Mark Newsom

Don’t be on Time to a Job Interview

In Interviewing, Job Search on October 3, 2010 at 10:39 am

You heard it right. Don’t be on time to a job interview. Be there at least 25 minutes before it starts.

But hold on. I don’t mean walk into the employers lobby, 25 minutes before the interview time. Just be within 100 yards of their front door. Why? Well, there are several good reasons.

First of all, allowing for at least 25 minutes worth of “padding” will give you an insurance policy that will often come in very handy. Unexpected things occur every day – from traffic congestion due to wrecks, roadwork and weather to spilling coffee on your freshly pressed white shirt.

When you are late, as a result of not allowing for unplanned events or not preparing properly, the message that is being sent to an employer is:
– I do not respect you
– I do not respect your time
– This interview is not important to me
– This company is not important to me

I’m fairly tolerant of people being a little late for me. We’re all human and I’m occasionally late to meetings, too – so it would be hypocritical for me to get angry.

However, few employers are as understanding when a prospective employee is late for an interview.

Being late to your interview not only creates a poor first impression, it often takes late candidates several minutes to mentally collect themselves – after their arrival. And some never recover from this awkward and embarrassing start to the interview.

If you pull into the parking lot in a frantic rush and present yourself to the receptionist with only minutes to spare – there is a very good chance that you still won’t come across as calm, collected and self-assured.

Whereas, arriving early allows you to be fully prepared and in the right state of mind. Allowing 25 minutes to spare, you don’t feel rushed, and you’re able to walk through the employers’ front door – roughly five minutes before your appointment time – presenting yourself as a poised, polished and prepared professional.

As a recruiter, when I meet candidates in-person – I can instantly tell which ones barely made it in time. They often look frazzled, sweaty and a little nervous. These same people often leave their resumes in their car or they forget to remove their gum – to name a few of the common mistakes made by those who don’t arrive in plenty of time to properly prepare and get focused.

Finally, don’t be too early, either. When you arrive too far ahead of schedule, you create an awkward interruption. Someone then has to be concerned about making you comfortable while you wait. Additionally, employers often put distance between interviews because they don’t want to create a situation where you may end up bumping into someone you might know, who is also interviewing.

The perfect arrival time, in the employers lobby, is five minutes ahead of time – but never more than 10 minutes.

In summary, it’s hard enough to land an interview – so take the process seriously and prepare for it. Arriving at just the right time is essential to making a good first impression. And the less you leave to chance, the more relaxed and confident you will feel. You’ll be able to concentrate on presenting yourself as a highly qualified candidate – rather than being distracted by the things that went wrong on the way to the interview.

Be fully prepared the night before your interview
The night before, prepare your wardrobe, and any items you need to bring with you. This will prevent lost time getting dressed and looking for items at the last minute.

Also, make certain that you have plenty of gas in your car and that your cell phone has a full charge.

Know where you are going
It should go without saying, but you must know exactly how to get to your interview. Leave nothing to chance.

The day before your interview call the receptionist and confirm the address and ask where to park. Remember: The most expensive GPS in the world won’t help you if you’re head to the wrong longitude and latitude.

Consider doing a “dry run” the day before
If the interview is important to you – do a “dry run” the day before – even if you are fairly certain you know where you’re headed. By leaving at about the same time you plan to leave the next day – you’ll get a good feel for traffic congestion and how long it will take you.

Consider travel uncertainties
When it really counts – consider the uncertainties associated with time-related traffic conditions and/or unfamiliar parts of town.

Traffic is the oldest excuse in the book – and no one believes or accepts it. Remember, everyone else managed to make it to the office, despite the traffic. These people were not delayed, and were all there waiting to speak with you. Where were you?

Make certain you have the employers main phone number and the hiring managers direct phone number
If you do get lost, talk to the receptionist – not the hiring manager – to get headed in the right direction.

However, if you run into an unexpected delay – you need to let the hiring manager know that you will be delayed. If the unavoidable happens – an accident on the way to the interview or something else that is beyond your control – call as soon as possible to say what has happened and when you expect to arrive. The interviewer may want to reschedule.

Go over your pre-entry checklist. Keep in mind that if the employer is in a multi-tenant building – some of these things can be done in the public restroom.
Double-check to see that you have an adequate number of resumes, reference sheets and business cards
Make certain you have an ink pen and paper (preferably in a portfolio or notebook carrying case)
If the interview is in a multi-tenant building, scout the building and find the correct suite number (then retreat)
Read your resume one more time
Check teeth (you should have dental floss with you, just in case)
Address your breath – but dispose of your gum before the interview
Use a lint roller
Use your car mirror or use the restroom mirror in the building before the interview to make sure your tie is straight, your make-up is right, your hair is the way you want it and, hey guys, check to see if your fly is unzipped.
Use any extra time to calm yourself, gather your thoughts and imagine yourself saying all the right things and being the perfect candidate for the position.

AUTHOR: Mark Newsom
Founder of FiveChairs, a Recruitment Firm, focused on Nashville Talent and
Goldfish Resumes, the foremost resume writers in Nashville.

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