Panic! You are running late for an interview … what should you do? It is not cool to be late as it can leave a bad impression. Also, you may miss out on your dream job.
I often meet people who appear to just not care. They think it is okay to be late and that a 2.00PM interview means ‘around’ 2.00PM. If you think this way, it is time to rethink.
Firstly, before the interview always email, SMS, or call the interviewer. Confirm you will be there and that you are looking forward to the meeting. This sends the message that you are serious; you value their time and you will show up.
Secondly, plan your route carefully and allow for delays and traffic jams. Check the location on Google Maps and look at Street View. Study the street and the building, planning where you will park your car. If your car is not in good condition then do not park in front of the office where it can be seen. Park out of visible sight to give yourself the opportunity to sit and prepare without feeling watched.
If travelling by public transport also plan your route.
Whichever way you intend to travel, plan to arrive 15 minutes early so you can relax. I have seen people running late, rushing in the summer heat only to arrive sweating as if they have just come off a treadmill.
Thirdly, before leaving home, enter the interviewer’s office number into your mobile so you can quickly access it in case you do end up running late. If you have the interviewer’s mobile number then that is even better. If you have their email address, enter this into your phone also. The more options you have available to make contact, the greater the likelihood you will be able to do so.
If driving to the interview location, set your mobile to hands free so you do not have to pull over. Also, do not forget your umbrella if there is a slightest chance of rain.
Okay, let us assume that, despite your best efforts, you are running late. Make the call and apologise, being sincere and professional. Try to strike a balance between saying too much and too little, and keep your message direct and brief without going into too much detail. Provide information, not excuses. Have a good reason, such as actions outside of your control and actions you could not have foreseen. Regular traffic issues are not appropriate excuses.
For example: “I have just come out of a meeting that ran over time. I am sorry as I know you have allocated a specific time for us to meet. I should be there in about 15 minutes or so. Is it still convenient for you or would you prefer to reschedule?” This gives the interviewer options. If you are five minutes late, still call but it is not necessary to give the option of rescheduling.
When you do arrive, it is a professional courtesy to apologise for your lateness, but do not overdo it. You have now arrived. Stay calm and confident as the show is now on.
Lastly, let us say you are early by one hour as a scheduled meeting has finished much earlier than anticipated. You could wait, however, you could also call and say: “I have just left a meeting that finished earlier than anticipated and would like to give you the option to meet earlier, if that is preferable to you? I am happy either way and wanted to give you some flexibility.“ You are doing them a favour, however, do not say “I would like to know if I can come in earlier than previously scheduled” because then they are doing you a favour and you owe them. You want to arrive as much as possible on an even footing.
I hope you found this valuable.
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