How Early Should You Arrive For An Interview?

By Chris Kolmar - Oct. 5, 2021

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Let’s face it; job interviews are stressful for everyone. Interviewing well is an acquired skill, and there’s a lot of pressure to make a good first impression when a job offer, maybe even a dream job, is on the line.

There is added stress to interviews knowing that much of what you will be facing is unknown and unpredictable. You likely have never met the hiring manager, recruiter, or whoever else is conducting your interview, and you have no idea what their interview style may be or what specific questions they will ask you.

Knowing the proper protocols of the interview process can be especially difficult if it is your first ever job interview or your first serious interview. If you’re in this boat, the unknown elements of job interviewing may be multiplied, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be conquered.

It’s important to use everything at your disposal before, during, and after the interview to ensure that you are giving yourself the best chance possible.

With so much out of your control, it’s a smart idea to focus on the things that are in your control to help you succeed. One of the best ways to increase your chances of acing an interview is great preparation.

Prep work helps you leave the best impression and make the biggest impact. In your interview, you are looking to demonstrate in as little time as possible that you are a professional, knowledgeable, and considerate individual.

Showing up early for your interview is one of the easiest ways you can prepare for success in your interview. Showing up early demonstrates that you are reliable and dedicated to your commitments.

It can, however, be difficult to know exactly how early you should show up for an interview. In this article, we will answer that burning question. Below are some tips on the best time to show up for your interview and other crucial pieces of interview preparedness advice.

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How Early Should You be for an Interview?

Though there are several factors to consider, the general consensus tends to be that you should show up about ten to 15 minutes earlier than your scheduled interview time.

More than 15 minutes tends to be a bit awkward, and less than ten minutes could put you in a stressful time crunch.

Showing up ten to 15 minutes early to your in-office interview shows that you are eager about this opportunity and that you are well-prepared.

There are also several practical reasons to give yourself this modest time gap. Showing up about ten minutes early gives you time to check in with the receptionist at the front desk, fill out any last-minute forms, get yourself comfortable with the office environment, and use the restroom if you find yourself needing that.

It can also be a good idea to simply use this time to practice anxiety-reduction techniques like deep breathing. Arriving early should, hopefully, alleviate some of these fears by allowing you a chance to feel settled in.

Giving yourself ten to 15 minutes of extra time also allows for potential mishaps or setbacks.

If you find yourself needing to stop for gas, if you get lost along the way, or if there’s traffic, having a time buffer ensures that you don’t show up late to the interview. Showing up after the scheduled interview time is a surefire way to give yourself an uphill battle.

However, the ten to 15-minute rule does not take into account any special instructions your potential employer may have given you. For instance, if you were told to arrive 15 minutes early to fill out paperwork, try to arrive about 25 minutes early. In general, whatever time they are expecting you, be there slightly before.

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Preparing for the Interview

Preparation is key. If you are nervous about your upcoming interview, below are some preparation tips that will help you gain confidence and set yourself up for success:

  • Do a “dress rehearsal.” One of the best ways to ensure that arriving at the interview goes smoothly is to do a dress rehearsal drive a week to a few days before. This helps you make absolutely certain that you can have all of the information you need to navigate to this location with ease.

    Double-check the address and drive to your interview location and note any important information, such as what the building looks like and if there are any obstacles along the route. Figure out the parking situation and how long it takes you to find parking and walk to the building.

  • Read interview tips. Sometimes it’s true that search engines are your best friend. Search for any information you can about how to do well in interviews and how to avoid common mistakes and take notes. Look up tips specific to your industry and position, as well as general advice.

    It will also be helpful to research common interview questions, both specific and general, and prepare some answers for these questions. Reflect on your experience, skills, and training and see how they fit with these questions.

  • Learn about the company. The other kind of important research you need to do is to learn about the company’s values and its missions.

    Read as much as you can about this organization and think of ways it aligns with you. Know what the company does and what its basic principles are and be ready to answer questions about this.

    You should also try to learn what you can about the company culture. Hiring managers are looking for someone who is not just a fit with the requirements of the position but someone who is also a good fit with the company culture.

    Read reviews of the company and its practices. Remember that you are also trying to find something that works for you.

  • Relax before the interview. To boost your confidence, help your memory, and decrease your overall suffering during this process, try to seriously consider practicing relaxation.

    We all have our own ways of doing this, but if you are at a loss, search methods for relaxing before an interview and relaxing in times of acute stress.

    Some methods you may find helpful include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, or positive affirmations. Try to recognize your thoughts and self-talk, and realize whether your mental chatter is helping or hurting the situation.

What to do if You Arrive too Early

If you find yourself a bit too early for your interview, don’t fear. It’s much better to be running early than to be running late, and there are positive things you can do with the extra time.

If you find yourself 30 minutes early for the appointment, you may want to think twice about just going in anyways and waiting it out. Showing up drastically early might make you look a little bit desperate or like you have nothing better to do with your time.

Outside of negative judgments, you may put the staff in an awkward position. The receptionist may feel the need to entertain or converse with you while you wait. Or the recruiter may feel as though they need to stop what they are doing and start the interview early.

While it isn’t an enormous faux pas, showing up too early can make it seem as though you don’t manage your time well.

If you are very ahead of schedule, take a deep breath and be grateful that things are going according to plan. With the extra time on your hands, you may want to blow off some steam by going for a walk around the neighborhood, exploring some of the local stores, or popping into a cafe.

Take this time to get into the right headspace for your interview. You may want to mentally review some of your prepared answers and talking points. Or you may find it more helpful just to recognize all the hard work you’ve done in preparing so far and enjoy the feeling of being well-equipped and ready to go.

Different Types of Interviews (and How to Prepare)

Showing up early may look different for different kinds of interviews. Below we have some tips on how to be prepared for different types of interview processes you may face:

  • Phone interviews. For phone interviews, it’s likely that the recruiter will call you at the scheduled time, so there isn’t really such a thing as showing up early.

    However, you will still want to give yourself appropriate time to get to a quiet, comfortable space with your phone in hand. Get into a quiet place for your phone interview about five minutes before the scheduled time.

  • Video interviews. The same basic rules that apply to phone interviews also apply to webcam and video interviews. If you can, try and log into the video conference room about five minutes before the scheduled start time.

  • Open interviews. In open interviews, you get the opportunity to interview on-site at open group hiring events. To increase your chances at open interviews, RSVP early on and try to arrive at the event as close to the start time as possible.

  • Unstructured interviews. These types of interviews forgo pre-prepared questions and set agendas to allow more open, free-flowing conversation.

    The goal of these types of interviews is to get to know you in a deeper, less prescribed way, but don’t let the “unstructured” aspect fool you into thinking you shouldn’t prepare. You should still arrive at these interviews the standard ten to 15 minutes early.

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Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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