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When to Arrive for an Interview

As a Hiring Manager, probably my biggest hot button is when a candidate doesn’t arrive on time.  Really, folks, there simply is no excuse for arriving late, with the exception of a major unexpected event.  And even then, unless you’ve been in a car wreck and are unconscious, you better have called me in advance of the interview to tell me you’re going to be late.

So, this should be a very short discussion, right?  Everyone knows that you have to show up for your interview on time.  However, not everyone takes the proper actions in advance to ensure they actually will be on time, every time.

First of all, before your interview you should get driving directions from the company (if they have a web site, driving directions will frequently be given) and do a dry run if at all possible.  Don’t count on the fact that you’re very familiar with the part of town in which the company is located, because unless you’ve actually been to that address you can’t be sure you’ll be able to find it the first time.

Don’t give in to the temptation to just use one of the online mapping sites or your GPS unit.  Neither of these alternatives is 100% accurate, 100% of the time.  It’s always a good idea to get the driving directions straight from the company, or it’s web site, and then do a trial run.  This will take much of the stress off of your interview day.

You should then plan on arriving at least 45 minutes early.  Yes, I said 45 minutes!  This will give you a cushion in case of any unexpected events..

If the trip is uneventful, you can use your early arrival to sit in the car and review your notes about the company, review your 30 second marketing message, or to simply relax.   You’ll then walk into your interview without having stressed out about arriving on time.

Plan to walk into the company about 5 minutes before your interview time.  Any sooner than that and they’ll have to find a place to sit you until your interview time has arrived.  Any later than that and you’re cutting it too close.  For example, what if you have to wait a long time for an elevator?  You just never know what you will encounter.   Five minutes in advance is exactly right.

Here’s an experience I had myself that illustrates the importance of planning in advance.  Several years ago, I was interviewing for a management position to which I had applied.  It was pretty far away, in a part of downtown with which I was unfamiliar.  Unfortunately, I didn’t follow my own advice and didn’t make a trial run in advance because it was so far away.

While I was driving to the interview, you guessed it – I made a wrong turn and drove another two or three miles in the wrong direction before I realized it.  By the time I recovered, determined where I was and finally made it to the interview, I had wasted over half an hour.

BUT…since I had left early enough to arrive 45 minutes before my interview, I still arrived 15 minutes early and had plenty of time to relax and get my thoughts together.  This is exactly why I make such a big deal out of arriving 45 minutes early.

In my next few posts I will be passing on some advice about exactly how to conduct yourself in the interview to demonstrate those “soft” skills that every Hiring Manager wants.

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