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Interview tardiness: It’s midnight, do you know how to get to your interview tomorrow?

Interview tardiness

Running late for an interview is never a good thing.

Interview tardiness

I recently interviewed a number of candidates and a number of them committed the sin of interview sins. Interview tardiness. Obviously, the words late and interview should never be used in the same sentence. I can fix a broken watch. I can’t fix tardy. When it comes to a first impression, there isn’t a much more effective way to “blow it” in a corporate environment.

The flip side of this is being too early. So you can be Goldilocks, I blogged about how you can be jussssttt rightttt. Read this to find out when you SHOULD show up for an interview.

Showing up early is better than showing up late. But frankly, they are both veddy veddy bad ways to start an interview. (as explained in the above-linked post)

I work in Seattle and I get we have lousy traffic and a downtown that is notorious for one-way streets. To make matters worse, our one-way streets are closed during specific times a day and only open to public transportation. If you are new to the area, getting to a specific spot and finding a place to park is like finding a needle in a haystack, in a field of haystacks.  

So what is a candidate to do?

Show the frick up on time of course. Yes, I will provide a solution to “The party can start now, I have arrived” syndrome. First, let me explain why it is so important to show up on time and avoid interview tardiness.

Business reason being late to an interview “is a sign”

We are all being hired for consistent performance that is repeatable and scalable. Managers want dependability and when someone shows up late, it is the first sign that they are not going to be dependable. Tardiness is the lead indicator that performance is not going to be predictable.

Showing up late is a lead indicator that :

  • Work isn’t going to be completed on time
  • We don’t respect other people’s time and may show up late to meetings where there will be a number of paid salaries attending (lack of courtesy)
  • Leaves the person waiting AND wondering if they should move on with their day. (Not to mention frustrated)

If you are going to be late, text your recruiter or hiring manager 15 minutes before the meeting so they can adjust their schedule. Telling your hiring manager at 2:59 that you are running 15 minutes late for your 3:00 interview never sits well. We knew we were going to be late long before 2:59. Interview tardiness is a lack of common courtesy.

I completely accept a tardiness heads up 15-20 minutes ahead of the scheduled meeting

Requisite dating example

When we show up for a first date, we are hoping for a number of things. Great smile, sense of style, personality, etc. But most of all, we are hoping they show the frick up. If the date is supposed to show up at 9:00 and we don’t hear anything by 9:01, the spidey sense starts to tingle. By 9:05 we start to check our calendar invite and then we double-check the settings on our phone/wristwatch. At 9:07, we are checking email and texts to see if the date was moved or canceled.  By 9:10, we start to turn the corner from “I am sure he is stuck in traffic” to “WTF is going on, this shit is RUDE! Who does he think I am?”  By 9:20, flowers in hand isn’t going to salvage the evening. 

Don’t even think about showing up late with a Starbucks cup in hand

Oh no he didn’t! I might be old school, but the considerate thing to do is to text a few minutes prior and confirm all is good and we are on our way.

So, what can you do?

What is the number one thing we can do to avoid being late?  Review the route to the interview the day before. Yes, visit the office the day before and make sure you can find the office, find parking, there is a bus stop close by, etc.

There is nothing worse than running into the lobby sweaty and out of breath AND a single minute late

When we meet with the recruiter after arriving a few minutes late, they are nice enough and we think we “got away with it”. But let’s face it. A recruiter is not going to want to take a chance that their hiring manager will go through the above 3 min, 5 min, 7 min, 10 min late scenario. Personally, I don’t want a hiring manager calling me up and accusing, I mean talking to ME as if I am the one that is late. I just can’t defend “late”.

It happens when we are late to interview with the hiring manager as well. The hiring manager doesn’t want to take a chance a candidate will show up late to the interview with the VP.

A lesson from a favorite podcast 

I recently listened to one of my favorite podcasts, Planet Money. (This is not a paid endorsement) The episode I listened to is titled Speed Dating for Economists.  If you want consistent examples of big-picture thinking, I HIGHLY recommend this podcast. 

They followed a recent graduate with a Ph.D. in Economics as he interviewed for a job. He attended the annual “job fair for Economists” held in January in Chicago. This was a particularly fascinating episode for this HR nerd as it had a recruiting element. This particular candidate had a number of interviews lined up. Like, back to back interviews over a weekend, all weekend.

This is a young Jedi in training so of course, he Google mapped all the places he was interviewing AND he walked the routes. He calculated travel times to ensure he could make each interview in time the day before.

Thinking it through

As I was listening, I had to hand it to him. This guy was doing everything right. But even I account for all of the other 100’s of candidates jamming up the hotel lobbies and elevators. These other candidates affected the travel times to the hotel rooms where all of these interviews were taking place. 

Consequently, he was late and panicky to a number of the interviews. You could literally hear the frustration and panic in his voice.

He was walking into these interviews with three strikes against him before the interviews even started.  He was late, he was embarrassed and he had less time to convey his qualifications because the interviewers had schedules to keep.

Next time you have an in-person interview, don’t just send a confirmation email. Walk the route. 

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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