How to avoid being late

Being late for an interview can leave a bad impression - your interviewer may assume you have poor time management skills, or that you are not overly interested in the role. Therefore, you should do what you can to arrive on time. We recommend you:

  • Plan your route ahead of timePlan your route carefully, allowing for delays and traffic. If you're driving, plan where you are going to park your car. If your car is in poor condition, or you would like some time to sit and prepare before your interview, park away from the office. If you are going by public transport you can plan your route too. 
  • Familiarise yourself with the building. Look up the location on Google Maps, go to street view and see what the building looks like. This will prevent you from getting lost on the day of the interview, and will help you make a confident entrance.
  • Plan to arrive 15 minutes early. This will give you enough time to relax, helping you make a good first impression. However, you should not enter the office until it is time for your interview, as that may put pressure on the interviewer. 
  • Set an alarm or reminder. Before the day of your interview, make sure you have a working alarm clock. Set an alarm for the time you need to start getting ready and a second alarm for the time you need to leave.

Additionally, to ensure the day of your interview runs smoothly, we recommend you:

  • Get in touch with the interviewer. Before the interview you should text or email the interviewer to confirm that you will be there and are looking forward to the meeting. This sends a message that you are serious - that you value the interviewer's time and will show up. 
  • Save the interviewer's contact details. Before you leave home, save the office's phone number into your mobile so you can quickly access it. If you have the interviewer's mobile number, that is even better. You should also note their email address, in case they don't pick up the phone. 
Running late for an interview | How to avoid being late

What to do if you're running late

If you do end up running late for your interview, you should contact the interviewer as soon as possible to let them know. You should also tell them when you expect to arrive and apologise for the inconvenience.

Keep in mind that your interview may need to be rescheduled, as many interviewers allot a certain amount of time for each person and schedule interviews back-to-back. Prepare for this scenario by putting together a list of possible dates and times that you are available.

The editorial team at Indeed provide some useful advice on how you should apologise for being late. They suggest you:

  • Announce that you are running late. While it's important to acknowledge that you are running late, you should not overdo it. Acknowledge your mistake with a sincere apology and express your regret over creating an inconvenience. 
  • Give a reason. You need to offer the interviewer a good reason for your lateness, rather than an excuse. While uncontrollable and unforeseen events are valid reasons for being late, regular traffic issues are not. Be honest and show genuine remorse.
  • Upon arrival, move on with the interview. Since you have now arrived, it's time to stay calm and confident, and move on with the interview. During the interview, look for ways to illustrate your timeliness and reliability so the interviewer won't be left with any concerns.
Running late for an interview | What do do if you're running late

What to do if you're running early

If you're running significantly early (>30 min) for your interview, there are a couple of things you can do:

  • Call the interviewer and suggest an earlier meeting time. For example, if you're going straight to your interview after a meeting, and that meeting finishes early, you may say "I have just finished a meeting early and thought I would give you the option of meeting earlier, in case that works better for you. I am happy either way." Phrase it in a way that benefits to the interviewer. Don't say "I would like to find out if I could come in earlier", because then the interviewer is doing you a favour.
  • Use the time to prepare. If you are already at the location of the interview, make sure you are not parked in front of the building, so you can sit without being watched. Use the time to relax and prepare. Go through your resume and cover letter, as well as any notes or practice questions.

If you would like some tips on how to prepare for your interview, click the button below to access our free e-book.

Running late for an interview | What do do if you're running early

How running late can damage your career

While it's important to be on time for your interview to leave a good first impression, it's also important to consistently be on time when arriving to work so you don't damage your professional reputation.

SEEK's HR Manager, Jemima Grieve, provides some useful advice on this topic. She recommends that you:

  • Address the problem. Grieve states "even if the issues are genuine, if lateness becomes a recurring theme and there's no explanation for it, this may damage an employee's reputation in the business." Therefore, you should communicate openly with your boss regarding what is causing you to arrive late consistently.
  • Find a solution. Workplaces are becoming increasingly flexible when it comes to start and finish times of employees. This means you may be able to start earlier and finish later each day, take shorter breaks or go down to part-time hours. Grieve advises that, when you talk to your boss about changing your hours, you should make it clear you’re considering the effects on the company, not just yourself.
  • Trial the new arrangement. Make sure everyone at your company is aware of your new working hours, and trial the arrangement to help you settle into the new arrangement.

Ultimately, you can prevent issues like chronic lateness from becoming a bigger deal than they need to be by simply having open communication and working toward a solution.

Running late for an interview | How running late can damage your career

Christian Madsen - Managing Director at 11 Recruitment
Christian Madsen
Managing Director
11 Recruitment

Job hunting tips & advice


  • Robbie Doyle says:

    Wisdom ! Proactive advice not only for Job Seekers but any face to face business activity between professionals …

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
    >