How Early Should You Arrive for a Job Interview

During a job interview, a lot of things are out of your control. Things can go right or wrong in an instant. However, there’s one thing within your power that could make or break your interview: showing up early.

So, how early should you arrive for a job interview? We’ve gathered some experts’ insights to help you time that early arrival just right.

Timothy G. Wiedman, D.B.A., PHR Emeritus

Timothy G. Wiedman

Associate Prof. of Management & Human Resources (Retired)

During a 41-year career, I’ve been to dozens and dozens of job interviews– and I learned a number of things!

Try to schedule an appointment that best suits your energy level

Since interview candidates are often offered multiple time slots to choose from, you should try to schedule an appointment that best suits your individual energy level. For example, if you’re most energetic in mid-morning (but run out of gas by 2:00 p.m.), you should try to get an interview slot before lunch.

The hiring managers should see you at your energetic best– when your mental ability to provide complete and concise answers in response to questions is at its peak.

Related: The Best Time to Schedule a Job Interview (According to 21 HR Experts)

Even if your energy level is wonderful, the first thing in the morning, taking an 8:15 a.m. interview appointment, may not be wise if you live in a metro area with significant rush-hour traffic congestion.

Why risk a late arrival due to a traffic tie-up if there’s a later morning slot available at 9:45 a.m.?

Always arrive at least 25 minutes early

Always arrive at least 25 minutes early, so that you can spend several minutes in the restroom to get yourself looking your absolute best before you meet anyone– including the receptionist. That will also provide some allowance if parking problems occur.

Further, if you live in the general area but have never been to this organization’s location in the past, it might be a good idea to make a “dry run” beforehand to familiarize yourself with the exact locale and the amount of time needed to get there.

Good luck “nailing” your interview!

Ralph Chapman

Ralph Chapman

CEO, HR Search Pros, Inc.

The best plan is to walk into the interview location 10 to 15 minutes early

When to arrive for an interview is very important and has a big impact on the outcome of the interview. The best plan is to be walking into the interview location 10 to 15 minutes early. To do this, I encourage the candidates I work with to show up at the location of the interview around 15 to 30 minutes early.

There are so many things that can happen on the way to an interview that you should be prepared for.

You want to be sure you have plenty of time to get to the location of the interview in case there is a car accident or traffic on your way. Find a parking spot, take a few minutes to settle yourself and collect your thoughts, do a brief final prep for the interview, and get into the office.

If you arrive late, you will then be in a hurry and it will affect how you interview. It is very difficult to recover from being late and no excuse is ever good enough, so it is best to show up early.

I have been in Human Resources for 25+ years and have specialized, exclusively in placing Human Resources Professionals for 15+ years.

During this time, I have seen what a huge difference it makes to show up early to an interview. When I debrief with a client about how the interviews went with the candidate, I presented one thing that always comes up is when the candidate arrived:

  • early
  • on-time
  • or late

The clients notice this, and it is a big deciding factor as to whether they will move forward with the candidate.

Chintan Shah

Chintan Shah

President and Managing Partner of KNB Communications

The ideal candidate arrives 10-15 minutes before a job interview

Any later, and they will seem as though they did not plan ahead. Any earlier and their presence may feel disruptive. Instead of arriving way too early, it is preferable to wait in their car or go to a nearby coffee shop before stepping into the building.

If the interview is in a large office complex, you can use the extra time to speak with the security guard or receptionist to ensure that you know exactly where you will be going.

If circumstances are such that you may be late to the appointment, get in touch with your contact at the company at soon as possible, but least 10-15 minutes before the scheduled start time. While being late to an interview never reflects well on a candidate, evaluating a situation outside one’s control and responsibly communicating can mitigate the negative perceptions.

Pro tip:Always be courteous, pleasant, and genuine with administrative staff, receptionists, and others who you meet before your interview.

Often, the hiring managers will ask them how the candidate presented him/herself before the interview and what kind of demeanor was displayed. You can also learn about the company and the culture by engaging in some professional small talk before the interview.

Shiyang Gong

Shiyang Gong

CEO at AILaw

Plan to arrive half an hour before the interview starts

Plan to arrive early so you can be more certain of actually getting there at least half an hour before the interview starts. Because a candidate may face problems like traffic, road closures, confusion about the actual location of the job interview, etc. and it can easily consume 15 minutes or more.

Aiming to be there a half-hour early means you can hang out around the corner and then show up five minutes early.

Also, this gives you time to calm down, find the reception desk, ask for water, and all sorts of other things you might want to do after dealing with the trip to the interview. Aiming to be 30 minutes early means you will never be late due to unforeseen things.

As a hiring manager, I don’t care if people are early since I generally won’t find out (I’ll be there to interview you at the time arranged, not before). However, if you are late, I will count it against you.

Indeed a month or so ago, a candidate turned up at our office 15 minutes late. I was supposed to be third out of four people to interview her, but when I found out, she’d turned up 15 minutes late. She hadn’t contacted us to let us know she would be late and didn’t have a good reason. So being a recruiting authority, I just canceled my interview with her due to her nonserious attitude.

If you’re not interested enough in the job to turn up on time, you’re not interested enough in the job to get it.

Eric Mochnacz, SHRM-SCP

Eric Mochnacz

HR Consultant, Red Clover

When considering arrival time for an interview, the candidate should know to ALWAYS arrive early. Job candidates are frequently advised to map out the route to the interview location, even driving to the location the night before to have a thorough understanding of travel time and potential traffic issues.

Candidates should arrive at least 15 minutes early

It demonstrates to the interviewers that they are punctual. However, it also gives the candidate the time to use the restroom, collect themselves, review notes, and mentally prepare for the interview. The candidate can also leverage this time by chatting with the receptionist or the early arrivals to the conference room.

Building rapport before jumping into the formal interview can be advantageous for the candidate and provide a more relaxed (but still professional) environment. It also provides the interviewers to learn a little more about the candidate.

There’s also something to be said about how an early arrival allows the hiring company to serve as a gracious host. Arriving early gives them the time to make you a cup of coffee or grab you a glass of water. They get to make a good impression on the candidate.

It can also serve as a marker that if they haven’t organized the conference room, now is the time to do it. They also will know they need to make sure all the interview attendees are on their way if the conference room is still empty.

Beyond that, anything beyond 30 minutes is excessive.

As a candidate, I’ve left home pretty early out of fear of morning traffic, and I couldn’t help but arrive an hour early. Perhaps stop for a cup of coffee near the location or spend some time in your car reviewing notes or practicing your responses before heading in.

Anything longer than half an hour, your potential future employer may feel rushed or like they need to adjust their schedule TOO much to accommodate an early candidate.

Thirty minutes early can work in favor of all parties. If the interviewers have blocked time on their calendar to meet the candidate, an early candidate may allow an earlier start to the interview, freeing up time later in the day for candidate and company alike.

Samantha Osborne

Samantha Osborne

Marketing Strategist, Strategic HR inc.

Between 8 to 10 minutes early is the sweet spot

If you arrive fifteen or more minutes early, you are clearly prepared and there on time. But, if your interviewer is not ready, they may feel sudden pressure to rush to prep for the interview, even if you were just trying to be polite, which may throw them off their game.

If you’re sitting and waiting for fifteen minutes, it gives you some time to get out of your “interview-prep-mode” with a loss of adrenaline. I’ve been on both sides, as an interviewer and interviewee, and it can be easy to lose your mojo if you’re there too early.

If you arrive five or fewer minutes late, then there’s the chance that you may be in too much of a rush or you have a frantic look to your face. The interviewer will still appreciate the fact that you’ve arrived early, but that window might take away a significant opportunity – the opportunity to make an impression.

Depending on the kind of company or their location, they may have a front desk person or gatekeeper. While they may not have the final word in your hiring decision, your interactions with this person may be noticed. This is why I recommend the sweet spot of 8 to 10 minutes early.

This gives you time to arrive early, look calm, and collected, but gives you just enough time to interact with the people around you. This is your opportunity to smile, pay someone a (genuine) compliment, or tell a crowd-tested joke. It’s a great chance to show your professional networking skills without much pressure.

And as an added plus, it gives you time to take in the office around you. Do the people seem stressed, how do they interact with people, what appears to be the way they operate. It gives you the chance to visualize if you can see yourself fitting in here.

Carol Lempert

Carol Lempert

Leadership Development Expert | Learning Designer & Speaker

Arrive at the location 30 minutes early

Go to the location where the interview will be held a day or two beforehand to get the lay of the land. The more you know what to expect right before your interview, the calmer you’ll be AT the interview.

Figure out:

  • How to get there
  • Should you drive or take mass transit?
  • If you drive, where should you park?
  • Pay attention to the culture. What are people wearing? (This will help you decide how to dress)
  • Find the washroom in the building

Then, on the day of your actual interview, aim to arrive at the location 30 minutes early.

This gives you time to find a place to sit and organize your thoughts, find the washroom, and be ready to walk into the office, ready to go 15 minutes early. Use the time before the interview to jot down the names of everyone you meet, including the receptionist. You’ll want to include these names when you write your thank-you note.

Kemp Edmonds

Kemp Edmonds

Head of Marketing and Technology, Digital Media Academy

Arrive at the location 15-20 minutes early and at the office 5 minutes early

This distinction is important. You want to be at the location early so that you aren’t late due to traffic or parking, so that you can be calm and prepared when you enter the office, and so that you have a little extra prep time.

Enter the office 5 minutes before your interview and check-in. This shows that you are on time and even a bit early to make things as smooth as possible for everyone involved.

When I am interviewing people, it’s usually a hectic day. I often try to stack interviews back to back to ensure they don’t run long, to view each of the candidates in a comparative light, and to be as efficient as possible as hiring is time-consuming.

When a candidate arrives 10+ minutes early, we are often too busy to deal with them at that time. This can inconvenience your prospective employer, so keep that in mind. Of course, arriving late shows a lack of respect for our time. But in some cases, especially at a fast-paced organization, so is arriving too early.

Natalie Morgan

Natalie Morgan

Director of HR, CareerPlug

Job applicants should plan on arriving at a job interview 5 to 10 minutes before the start of an interview. It’s never good form to be late, but it is odd to be 20 or 30 minutes early. Odd, and frankly, awkward.

Interviewers usually have other meetings or commitments throughout the day and can’t start the interview early.

You may be stuck waiting in a reception area or conference room with nothing but your nerves to distract you. And if hiring managers are like me, they’ll feel guilty leaving you alone for so long, while also wondering why you couldn’t have stuck to the interview time to avoid the situation. If you do arrive earlier than ten minutes, wait before coming into the office.

Related: How to Not Be Nervous Before and During a Job Interview

Justin A. Hill

Justin Hill

Owner and Founder, Hill Law Firm

My advice for job seekers is to arrive at least 15 minutes early.

To that end, if it is a job you want, make sure to go by beforehand to make sure you know where it is and learn if there are any parking issues with the building, construction detours, or other issues.

For one position I had listed, I had 11 interviews lined up. There were seven no-shows, two arrived late, one arrived on time, and one arrived an hour early because she was scared she’d be late. I’ll let you guess who got the job.

Anna Papalia

Anna Papalia

Consultant & Keynote Speaker | CEO, Shift Profile

I think industry standard, and what I mean by that is, what most hiring managers and recruiters expect, is 15 minutes before your start time. If you are early, you are on time. If you are on time, you are late.

Anything earlier than 15 minutes is way too early, and anything later is seen as late.

For example, I have hired thousands of employees, and if the interview is at 10:00, and they show up at 10:00, I am not as impressed if they showed up at 9:45. Being early by 15 mins shows interest, eagerness, and preparedness—all things you want a hiring manager to think of you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Should I Do if I Arrive Too Early for My Job Interview?

If you find yourself with extra time before your interview, there are some things you can do to use it well:

Review your notes: Take a few minutes to review any notes or materials you have prepared for the interview, such as your resume or talking points. This can help you feel more confident and prepared for the interview.

Research the company: Use the extra time to look up the company’s website, social media profiles, or recent news articles. This will give you a better understanding of the company’s values and goals and help you tailor your responses during the interview.

Practice deep breathing or visualization exercises: If you’re feeling nervous or anxious, you can take a few minutes to do deep breathing or visualization exercises that will calm your nerves and boost your confidence.

Whatever you do, try to stay relaxed and focused. Avoid looking at your phone or getting lost in distracting thoughts, as this can give the impression that you’re not engaged or interested in the interview.

How Can I Ensure I Arrive on Time for My Job Interview?

There are several things you can do to help ensure that you arrive on time for your interview:

Plan your route: Use a map or GPS app to plan your route to the interview location in advance. Be aware of any traffic or construction delays affecting your arrival time.

Leave early: Allow enough time to arrive at the interview location, considering any unexpected delays or last-minute changes. If possible, aim to arrive at the interview location at least 30 minutes before your scheduled time.

Dress appropriately: Make sure you’ve dressed appropriately for the interview, so you don’t waste time changing or fixing your appearance when you arrive.

Have a backup plan: If you rely on public transportation, you should have a backup plan in case of a delay or cancelation. Have a phone number of a cab or ride-sharing service handy, just in case.

By following these steps, you can ensure that you arrive on time and avoid unnecessary stress or anxiety.

What Should I Do if I Get Lost or Can’t Find the Location of the Interview?

If you’re lost or cannot find the interview location, it’s best to call the interviewer or the company receptionist as soon as possible. Explain that you’re lost or having trouble finding the location and ask for directions or further guidance.

If you’re running late due to getting lost or other unforeseen circumstances, communicate this with the interviewer or receptionist and give an estimated arrival time. Be sure to apologize for the inconvenience and do your best to arrive as soon as possible.

Remember that it’s better to communicate your situation and be a little late than to arrive flustered and unprepared.

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