I think it is normal that the candidate shows up 5 to 10 minutes before the interview. But sometimes I have candidates show up an hour early. How should I deal with that?

I feel a little bit annoyed that candidates show up so early. Now I just let them wait until the arranged interview time.

So any suggestion about an "appropriate" way to deal with that or just let them wait? And how early is appropriate for a candidate (software industry)?

My employer is a privately-owned software company in Beijing with around 200 employees. But I feel how to deal with my situation is the same no matter whether it is in software industry or in Beijing.

--- update ---

Based on the comments I got so far, like they may use public transportation, let me just add a case happened today.

We arranged the interview time at 1:30 pm. It is a sunny day today and our office is in downtown Beijing so candidates can just take the subway to arrive(the subway runs every 3 minutes). The candidate showed up at around 12:20 so I asked him why he showed up so early. He replied he had a morning interview ended at around 11:20 and had a quick lunch. Since our office is not far away from there so he just decided to come early.

I really think it is unwise for a candidate to show up one hour early no matter what.

--- update 2 ----

I came across the similar question at quora "How early should you show up to an interview?"

And The perfect time to show up for a job interview , How Early Should You Be for an Interview?

Although my question was closed as opinion-based I try to present as much information related to it as I can find.

  • 23
    What is the office setup- do you have a waiting room? Is it a large building? Or is the front door the door to your office and they are now sitting across your desk watching you work?
    – Damila
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 13:57
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    I understand why you think those things are irrelevant to whether it’s “ok” or not for them to show up early, but I thought that information could help users give an answer for what you could do. Saying “let them cool their heels” is different if the “lobby” is the other side of your desk.
    – Damila
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 3:06
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    What problem, exactly, caused by these early arrivals are you trying to solve? If the only problem is you being annoyed, I don't think it's necessary to do anything. Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 4:24
  • 12
    They are also interviewing you. Showing up early and being very willing to wait may provide an opportunity to observe the energy and interactions of the office. This is valuable information to a candidate. Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 13:02
  • 5
    Meh, you ask and others provide insight from different angle and now you're getting petty for that? You're annoyed at the beginning so stop pretending you are not. Just let him wait until the schedule time, is that simple. No need too add in bunch of stuff just because the answer didn't meet what you expecting.
    – Revol729
    Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 6:27

17 Answers 17


When sending out the invitation to the interview include a sentence like:

Due to limited space in our waiting area, please do not turn up earlier than 10 minutes before the interview time.

This will also allow you to see if they can follow instructions.

Personally it would not bother me, I would just let them wait in the reception area and conduct the interview at the pre-arranged time.

  • 79
    It's one thing to give yourself margin. It's another to sit in their reception area for an hour. If you have found the place and have 45 minutes extra, go back down and sit at a coffee shop. I've had this happen before, but you don't sit around the office for an hour. That's just bad etiquette; the interviewee is basically loitering in the office space.
    – Nelson
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 2:29
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    It might be a good idea to recommend a local waiting place for those who can't help arriving early, or to not count a very early person who goes to one the receptionist recommends as "turning up" until they come back. I'd understand if applicants with dodgy public transport options didn't research local coffee places as well.
    – J.G.
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 11:53
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    They might be able to follow directions but if they're taking public transport and your office is in the middle of nowhere there might be paucity of buses.
    – D Duck
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 18:55
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    @Nelson Loitering? Every large office building I've ever worked in has had a reception area with sofas and newspapers. Allowing visitors to sit around waiting for meetings, taxis and suchlike is precisely what it's intended for
    – mjt
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 20:14
  • 1
    @mjt Most places I have worked the waiting area has essentially had room for two or three people. With people hanging around for longer than 10 minutes they start getting in the way of other (possibly more important) visitors. Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 10:37

I agree with Joe Strazzere's comment and I will expand on that.

So any suggestion about an "appropriate" way to deal with that or just let them wait?

Appropriate way is not get annoyed or judge them for coming too early. They might be too excited and want to ensure they do not miss it. They may be hoping to have additional time to discuss or move to earlier slot (if available). None of this reflects on their ability to do their job.

You can

  • Ask them to wait around
  • Ask them to leave and come back if you do not have enough room in waiting area or you do not want candidates hanging out there.
  • Ask them to take a tour of the facility (If there is anything to look around and if it is allowed by company's policy).
  • If your schedule permits, move the interview up.

As Joe mentioned, you are in control, so you decide without considering this as a problem.

And how early is appropriate for a candidate (software industry)?

Like you mentioned in your question, 10 minutes is appropriate. However, around 1 hour is still not inappropriate.

  • 7
    Ask them to leave and come back: Be sure to suggest some places (coffee shop etc.) for them to hang out - They come early lest they miss the interview and you're asking them away. It'd be awkward without providing alternatives.
    – iBug
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 15:00
  • Good point @iBug
    – PagMax
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 16:23

If they arrived by public transport it is easily possible that they had to come an hour early to make sure to be there in time. If you have an reception just let them wait there and handle it by your receptionist staff.

This results in a simple time: It is appropriate to show up as early as it is required to be there in time for sure. This may be different depending if the office is in a larger complex (may take some time to find the way) or a single office building, and if there are suitable waiting areas outside the office. Inside an office building in the city center I would expect that Candidates can time their arrival better than in an industrial outskirt with bad public transport and no coffee shops/cafes around.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 2:05
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    They may not even be them trying to get there very early but simply there is bad scheduling with the public transportation and it becomes either get there an hour early or 10 minutes late. I've occasionally gotten places very early because the other option is getting there slightly late.
    – Rob
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 9:07
  • @Rob Seriously? What is wrong with sitting in a coffee shop until around 10 minutes before the interview? Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 1:11
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    No coffee shops nearby?
    – Rob
    Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 7:06
  • @stackoverblown I've worked in many offices that have no coffee shop, or any shop at all, nearby. Not every workplace exists in a bustling retail zone.
    – Seth R
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 20:47

People often learn in school to arrive early, and it also gives them time to gather their thoughts and concentrate on the impending interview.

The only issue I can think of is if they pester reception during their wait. Otherwise reception should be politely dealing with it the normal way by enquiring what they're there for and advising them where to wait. You shouldn't even know they're there until close to the time. And if you do, you shouldn't be worrying about it.

Now I just let them wait until the arranged interview time.

That is the normal expectation, people are not expecting to be interviewed early, they're expecting to wait and have given themselves a solid margin to make sure they won't inconvenience a prospective employer by showing up unprepared or late.

If you have interviews scheduled and have not had the foresight to have someone to greet them and waiting facilities, or at least a sign in lieu of that, that's not the candidates fault. That's just normal interview day protocol. You're the one unprepared, not them. You should be outlining any expectations or requirements for the interviews that are important to you.

Unless you specifically let them know beforehand, you cannot expect them to know that you do not have reception or a waiting area.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 7:31

There are various things at play here. First, I get the feeling that most of the people who have answered come from a corporate environment where the workplace is an office building with a receptionist and a waiting area. I have personally never worked in such a place, so it isn't what I consider the norm. Instead, my experience is from academic laboratories and small tech startups. Neither of these necessarily (or even often, in my experience) have a receptionist or waiting area.

So, if I'm working in my lab back when I was in Academia, or in our single room, open-plan office in my current job, if someone comes for our interview an hour early, I need to drop everything and go to baby sit them. Or, I can tell them to wait and then go back to my work trying to ignore the fact that some poor sap is waiting two meters away from me staring at me while they wait for the time to pass.

This is not a pleasant situation. Sure, if you work in a big place with loads of people, a cafeteria, a receptionist and all the works, it isn't such a big deal if people arrive early. At least, you don't need to deal with them and they have somewhere to wait until the right time. But this is not always the case at all. Many workplaces that don't rely on or expect interaction with the public do not have such spaces and arriving early means somebody will have to stop their work, break their concentration, skip the meetings they had planned for this time and deal with you because you were not capable of keeping an appointment and instead arrived an hour early.

The next issue here is one of punctuality. If I tell you I will meet you at 4pm, I mean 4pm. I can live with 10 or even 15 minutes in either direction, but an hour early or an hour late is crossing a line. If you arrive an hour early and don't even bother to call ahead to warn me, don't apologize, don't offer to wait elsewhere but instead waltz straight up to my office, ring the bell and expect to be dealt with, then you are not coming across as very professional. Being on time means being on time: arriving at the agreed upon time. Being early is, by definition, a way of not being on time. And it can be just as disruptive as being late if my workplace isn't set up to accommodate people waiting.

If someone arrives an hour early, they should apologize. They can ask if it would be OK to wait. They can ask if it would be OK to move the meeting earlier. But they shouldn't just waltz in with as weak an excuse as "I finished lunch early so I came by" and expect to be waited on. That really comes across as very rude and presumptuous to me.

If I were in the OP's place, I would simply tell the person "I'm sorry, but our interview is scheduled in one hour from now." Then, if I happen to work at a place with a space for visitors, I would tell them to wait there until I finish whatever else I have on my plate or, if I don't have such an area I would ask them to go away and come back at the right time.

At the end of the day, in a professional setting, it is important to be punctual. And you can only be punctual if you arrive on time. This idea that being early is somehow a good thing is mystifying to me. These days, I have my working day planned down to the minute in many cases and if you pull me out of the zone or a meeting because you came in early I will not be looking at your application very favorably.

  • 13
    A prospective employee can be well-prepared for an interview and yet have no idea of the particulars of the workspace. Putting myself in the candidate’s shoes, if I show up that early, I’m open to any of these responses from the interviewers: 1) great! I’m unexpectedly free now, shall we?; 2) I’m tied up at the moment, please wait in the reception area and we’ll get you when it’s time; 3) I’m tied up at the moment and as you can see, there’s no reception area. I can’t allow you in unescorted, could you return in an hour? Yes, it’s a distraction, but it’s not the worst first impression ever
    – thehole
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 22:14
  • 3
    I agree with this answer. In my office we got a few sofas but they're only a few meters behind desks in the open space. It can be disturbing to work with someone nobody knows right behind you. And the interviewer is probably working, concentrated or in a meeting 1 hour before the interview. He shouldn't have to interrupt himself or the meeting to talk to a guy that couldn't wait outside. I know I would get frustrated and think less of the interviewee from that. I would rate being 1 hour early as bad as 30min late, and 30min early as bad as 10min late.
    – Jemox
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 22:24
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    Telling the interviewee to come back later is perfectly acceptable. In fact I would go further and say it was the expected response. The candidate is almost certainly just checking in to give the interviewer the option of changing things and is expecting to be told to either come back or to wait. Being early is easier and more flexible than being late. I would consider anything less than 2 hours as simply not relevant, neither positive nor negative.
    – jmoreno
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 2:02
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    It is always rude to turn up 1h early at an invitation e.g a dinner party. It is common sense to arrive very early for a live event where hundreds or thousands of guests or spectators are expected.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 6:02
  • 5
    I don't come from a corporate environment, and we have no waiting room. My company still let the interviewee wait in the interviewing room alone with some coffee should they arrive early.
    – Clockwork
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 6:41

This may be a cultural thing. In Germany it would be very bad to be late. So a lot of people are taking all things into account. Like what happens if my car breaks down, there is a terrible traffic jam or the train has a problem?

So people take a train early or start their car trip 30-60 minutes early.

A friend of mine actualy lost his place in college, when there was a train problem while he was on the way to his interview. Since then he always arrives 1 hour early to important meetings.

  • 5
    Does your friend also enter the building and announce their arrival 1 hour early?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 19:06
  • 1
    In fact yes, he tried to get into the same college the next year. He was invited to watch other candidates who also apply with the professor. Sounds strange but it actually happened and he can tell pretty funny stories what people consider as "art". Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 19:07
  • 3
    @terdon I think that was the point of this answer, there are cultural situations in which it is not bad (or positively good)to be early to arrive to wait for an interview, and you can't expect someone to guess which culture holds sway unless you provide specific instructions during the process of arranging hte interview.
    – origimbo
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 20:01
  • 1
    No I don't think it is a culture thing Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 2:12
  • 1
    @origimbo name a culture where it is commonly expected that you are 1 hour early to interviews.
    – eps
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 13:23

Firstly re-check the interview invitation and make sure that you've not mistakenly asked them to arrive an hour before - it's pretty easy to type the wrong number and not spot it.

If they really have arrived an hour early, you can simply ask them to return at the correct time. In businesses where there's a reception area, they can wait there and the person working the reception desk can tell the candidate that you'll be there at the scheduled time. It's then up to the candidate whether they want to sit there for an hour or not.

Candidates might either be super-enthusiastic and want to be seen earlier, they might have interviews with other companies and want to fit them in, or they might be trying to bully you into conducting an interview while not fully prepared.

Either way, your work is to your own schedule - you should stick to that.

  • 11
    Or they might be interested in what happens in a company (or in the reception area) if they just observe it for a while.
    – Erik
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 7:03
  • They really have arrived an hour early. Yes currently I stick to my schedule. Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 7:10
  • 6
    Another possibility is that they are using public transportation to come to the interview and they are forced to arrive so early. Yes, they could wait outside, but maybe it rains or it's cold so they prefer to wait indoor. Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 7:51
  • @DavideVisentin that is not the case, check my update. Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 8:36
  • @Qiulang It's not the case for that particular candidate. In that case yes, it was inappropriate, especially since it came there when you you probably were going to have lunch. Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 8:46

I also prefer Matt's solution the best.

But in addition to those instructions for the job-hunter, I would also instruct the receptionist to make a note of the time they arrived, but not to tell me about their arrival until 5 minutes before the actual appointment (unless there was some kind of actual mixup about the time).

If I'm busy, I don't want to be distracted by the fact that an interviewee is waiting for me in the reception area.

Also, I understand the problem with public transportation, but unless the weather is really bad outside, I would expect someone who arrives so early to go wait at a local coffee shop nearby or to walk around the neighborhood until it's 10-15 minutes before the appointment.

Now, I don't know what kind of work you do, and again, this would depend entirely on the weather outside and the surrounding location, but if such a candidate checked in at the reception one hour early when it's still sunny and pleasant outside, I would be annoyed, and if I'm being honest with myself, this would probably bias me against the candidate in question.

PS: And before someone tells me that there could be other perfectly good reasons for breaching protocol and checking in one hour early. For instance, if the candidate is in a wheelchair or has mobility problems. Or if my office is unmarked and it is hard to find. Or if the neighborhood is unsafe or unwelcoming. Or if the candidate needs to move their appointment by one hour because they have an emergency at home. I would accept any of those reasons without a doubt.

  • I'm in agreement with this answer. The only thing I don't understand is "this would probably bias me against the candidate in question". Is it because you believe that person is bothersome? As a side note, I think if I were to arrive so early, I would check in to let them know that I will be indeed attending the interview (rather than one of those interviewees that never show up), then let them know that I will be back a few minutes before the interview.
    – Clockwork
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 18:21
  • @Clockwork, Well, it's difficult to put labels on someone for such a minor incident. And at the risk of being labeled inconsiderate myself for thinking this, I would think that the candidate is inconsiderate. And yes, someone who doesn't show up at all (without a good excuse) would be even worse in my mind. Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 20:14

At least with public transportation where I am (NYC, USA), any trip can easily have 30 minutes of variation in either direction from my arrival target. Therefore to dependably be on time I need to leave an extra 30 minutes early. And so when a trip occasionally varies on the fast side, I'm there 30 minutes before that, making it a full hour before the appointed time.

So the mirror-image of the OP's situation is that I'm quite off-put when appointments say something like "do not arrive earlier than 15 minutes before the appointment" (as happened most recently for a vaccination), as that's transparently less than the expected variation in the travel time. In my perspective, it reflects poorly on such an establishment, in that they probably have insufficient space or resources at the site, etc.

You should have a reasonable waiting area. Visitors can wait there.

  • 6
    That's a reasonable thing to expect of a clinic which regularly has people waiting, but I don't really see why it is relevant to a professional interview. What if this is a workplace that does not get regular visitors so has no reason to have a waiting area? It is up to you to find a place to wait if you arrive early you can't expect all places you visit for an interview to have the full shebang with a receptionist and waiting area, not all employers can afford either.
    – terdon
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 16:40
  • 5
    @soxwithMonica they arrive on time. And there's nothing hypothetical about it. I work for such a company (startup with limited office space) and before that I used to work in a science lab where, again, there was no place for visitors. And there are hundreds of similar examples around. Unless you work in an office building, it is unlikely that there will be enough visitors to warrant having a waiting area. If a candidate were to arrive an hour early where I am now, that would mean they'd have to sit there staring at me work, there is simply no place for them to wait.
    – terdon
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 17:34
  • 3
    I disagree that a candidate's transportation issues are somehow the responsibility of the prospective employer. An adult should be able to figure out how to get themselves to a meeting on time without presuming that an office will be able to host them an hour early. A professional would explain that they're at the mercy of public transportation and ask if the business has a place to wait if they should arrive early. If the business doesn't, and they don't invite the candidate to just call ahead when they're a few minutes out, they should find a cafe or similar place close by to wait.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 19:33
  • 2
    Upvoted because there are similar issues with public transportation where I am from in the U.S. Also, consider the candidate's economic situation. They may be able to afford a car, so public transportation is their only option. They are doing the best they can, based on their current circumstances. The prospective employer should evaluate the situation based on the context. Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 2:01
  • 4
    The comparison with the vaccination appointment doesn't really apply. All vaccination sites are doing this (as well as medical offices for regular appointments) because they don't want a bunch of people they know aren't vaccinated crowded together indoors. That's a safety concern due to a pandemic. Not wanting people to show up early for an interview seems to just be about personal discomfort.
    – BSMP
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 6:18

It's totally normal, and a gesture of respect.

In essence, being late is a gesture of disrespect because you're wasting the time of the person you're meeting with, and in essence claiming that your time is more important than theirs. By contrast, being early is a gesture of respect and humility, since you're wasting your own time in order to avoid wasting theirs - by showing up early, you're disrespecting yourself and the value of your own time to show respect to the other party; you're stating that your time is less important than theirs, and placing yourself into a lower-status position compared to them. The earlier you show up, the more of your own time you're wasting, and the larger of a gesture of respect it becomes.

Of course, at a certain point, the disrespect towards themselves might become concerning, and might indicate a degree of deference towards authority that might indicate a lack of cultural fit with the business, but an hour is certainly reasonable.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 3:00
  • 4
    A good candidate may have valid reasons for being an hour early, that's their concern. If someone started jumping up and down about me quietly waiting I'd walk out and consider myself as having dodged a bullet, I just learnt everything I need to know about the company.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 3:06
  • 3
    @Qiulang I made that comment because when I'm going for an interview I'm analysing the workplace and the interviewers. If they had an issue with me I'd pick it up, and wouldn't be favourably impressed. Particularly software industry, or my own industry, there's plenty other jobs. The prospective employer needs to impress me just as much as I need to impress them.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 3:28
  • 2
    @Qiulang I absolutely did get the feeling that you were angry about someone quietly waiting. Unless the candidate insisted that the interview should happen immediately, that's exactly the situation. The candidate simply arrived early, and that's their choice. It's your choice whether you run the interview early (if you have nothing else on your schedule and you aren't in the middle of something), or whether you let the candidate wait until the planned time.
    – Graham
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 11:29

Have you considered the candidate's point of view? I simply see this as a person interested in the job enough to make absolutely sure they do not arrive late. Anything can happen and Murphy's law is a big factor to consider when you have to deal with important matters. Severely delayed trains, tire punctures, anything can happen and you don't want that to negatively impact you when it matters.

If you live far enough from the office, you may want to make sure that no amount of delay will threaten your chance of getting the job. I know for a far that I arrived to my interview at a big, fairly laid-back software engineering company about an hour before my appointed time and I certainly didn't think it was strange in the slightest. It is possible to wait outside of the office to make yourself seem less impatient, but oftentimes that would appear even stranger to an onlooker.

I grew up in a small town with very scarce transit connections, so I was completely used to waiting multiple hours for a bus/train at the time of the interview.

Why does it annoy you so much? Unless they cause trouble to anyone else, I cannot see an issue with them simply waiting there, even if it is for an hour. If anything, it gives you a chance to observe their passive behavior and read their body language, if you're into that. I have heard of many interviewers who would let the candidates wait an extra half an hour, just to watch the candidates. If they gave up and left, clearly they were not interested in the position enough. Then again, interest is not to be mistaken with desperation.

Edit: I assume we are talking about fairly large office space, given the context mentioned in the question. I could totally see how this would be annoying if the candidate was staring at other people and I would consider that to be the aforementioned nuisance.

  • "we are talking about fairly large office space" No it is not. It is more like terdon's answer, take a look at his answer. Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 2:15
  • 1
    @Qiulang Okay, given the newly added context in your question, I can see your point. It is a bit weird, but still not necessarily a terrible thing. I added my edit after reading the answer you are referring to because the option of a smaller company/office didn't even occur to me originally. I understand that it can be annoying when someone comes and interrupts your work, but it's not uncommon that the arranged time is picked completely arbitrarily and if you come sooner, then the other person may be equally glad to be done with the interview and not have to think about it anymore. It depends.
    – natiiix
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 2:22
  • I did not say whether my office is spacious or not on purpose because I think it is irrelevant to my question. To me showing up one hour early is unwise no matter what. Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 2:26
  • 1
    @Qiulang An hour early may be a lot given your circumstances, but 30 minutes are absolutely normal for all kinds of significant appointments. Aside from space issues, it's difficult to imagine any reason not to arrive an hour early if the situation allows it. The office size is very important because large companies often have a bunch of people in the lobby, waiting for a meeting with someone from the company, so it's nothing unusual to see a person for 30+ minutes there. Therefore, I wouldn't hesitate to arrive an hour early for an interview, knowing it will look completely natural.
    – natiiix
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 2:34
  • 1
    @Qiulang Well, I don't see that mentioned anywhere in the question, so no, I haven't realized that. I still don't see it as a major issue. To announce one's arrival at the off-chance that whoever you're supposed to meet with is currently unoccupied, it makes sense if you're meeting with someone who doesn't have a very busy/packed schedule. Different people would react vastly differently to this. Many companies these days struggle to find any candidates at all, so the interviewers are often very excited to meet with them as soon as possible, even if it interrupts their regular schedule.
    – natiiix
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 2:46

If They Can't Wait In The Lobby, Tell Them Where They CAN Wait

If it is simply an issue of having them wait at that location, there's a very simple solution.

Since you know the area (and if you don't, you should familiarize yourself with the area) you should suggest an alternative place said candidates could wait until the meeting begins. An open park nearby or a cafe that serves cheap coffee, really anything that you know of that they could do between their arrival and the meeting.

It isn't rude to make this suggestion - if lobby space is limited, it would be a bother to you to have the candidate wait for so long. And if it is uncomfortable or lacks amenities, it would be better for the candidate to have an alternative place to wait as well.

Now, if there aren't any nearby places for them to wait...well, you may need to consider that the reason they show up so early is that there isn't anywhere else for them to go.

So pursue that option for them - see if there's anywhere nearby they could sit and wait for their interview to begin.


If someone showed up very early, I would phrase it as

I see you're an hour early. Unfortunately I can't change my schedule to start the interview early. Feel free to go for a walk outside or there's a coffee shop at the end of the street. [Sorry we don't have a waiting room in here.]

Last sentence is optional.

Also ask why they showed up early. It is strange if this keeps happening so having information may help solve the problem.

  • It doesn't keep happening in my case and those arrived early they all had several interviews in a row in the same day. Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 8:35

After reading the posts, comments and discussions, you did not the detail what problem this was causing so I assume the problem is that it bothers you. I also feel like you expected an answer to back you up on your opinion: it's innapropriate and should never happen. That's not the most useful mentality when coming into a discussion.

So any suggestion about an "appropriate" way to deal with that or just let them wait? And how early is appropriate for a candidate (software industry)?

It's up to each person, culture and education to decide if it's innapropriate or not to come one hour early, and that's why everyone is asking why it bothers you, it's not obvious. Personally I don't think it is innapropriate, but, we should all be able to deal with problems and if we don't know how to deal with them, to learn.

But sometimes I have candidates show up an hour early. How should I deal with that?

If you're at the reception and there's enough room for them to wait, there shouldn't be problem here. So, I assume you're either the interviewer and you feel unconfortable about leaving people waiting or there isn't enough room, in any case here are a few things you can do:

  • Write on your email waiting instructions just like Matt suggested (this is the most viable in my opinion);
  • Ask them to leave and come back at the time scheduled;
  • Leave them waiting;
  • If you're free, interview them early.

All of the above are perfectly fine in my context. I wouldn't, but it's fine too if you feel like using punctuality as a factor when selecting candidates.

I get it, it bothers you a lot and that's ok, my final suggestion really is for you to try not to let it ruin your day.

  • 2
    As I said in other comment "showing up 1 hour early did NOT bothers me a lot but seeing some many answers/comments saying why that bother a lot you DO bother me a lot." Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 12:24
  • Yes, I undestand that and it's ok to feel that way. That's why I tried to explain why people were asking, each person has a different background and therefore a judgment about what is appropriate or not, either way is acceptable. You have enough solutions on how to deal with this professionaly, so I just felt like giving an answer to help you deal with the situation and the comments personally.
    – Jalkun
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 12:32
  • Sorry I have to say your assumption that "I also feel like you expected an answer to back you up on your opinion" is not correct and "it bothers you a lot "does not resonate with me. But thanks anyway for giving an answer. Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 12:38

There is a hug amount of variables to consider here: from the type of company you are (if a tech giant or a small start-up) to the profile of the interviewee.

For example, if you are talking about a huge company, the facility most probably have enough space for the guest to sit and wait. Otherwise, you can recommend a nearby place for them to wait. In any case, I don't see it as being impolite, unless you specified a time margin they should follow. I honestly doubt that the person that arrived so early is demanding to be interviewed sooner; they are, most probably, ready to wait.

In some cases, they may have a particular reason to come so early that you are not aware of, or maybe they just want to meet the facilities; maybe they miscalculated the time necessary to arrive, or they are just so excited/anxious that they ended up coming early.

And additionally, the person may not have much work experience. It would be kinda unfair to judge an intern, for example, if they arrived so early for the first interview of their lives.

Finally, what I mean to say is that it depends. Although it can be annoying, I think the best way to approach this is to be the most specific and polite you can, putting yourself on the interviewee shoes and analyzing what may have caused them to arrive so soon.

  • Check my answer. What you said doesn't apply in my case. Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 2:41

I don't know about Beijing, but when I interview in Germany without a car, it's very difficult to reach the place just 10 minutes before the scheduled time.

I used to be like the people you mention, always very early in order not to be late. Yes, I had to wait quite a bit.

But then, when I changed my approach and started to be, I thought, more reasonable about it, I actually ended up late or almost late (meaning I didn't have time to go to the toilet to check my looks or needed to literally run to be on time) for several interviews.

Trains and public transportation in general aren't reliable at all. Plus, it's always risky to go to a place for the first time. You never know if you will find the place straightaway or end up totally confused about the location.

If you don't have anywhere to "put them", just be direct about it and say something like: "Sorry, we don't have places for visitors, but there's an excellent coffee place just 100 m to the right".

  • In Beijing that won't happen because the public transportation is very good and in our invitation letter we tell the candidate where our office locates, how to arrive our office by public transportation. That is one of reasons I was bit annoyed. Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 2:39

I got quite some answers/comments unexpected and if I were to exaggerate, I'd say it is quite an eye opening experience. So I think I better summarize what I have learned, provide as an answer before my question is closed (one vote away)

  1. My very own word was I feel a little bit annoyed, but I got quite some comments/answers (some were deleted now) saying "I get it, it bothers you a lot or why that bother you a lot?", I have to replied several times that "showing up 1 hour early did NOT bother me a lot but seeing some many answers/comments saying why that bothers you a lot DO bother me a lot."

  2. As for why I feel a little bit annoyed, terdon's answer explains it very well. Actually there were comments (now deleted) explained that in his culture whenever someones show up it is my responsibility to host them, showing 1 hour early add to my burden (something along the lines). Those were good points I don't know why he deleted them.

  3. I had thought it was quite obvious it is NOT because the weather issue that candidate shows up early and I was annoyed. So it didn't even occur to me that I should write that down, after all we are human! But I see the weather issue was brought up several times. I still don't know whether I should add that in my question or not if I were to ask this question the first time.

  4. I had thought it was quite obvious that the reason I (as the hiring manager) knew the candidate arrived 1 hour early was because he notified HR and HR told me. Otherwise if he just waited quietly at the lobby I would not know. And if I know I won't mind too. But now I realize it is my mistake to assume others would think that way. So I should add that information in my question.

  5. Someone said I asked the question to"expected an answer to back you up on your opinion". It is not! Here was what I learned:

    1. from matt's answer our HR can add words like "Due to limited space in our waiting area.." in the invitation letter. In our the invitation letter we tell the candidate where our office locates, how to arrive our office by public transportation. But we didn't mention matt's words.
    2. from Zibbobz' answer "tell them where they CAN wait" and "it isn't rude to make this suggestion"
    3. from Snow's answer I do find it backed up my opinion "your work is to your own schedule - you should stick to that." and PagMax's answer "you are in control, so you decide without considering this as a problem."
  6. About the public transportation ColleenV's comment is my opinion too that (even though I know that people may be angry with those words) "I disagree that a candidate's transportation issues are somehow the responsibility of the prospective employer. An adult should be able to figure out how to get themselves to a meeting on time without presuming that an office will be able to host them an hour early. "

  7. For those suggestion the candidate may had a valid reason to show up one hour before, like "How would you treat the scenario if a friend came to your office an hour early for a meeting?" or "Have you considered the candidate's point of view?" or "They are also interviewing you. Showing up early and being very willing to wait may provide an opportunity to observe the energy and interactions of the office. " etc. I have to say no, none of these reasons are valid, next time when you have an interview will you really show one hour early ? Check this answer at quora https://qr.ae/pGNXd5 to the quesion "How early should you show up to an interview?"

  • I don't think showing up 1 hour early for a job interview is uncommon if the interviewee is eager to get the job. I remember I showed up 2 hours early for my first job interview in the US forty-some years ago because I really really wanted the job. As an interviewee, I understood I was way early, I told the receptionist I was early and waited in the lobby. I had to go to men's room once during the 2 hour period. They just took me in and let me out. Although I did not get the job, it was pleasure. I don't know why you are little bit annoyed. The only thing you had to do is to let them wait.
    – Nobody
    Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 12:01
  • Please check terdon's answer. Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 12:09
  • 1
    If space is your problem, you can let them wait outside. Still, nothing for you to worry about. Your question should not be a big deal, they want to come early, let them do so. I though you are a Chinese, you know how crowded it is in Beijing. I remember some one in music industry in Beijing used to tell a singer that if she didn't want to sing that song, there are 200K people lining up to sing it. There should be some coffee shop or somewhere for them to kill the time. It's not really something for you to be annoyed, even a little bit.
    – Nobody
    Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 12:20

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