So yeah: we're in the midst of a swarm of job candidate visits. Between last year and this year we're on track to have at least eleven candidates out, at least nine of whom I'll have had dinner with. I enjoy getting a chance to know our candidates better, in a lower-stakes environment, and I feel strongly that social events are one of the ways that we sell ourselves to candidates. Still, it's work, and I'm increasingly cranky about the inequities in how this work gets distributed.
I don't mind that I go to more candidate dinners than most of my colleagues. I sign up to do it, after all--and since I live in the city where we usually take candidates to dinner, and since I don't have children with bedtimes or after-school activities to negotiate, I figure that this is an easier work obligation for me to manage than it is for some of my colleagues. (Most of whom are great about stepping up in other areas, including other parts of the on-campus interview process.)
The problem is that we don't have a departmental charge account, which means that one person always puts the whole meal on his or her credit card, handles all the reimbursement paperwork--and then, for reasons both institutional and interpersonal always, always gets stiffed.
First off, since we're a state institution, alcohol isn't covered. Which is okay, but if we want the candidate to feel welcome to have a drink or two (and I do!), we have to order drinks ourselves and cover the complete bar tab. This also isn't a big deal--even at the fanciest restaurants in town, even the fanciest cocktails are relatively cheap, and I'm sure we're all happy to pitch in an extra three dollars or whatever to cover the candidate's drinks. Except that most people don't have cash on hand, and don't remember two days later. Seriously: not counting my own drinks or my share of the candidates' drinks, I'm still owed at least $60 in booze from last year.
Secondly, the state will only reimburse us for a tip of up 15%. And dude, I rarely give 15%. Fifteen percent, to me, means the service was somewhere south of mediocre. Moreover, at a candidate dinner, we have complicated paperwork that we have to explain to the server and have approved by the server's manager--and we need a special receipt, and we don't pay taxes on anything--and you know what? If I'm making a server deal with that on top of our orders, there's no way I'm paying less than 20%. The difference doesn't amount to much--maybe $5-7 a meal--and it's worth it to me to see that our server is treated right. But over several meals, it starts to add up.
And finally, I've screwed up the paperwork before and not gotten reimbursed at all.
(Oh, and don't get me started about the restaurants that won't honor our tax-exempt paperwork. Or the time the manager of a swanky restaurant came over and lectured us, in front of a candidate, about how he got audited for TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS and it's all the fault of inconsiderate people like us and our bogus claims of tax-exemption.)
The point is, I don't mind spending $20 or whatever out of pocket to see that a candidate is treated well and that our server isn't stiffed. And I don't mind having the charge sit on my card for the six weeks or however long it takes to get reimbursed. But I do mind doing this multiple times per hiring season.
I'm sure that some of my readers have departmental charge accounts and no cost restrictions--but I'd bet most of us are subject to financial or other limitations. So tell me: how do candidate dinners work at your institution? What are your restrictions, how do you work within them, and how do you spread the burden (in terms of time or money) more equitably?