’ve struck gold.
- Another excellent question is, “How do you handle single trips with multiple clients?” If they volunteer their methods to separate expenses and organize their notes and presentations, etc., then once again, you’ve struck gold.
- Finally, I would be sure to ask, “What’s your expense account strategy?” You want to know how seriously they take it, how often they do it, do they have a routine, and most important, do they expense the “little things?” Whether you’re on the road or at home, you’re going to have a cup of coffee. People who expense a cup of coffee or a quick snack can roll up some interesting expenses in the long run.
It may not seem like much, asking a person if they’re willing to travel. Almost always, the answer is, “Yes, I would love to travel!” You might want to ask, “What’s your worst travel story?” Because what you really want is the person who’s spent the night in a business suit on the floor of the Fargo, North Dakota, airport while stranded in a snow storm, who still says, “I’ve traveled a lot and I never seem to get tired of it!”