I’ve spent a lot of time conducting job interviews over the past few years for the various startups I’ve been a part of. One of the things I noticed is that, while most people know that arriving late is never a good idea, a lot of candidates don’t realize that arriving too early is not the best move either.
So what’s the perfect time to show up at your interview?
Arriving Too Early Gives A Bad First Impression
If you arrive more than 15 minutes early, there’s a good chance that it will make your first contact with the company awkward and disturbing. The person you’re supposed to meet with will be working on something else and you’re interupting them… but they will feel obligated to come and say hello, find a way to entertain you and make sure you are confortable while you wait.
This is especially true in a startup environement where there aren’t many people in the company. Everyone is often working in the same open space, right next to the sofa where you’ll be waiting. There’s also a good chance that your interviewer will be a couple of meters from you, rushing through their task to begin the interview earlier. The whole situation is just painful for every person involved.
Your first chance to make a good impression is now tainted with awkwardness and disruption of the interviewer’s time. You’ve successfuly became that one friend that shows up way too early at the party while the hosts are still decorating.
On Time Is Almost Too Late
Arriving late is the worst way to begin an interview. If this happens to you, even if you’re only two minutes late, you should apologize profusely and hope this isn’t an eliminating factor for the person you’ll be talking to. Note that “it took longer than expected” is not a valid answer, you should have planned better. You should also send a quick email stating that you’ll be a few minutes late.
However, if you arrive at the exact time scheduled, then it’s almost the same as if you were late. You will probably have to take an elevator, talk to a receptionist, be guided to a meeting room and so on.
While you were on time to show up at the company’s door, you’ll be late at the actual job interview and loose important face time with your interviewer.
When To Arrive At Your Job Interview
I really think that the optimal arrival time is between 5 and 10 minutes early depending on the company’s size. Usually more toward 5 minutes if it’s a startup and 10 minutes if it’s a larger group. This is how early you should have your first interaction with someone working for the company.
Note that I didn’t say to arrive on the site 5-10 minutes early. As a matter of fact you should try to arrive at least 20-30 minutes early, just to make sure you won’t be late, but don’t go inside the building just yet. First, check where the door is. Then you can go for a quick walk, take a look the neighborhood where you could end up working, make sure your phone is on vibrate, grab a coffee or just find a seat somewhere and try to relax.
Anything later than this and you run into the risk of showing up late. Remember that you might have to ask security for a badge, wait for an elevator and so on. Anything earlier and you’ll disrupt your interviewer’s day that has to suddently stop working to deal with you. While not the worse situation, this is clearly not the best first impression you could give.
It might seems like overthinking it, but if you’re interviewing with someone who have seen hundreds of candidates, every little detail counts.