Job Search Tip of the Week #16 (2017)


How to End Your Interview Before it Even Begins

How late is too late?

A late arrival – yes, even by “just five minutes” – is a breach of pre-interview etiquette that’s difficult to recover from.

Worst case scenario? You don’t get the chance to show off your perfect handshake, let alone interview – some companies will refuse to see job candidates who are late.

But if you’re lucky enough to be granted another interview opportunity, it’s important to know that you’re starting your interview off at a disadvantage. Your tardiness has already given the impression that you’re unreliable and inconsiderate.

It’s best not to be late at all. But you should know what to do, should the unfortunate event occur:

  1. Call as far in advance as possible, the moment you realize you’re going to be late.
  2. Before you step into the building, take a second to calm yourself because looking flustered and disheveled in addition to being tardy will further hurt your case for candidacy. Don’t wait until you get into the actual office to do this as you never know who you’ll run into on the way in, and the last thing you want to be doing is sweating profusely and adjusting your clothes as the president of the company is walking past you!
  3. Don’t slip into the office waiting room and think your tardiness went unnoticed, or act as if it’s no big deal because your potential employer may have needed to modify his or her schedule to accommodate you. Apologize profusely for any inconvenience you might have caused, acknowledge your late arrival, and offer a reasonable explanation. Don’t make excuses! Starting off with, “I’m sorry I’m late, but…” gives the impression that you’re the type of person who doesn’t take responsibility for your mistakes and blames others.

Some common “reasons” that are really unacceptable excuses are:

  • “I got lost.” translates to “I don’t prepare properly.” Getting lost could have been avoided if you’d traveled to the office building the day before your scheduled interview (if it’s on a Monday, conduct your travel test run the Friday before) so that you could have a realistic idea of the time it’ll take you to get there. Add half-an-hour to account for unexpected traffic conditions and weather delays.
  • “I left something at home and went back to get it.” comes across as “I don’t think in advance.” The night before your interview, collect all the relevant paperwork and information you’ll need to succeed in the interview (at minimum, three additional copies of your résumé and the name and contact information of your interviewer). Waiting until the morning of to do this will leave you struggling and stressing at the last minute to find and print what you need.
  • “I got confused by the time difference.” comes across as “I’m not detail oriented.” If you’re scheduling a meeting in a different time zone, clarify the time well before the interview (e.g., “When you requested that we meet at 6:00 PM, did you mean 6:00 PM EST or CST?”). Helpful hints:
    • Use a time zone converter when scheduling meetings with people of a different time zone than you.
    • If you’re traveling to a location with a different time zone than you’re used to, most cell phones will automatically adjust to the time of your current location.

Remember: You’re not auditioning for the role of White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. Never be late! Tardiness makes a bad first impression and can disqualify you as a job candidate.

Sound Off: Hiring Managers – How late is too late for a candidate to show up before you (a) hold it against him or her (i.e., you take the tardiness into account in your hiring decision), and (b) cancel the interview altogether? Job Seekers – How many minutes late do you believe is acceptable?

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