In the job interview process, you cannot control the managers you speak to, the questions they ask or which employers will call you back. But one simple move within your power can make or break your interview experience: showing up early.
But you need to time that early arrival just right, hiring experts said.
Why 15 minutes early is the best time to arrive
Experts in the hiring process agreed that arriving 15 minutes early is the best timing for an in-office interview.
Amy Polefrone, the CEO of HR Strategy Group, told HuffPost that 10-15 minutes early is best because it shows that “you’re ready, you’re eager and that you have your game face on.”
Josh Doody, a salary negotiation coach and former hiring manager, also recommends aiming for the 15-minute window to mitigate “the potential problems that can arise from getting from point A to point B.”
Plus, your arrival could also involve time-consuming tasks like being checked in, picked up from reception or taken up a slow elevator. Being interviewed for a job is already stressful. Arriving with 15 minutes to spare eliminates one big source of stress.
“Arrive about 15 minutes before, because [in case] you have trouble at the last minute or the person is ready sooner, you’re in good stead then,” said Phyllis Hartman, founder of the human resources company PGHR Consulting.
You definitely don’t want to arrive late, the experts agreed.
“Arriving late really sends a bad message, no matter what the reason,” Hartman said. “It demonstrates a lack of commitment.”
To ensure you arrive in the right time window, do a dry run of your route before the day of the interview, Hartman suggested, “particularly if it’s in a geography you’re not familiar with.”
Why arriving too early makes a bad impression
If you show up more than 15 minutes early, it can lead to problems for your interviewers, which will not put them in the best mindset to deal with you.
“If you get there too early, it makes the interviewing team nervous and on edge, they’re wondering ‘Why is she here so early,’ and it makes the hiring team that is wrapping up other meetings feel rushed. You don’t want to do that,” Polefrone said. “There is also a need to feel that, ‘Oh, I need to entertain this person.’”
“If you arrive an hour before the interview, it throws people sometimes,” Hartman said.
Doody said it can signal, “Maybe I’m really eager, but maybe I’m also desperate.”
On the plus side, arriving too early means you have more time in the lobby to get in the right headspace before you check in at reception desk or enter the office. And it’s an easier problem than having to tell your interviewer that you are going to be late.
“I still would prefer five minutes early to 30 minutes late,” Doody said.
For video interviews, be 5 minutes early
For virtual interviews, such as those on Google Hangouts or Skype, you still need to show that you are ready and available in a timely way.
“There’s no excuse [for being late] unless there is some kind of technical difficulty,” Hartman said. “Sometimes I think people think, ‘Well, this is going to be casual.’ You should still think through how you want to tell me who you are and what you can offer.”
Doody said candidates should be available at least five minutes early for virtual interviews so that they are ready to hit “accept” for incoming calls. “They should not be scrambling to get some water in a cup or close the door or find their ear bud,” he said.
Arriving late signals a lack of preparation, and you want to be mentally ready to start the interview right away.
“If we set up an interview for 11, and I call into the video interview at 11 and it says you’re not there, I’m frustrated right away,” Doody said. “Implicitly, I think, ‘Oh they couldn’t even be on time for this interview, are they going to be on time for deliverables?’”
The best day and time for a job interview is whenever you can arrive on time
There is no one consensus on the absolute best time of day or day of the week to schedule an interview.
Instead of worrying if a Monday morning or Friday afternoon provide your best chance to make a good impression, stick to what you know about your schedule. The best time to do an interview is the time that you can actually make.
“Pick a time that’s actually convenient for you,” Doody said. And if you’re given a choice, give the interviewer a few different times that you are available.
“I think the one thing you want to think about there is, ′How sure am I that can actually make this time?′ Don’t gamble,” he said.