A reader writes:
A job was posted to my company's internal site. I applied for it and have an interview scheduled, but I am not sure I really want the job because it involves an extensive amount of travel (75-80% of the time, sometimes more).
Am I under any unspoken obligation to accept an offer? Could I foster ill will within the company (and especially with the department I am applying to) by applying, interviewing, and not accepting an offer if it came across the table?
I am well qualified and pretty confident that I will get an offer. It is not a popular position for internal candidates since there is so much travel. This is a job I once really wanted but I have since reconsidered, but I thought it couldn't hurt to apply for the interview practice and to see if the travel requirement might be flexible. Additionally, I am filling in temporarily for the position that is being offered (traveling out of state to provide training to a customer). Could this add to the possible ill will?
You're never under any obligation to accept an offer, but you're right that there are additional considerations when you're applying for a position internally. Often when you apply for an internal position, people assume you know enough about the job and the culture that you already know if you want it or not.
But a lot of this depends on the specific politics and culture at your particular company. Do you have a relationship there with someone in a position to give you good advice? If so, they're going to be able to give you advice that's more tailored than mine. But if not...
I wouldn't recommend doing an internal interview just for interview practice or for a job you know you don't want -- that's wasting the time of people you work with and not something they'd be happy to hear. I'm also skeptical that the travel requirement could turn out to be flexible -- if it's 75-80% of the job, that's so much of the job that removing it would turn the job into something totally different.
I think the best thing you can do is to be up-front. If you know that the only way you'd be interested in the job is if it didn't include all that travel, I'd tell them that right now -- before the scheduled interview -- and ask if it's still worth moving forward with the interview.
Otherwise, if you don't bring it up until during or after the interview, you risk looking naive, illogical, or even a little presumptuous, or just like you're not paying attention. The courteous thing to do would be to fill them in on your thinking now and asking if it's worth proceeding.
I know someone is going to point out that job requirements can be changed, and that's true. But that's why you ask ahead of time that's the case here. Someone may also point out that you should go through the interview and wow them and see if they're willing to make adjustments after that being blown away by your interview ... but again, this is an internal interview and these are your coworkers, and you care about your reputation with them. I'd ask ahead of time.