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How Early Should You Be For An Interview?

Job interview timing"
Job interview timing
Graphics by: Kirra Wallace
Graphics by: Kirra Wallace

Timing is everything. It’s true in life and even more so when you’re interviewing for a new role. The prospect of a new job is exciting, and landing an interview gets you one step closer to a new career and a new beginning. Often a job interview is the first time you meet the hiring manager or a member of the team, so it’s essential that you make a great first impression. And as the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. 

While it’s good to be prepared, you’ll want to make sure that your first impression doesn’t happen too soon. Arriving too early for a job interview can derail schedules, make you look desperate, increase nervousness, and make the situation awkward for everyone involved. That’s why I’m sharing tips on the best time to arrive at an interview so that you can make a memorable first impression in the best way possible.


How Early Should You Be For An Interview?

It’s the night before your interview. You’ve handled your job search gracefully, navigated the hiring process so far with ease, and googled what to wear for a job interview. Now all that’s left to think about is the day of the interview and determining how early is too early to show up for an interview. A good rule of thumb to follow for in-person interviews is to arrive 15 minutes early. This will ensure you arrive early while allowing extra time to account for any potential delays, like traffic, parking situations, and finding the lobby. Showing up early also gives job seekers the opportunity to gather themselves prior to the interview and do any last-minute interview preparation.


When Your Interview is In-Person

Recruiters and hiring managers schedule interviews when they do for a certain reason; it works for their schedules. If they had been available 30 minutes or an hour earlier, they would have scheduled the interview for that time. You don’t get bonus points if you arrive too early. It might actually have the opposite effect and show that you didn’t pay attention to the time of your interview or you’re not respecting the interviewer’s time. If you find yourself in a position where you’re going to arrive earlier than 15 minutes, it’s best to pass the time at a coffee shop, in your car, or in a public place, like a park, before heading into the office. 

Remember to tailor your timing based on where you live and the interview location. If the company you’re interviewing at has a big corporate building and you may need extra time to navigate the campus and find the right building, be sure to add a cushion to account for that. If you live in a small town and the office building is small and easy to locate, you may not want to arrive early and sit in the parking lot, especially if it will make you feel uncomfortable. Accounting for things like the travel time, any potential traffic, the parking situation, walking distance to the office, stopping to use the restroom, and any other details applicable to your specific situation ahead of time allows for a smoother experience the day of your interview. It also helps to mitigate any anxiety and nerves.


When Your Interview is Virtual

If your interview is virtual, 15 minutes early is still a good goal to aim for. This allows time to ensure you can access the platform your interview is hosted on, and if you have technology issues, it gives you time to troubleshoot them. Don’t want to leave your interviewer waiting to hear from you if you experience technology issues before an interview because you didn’t give yourself enough time to log in. If all goes swimmingly, you’ll have a few extra minutes to mentally prepare, practice responses, and ensure your video background looks professional.


When You’re Given Specific Instructions

If your interviewer or a recruiter has taken the time to give you specific instructions on where and when to arrive, follow them. They’re not sharing the details to test you and see if you fail, but you need to pay attention because they gave you the instructions for a reason. The office might have a strict visitor policy you need to adhere to, or there may be specific parking instructions you need to follow. Whatever the reason, read the instructions ahead of time (and multiple times!) to ensure you don’t miss any critical details. If you do, it might show you lack attention to detail, which could be a red flag for the interviewer.


What To Do While Waiting For An Interview

A lot can ride on an interview, like your future career and livelihood. But while interviews can be nerve-wracking and stress-inducing, the last thing you want to do before walking into your interview is focus on your anxiety and nervous energy. There are much more productive ways to spend the final minutes before an interview than sitting in the lobby worrying. Trust me, I know from experience. Here are a few ideas of what you can do while waiting for an interview that will help you walk into the room prepared and confident.


Move Out Any Nerves

If you overestimate your travel time and find yourself with more than 15 minutes to spare, take a few minutes to move your body. Movement helps to reduce nervousness and anxiety. It can get you in a calm state of mind before you walk into the office lobby. Take a walk around the block to center your head and explore the area surrounding the building. If the office building isn’t in a place where you can walk, do a quick stretch in your car. If moving your body isn’t an option, move your car. Drive around to explore the neighborhood or jam out to your favorite pump-up song. No matter how you choose to move, ensure you pay attention to the clock so you get back in time with 15 minutes to spare.


Practice Your Responses

At this point, you’ve likely already rehearsed your responses to common interview questions. But to make the best use of your time, mentally run through your responses to questions like tell me more about yourself, what’s your biggest strength, and why are you looking for a new job. Review what you’ve included in your cover letter and resume and think about potential questions the interview could ask. Also, don’t forget to think about how to answer the salary expectations question so you’re not caught off guard and blurt out a number different than what you actually want. Going over your interview notes will help you feel more comfortable and confident once you walk into the interview.


Get Your Head in the Game

In the final minutes leading up to your interview, the best thing you can do is prepare mentally. You’ve had the time prior to the day of to practice interview questions, research the company, and make a list of questions for the interviewer. You’re as ready as you’re ever going to be. Now is the time to visualize success. Envision you nailing the interview and answering every question intelligently and with confidence. If you enjoy meditating, do a quick meditation to clear your head and focus on your breathing. If not, sit quietly and calmly while you’re waiting to step into your interview room. Trust the work you’ve put in, and most importantly, trust yourself. You’ve never been more ready to interview for this job than you are right now. Believe that. You’ve got this!