Showing up late for an interview? There’s just no excuses.

I never understand it when a candidate shows up late for an interview. It’s a job interview, and presumably since you scheduled it, employers assume you want the job. I mean, I JUST don’t understand when a candidate shows up 30 minutes late and expects that the employer will still want to conduct the interview. Would you show up to your wedding 30 minutes late? (If the answer is yes, its likely best to stick with the singles scene for while)

While life indeed “happens” – traffic occurs (especially if you live here in DC!), kids get sick, and clocks lose power occasionally, there are things you have in your power to ensure that you can reduce the potential for you to be late for a job interview.

  • Leave with plenty of time. If you know that a commute to a certain area can be hectic, give yourself plenty of time to get there. Get there too early? I’m sure one of these places would be happy to take your $5.25 for a latte while you prepare further for the interview. Additonally, try to schedule your interview at non-peak times of the day if you are going to a place that is notoriously traffic-laden in the AM or PM rush hours.
  • Map it out and take a test drive prior to the interview. Saying that you got lost on the way to an interview tells an employer that you A. Don’t know how to use technology (specifically a GPS) OR B. Didn’t bother to map out the locale. With as much technology as we have on smart phones these days, everything can be found with a few slides of the thumb.
  • Have backup alarms to get you up well ahead of time. “I overslept” just doesn’t work for employers. You have an alarm clock, your cell phone, the old school telephone (yes, ask someone for a wake up call if that is a challenge for you)

Always have a plan and stick to that plan. You get one shot your potential employer to make your 1st impression. This is one of the easiest slip-ups to control, so take ownership of it. Employers remember who was late, and who stood them up. The memory of a good recruiter is a vast expanse that holds more long term tidbits than should be allowed by law. They will remember you. Make sure its for the right reasons.

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9 Comments on “Showing up late for an interview? There’s just no excuses.

  1. I ran late for an interview only once. It happened because it was raining and there was an accident, of which I got caught up in the traffic, so it was not my fault even though I left in plenty of time.
    However, as soon as I realized I would be late, I called the receptionist and asked them to relay the message to the interviewer about what had happened and that I would possibly be 10-15 minutes late. As it turned out, I was only 5 minutes late and they were fine and very understanding about it given that I had called ahead. I later saw that the accident had made the news.


  2. Thanks for the comment, Missdisplaced. Completely acceptable scenario. There are some things out of our control. But when I hear a candidate say, oh I got lost, or oh I thought it would only take me 15 minutes to get here, I find that to be the harder part to swallow. We’ve all been there, but it’s just a matter of controlling what you can control.

    I also admire that you called and gave a heads up. That is markedly preferred over the alternative of just showing up and providing an explanation.


  3. Agree on that.

    NOT bothering to call nowadays is completely unprofessional and inexcusable, especially for the younger generation who professes to be so “connected” with the modern technology of cellphones. If you are running late, for god’s sake CALL to explain yourself! My other tip is this: It pays to be VERY polite and nice to the receptionist, whether on the phone or in person. They will often relay their conversations and initial perceptions about potential applicants with the person doing the hiring. Think of them as the gatekeeper of the organization.

    At my last job, the receptionist told me [much, much later] that she knew I would get the job because some of the people coming in were quite rude, didn’t do a good job filling out the paper job application, or just plain old acted weird while waiting in the foyer to be interviewed. She said one guy couldn’t even be bothered to get off his cell phone, and carried on a conversation the whole time he was waiting! Jeez! you’d think people would know better?


  4. This (arriving late for an interview) happened to me for the first time this week. My life has been really hectic for the last few months and I scrambled to line up the interview for the time they needed me to come in.
    It was a long drive with a difficult-to-estimate duration, my cell phone battery was dead, and I had no cash in my wallet for the parking garage which (on this day only, since the machine was broken) was asking for cash to get in instead of issuing tickets — requiring me to drive a mile away to find an ATM.
    Are these excuses? Yes. Valid ones? Not in my opinion. I’m not holding my breath for an offer. I’m embarrassed it happened, and it won’t happen again.


    • Thanks for visiting, and for the comment. It does happen, and we’d be foolish to think that the world is perfect. But we try to make sure we can minimize the risk of it occurring as much as possible.

      I think that most people really “get” how they should proceed with a job process/interview. But the reasons we’ve heard over the years sometimes indicate otherwise.

      Thanks for sharing!


  5. While I do agree that it’s unacceptable, it happened to me for the first time this week. I left 50 minutes early which should have put me there 20 minutes ahead of time and allow for unexpected traffic delays (which shouldn’t have been a problem as it was not during rush hour and wasn’t snowing).

    En route, I realized I’d forgotten my wallet and since I was interviewing interviewing at a federal building, I absolutely had to have my ID. I went back home and left with 30 minutes to spare. Should make it right on the money. Noticed ominous dark clouds on the horizon. When I got on the major highway entering the city, it was a parking lot because a major lake effect snowstorm had started dumping snow. Called the HR person and explained the situation and where I was. So I get near the building and find the parking garage. A security guard informs me that I need to park in the other garage that was behind me. It’s a one way street and he tells me I have to go around the block. Would have taken 3 minutes on a normal day but ended up taking 25 with the snow! Called HR again and kept her up to date on my status. Needless to say I arrived 30 minutes late, apologized to the team. and proceeded with the interview. I’m not one who’s late to things and this really bothered me, but also realized I did everything I could given the circumstances. That aside, I thought the interview went well and the team seemed interested, we’ll see what happens.

    On the same note, I’ve read you also don’t want to get to an interview too early, no more than 10 min. ahead of time. And if you do that, either wait a few minutes before entering the building or ask the receptionist not to contact the interviewer until a few minutes before the interview.


  6. Mitch,

    Definitely an outlier situation here. Sounds like you did all you could to keep people informed, and yes sh*t happens, as they say. I definitely a agree with the last statement as well – showing up 10-15 mins prior is that sweet spot window. On time, but not too desperate.

    Thanks for stopping by. New content coming soon!


  7. This happened to me yesterday. I left an hour early and it should have only taken me 35 minutes to get there. Well, about 25 minutes in to my trip I got stuck in DEAD STOP traffic for about 10 minutes. So I then flew like the wind when traffic cleared seeing that I could still make it JUST on time. Then when my GPS told me the address was part of this massive shopping complex, so I circled the complex twice with no luck, tried to call the number I had for the business, and all I got was an automated message followed by an answering machine. Finally I ran into one of the stores and asked where this business was..oh OF COURSE its in the next complex. I ended being about 7 minutes late. I immediately explained what had happened, and that I had tried to call. She seemed forgiving, but she did slip in a little remark about it during the interview so I think its going to be a factor in their decision, unfortunately. Other than that I feel like it went well. It was just one of those days.


  8. I once went to an interview with a startup company that had forgotten what time my phone interview was the day before – so I purposefully showed up 30 minutes late to the in-person interview the following day – knowing I wasn’t accepting an offer from a company where the HR manager can’t remember the time for the phone interview. It was kind of funny the reaction I got – it seemed like they (the head honchos) kept trying to prove to me that I really “wanted” to work there. Such a strange experience – perhaps showing up late might actually make them want you more? This was for a non-manager Engineering position.


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