Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
INTERVIEWS / APR. 16, 2014
version 5, draft 5

How to Cope If You're Running Late for an Interview

running late

It’s the kiss of death when interviewing for a job -- arriving late. First impressions are everything when interviewing for a job. There might be several job applicants lined up -- all with similar experience, skills and educational backgrounds. Picking the right candidate is a tough decision, but it’s important that employers make the right choice. 

And unfortunately, one goof during the interview process might cost you the job. Sometimes, you only have one opportunity to impress the hiring manager. This is why you wear your best business attire to interviews and spend hours perfecting your interview skills. Your efforts can certainly pay off. But if you arrive to the interview late, all your hard work goes out the window

Career coaches recommend arriving at least 10 minutes early for interviews. In other words, if the interview is scheduled for 2 p.m., don’t pull into the parking lot at 1:58 p.m. 

But even if you recognise the importance of being punctual, things beyond your control can happen on the day of the interview -- I know from experience. 

About 13 years ago, I was 15 minutes late for an interview due to a serious car accident on the freeway. It was one month before graduating college and I was eager to secure employment. I practiced interview questions in the mirror, bought an interview suit and mapped out my route the day before. 

It was only a 20-minute drive to the office, but I decided to leave my house 50 minutes before my scheduled time, just in case I ran into traffic. I did everything right -- well, just about everything right. A crash on the highway caused a major backup, and because I didn’t have the company’s number with me, I couldn’t call. 

Needless to say, I didn’t get the job; and the hiring manager didn’t hide her irritation with me.

But although arriving late can push your application to the bottom of the pile, there are ways to recover. 

Call Sooner, Rather than Later

Bring the name and phone number of the person conducting the interview. If you’re running late, the sooner you call, the better. Don’t wait until two minutes before your scheduled interview to call the company. If the interview’s in 10 or 15 minutes and you haven’t pulled into the parking lot, you need to give the interviewer a buzz. Most hiring managers are reasonable and realise that extenuating circumstances occur. The worst thing you can do is arrive late and say nothing. 

Compose Yourself 

Interviews are stressful enough, and arriving late will raise your anxiety level. Once you arrive, take a minute to compose yourself. Running into the office flustered and panicky also makes a bad first impression. If you don’t stay calm, you may not provide the best responses, and the interviewer may pick up on your nervousness. Your body language and demeanor after a late arrival says a lot about how you deal under pressure. 

Skip the Elaborate Story

Once you arrive, apologise and offer a brief explanation. There is no need to go into a full elaborate story, unless the interviewer probes or ask questions. Understandably, you want to explain yourself and justify arriving late. But if you’re late, chances are that the interviewer doesn’t have time for a play-by-play of the events. 

Make up for Lateness During the Interview

Not only do you need to remain calm to demonstrate your ability to perform under stress, you need to rock the interview. Right now, the interviewer may be questioning whether you’re responsible and reliable. To make up for being late, offer a firm handshake, maintain good eye contact and sell yourself. Your responses need to be spot-on. By the time you finish with the interview, you want the hiring manger to forget that you were ever late. 

Have you arrived late to an interview? If so, did you recover and get the job? Please comment.

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