72

For every interview or a meeting, I surf the internet and refresh my mind on "what to do in an interview". Almost every resource I read, stated that I need to arrive ~15 mins before the interview time.

I have noticed in most of the cases that I arrived earlier, the hiring committee stated that my appointment was at X:XX and not 15 minutes earlier; sometimes by the receptionist and sometimes later by the interviewer; Sometimes by both. They are like:

"Mr. Interviewer said your appointment is at X:XX, and he will be right with you."

Or something like:

"Hey you are here already!"

"Hey I did not expect you arriving now!"

I am asking because I believe it is the right thing to do. But what am I missing here? And what is the best time to arrive at an interview?

  • 17
    I've always arrived 10-15 minutes early for interview or longer (although in that case I waited elsewhere until nearer the time) and never found it a problem, no one ever mentioned anything negative about it, could be the repeat of the time is to confirm that's indeed the one you're attending as you could be someone "on time" for an earlier one. – RoguePlanetoid Apr 7 '17 at 9:56
  • 29
    I always arrive quite a bit early, but might walk around a bit to trim the margin once I've found the building. Then I introduce myself with "I have a xxxx o-clock interview with xxxxxxxx". If you're somehow unavoidably very early (it's raining really hard?) then you could do that, and add - "is it ok if I wait here until nearer the time". Assuming they have some sort of reception area with a couch or something. – Grimm The Opiner Apr 7 '17 at 11:38
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    Maybe it's the military in me, but a candidate arriving 15 minutes early would not bother me in the slightest. I would assume they are punctual and did not want to risk being late for something important. – Kevin Apr 7 '17 at 15:40
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    Arriving too early can put the interviewer to a bit awkward position, which explains the reaction. If candidate arrives say 30min early I would feel awkward having him/her wait 30min in the building for myself, particularly if I don't have prior engagement. Aim for ~10min early so they know you make it to the interview but not earlier so they don't have to "accommodate" you. If there are unknowns in your trip to the interview, reserve more time but wait in the cafe outside or something and be at reception ~10min before. – JarkkoL Apr 7 '17 at 18:52
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    I think part of the issue is that the receptionist ends up calling / notifying your interviewer or escort early - if you arrive at 9:40 for a 10:00 interview and let the receptionist know that you are early for your 10:00 meeting, then they will hold off on notifying your appointment until it's a more appropriate time (the receptionist likely knows better than you how far in advance). You can then take your time and not stress out about it. – user2813274 Apr 8 '17 at 20:29

12 Answers 12

196

The reason for planning to arrive 15 minutes early is so you can have 15 minutes of delay and still be on time. It's so you can take a quick detour into a coffee shop to use the bathroom if you're struck by a sudden urge. It's so you have time, outside the building or in the lobby if it's large and anonymous, to set aside the "getting to the interview on time" mindset and give yourself a pep talk and switch gears into interview mode.

It's not so you can talk to the receptionist 15 minutes before you need to and then sit getting nervous in a plastic chair for 15 minutes or more. Present yourself to the company about 5 minutes before your appointment, and I typically say something like "I'm Kate Gregory, I have a 10:15 appointment with FirstName LastName" - this will eliminate any chance of people telling you what time your appointment is, as though you don't know.

I don't think the answers you're talking about show people considering your behavior offensive. They just don't quite understand it. Neither do I. Once you're in the building in plenty of time, retain control of your actions by waiting in private until just a few minutes before the meeting. Don't burst through the door in a sweaty mess at the exact time of your interview, but don't spend your 15 minutes of "just in case" time cooling your heels where they can see you, either.

  • 26
    Quite right, you arrive 15 minutes early so you can locate where you are supposed to be, but you present yourself just a few minutes before the appointed time. I use the ten minutes to find the office area I need to be in and freshen up and get rid of my heavy smoker smell. – Kilisi Apr 7 '17 at 3:16
  • 45
    I would actually recommend using the bathroom before an interview. Feeling the need to go during the interview would be uncomfortable and may affect your performance. You can also use the opportunity to check yourself in the bathroom mirror and adjust your tie, check for food stuck in your teeth, etc. – camden_kid Apr 7 '17 at 8:09
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    @KyleKhalaf presenting yourself to the receptionist 15 minutes early is hardly "failing". It's no big deal, really. Don't worry about this too much. – user45590 Apr 7 '17 at 9:20
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    @dan1111 I have absolutely been annoyed by people showing up 15 minutes early and the receptionist calling up right when they arrive, interrupting my previous meeting. About five minutes before, I start expecting and hoping the receptionist would call. I think arriving outside the building, maybe in the parking lot 15 minutes early is perfect, and then getting to the receptionist 4-6 minutes early is also perfect. It is possible to be too early. – Todd Wilcox Apr 7 '17 at 12:14
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    @ToddWilcox surely you could arrange for the receptionist to not do that? It doesn't sound like the candidate is the one at fault here. – user45590 Apr 7 '17 at 12:46
76

I disagree with the consensus here:

There's no problem with presenting yourself 15 minutes early for an appointment.

There's nothing abnormal about arriving that early. It's quite common, especially for an important meeting like an interview, and especially if you are travelling some distance.

Arriving early at reception doesn't inconvenience anyone; they can simply let you wait if they aren't ready.

I have been early for a number of meetings, including interviews, and it was never a problem. As someone who does a lot of interviews, I don't mind if candidates arrive early, because then we can start early in the event that the previous one has finished.

If you are worried that it looks like you got the time wrong, just mention the time when you announce yourself:

Hi, I'm here to see XYZ. I had a 10:15 appointment.

  • 15
    This answer seems the most reasonable. I have a problem with answers that consider that arriving in advance is an issue: as a candidate, you never know how long it will take to go from the reception to the actual place of the interview. Walking the the next building, taking elevators, signing a few documents,... all of this can quickly adds up. – Taladris Apr 7 '17 at 12:24
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    This is especially important when considering interviews at large companies with multiple buildings. At my current job I arrived 15 minutes early for my interview and was told by the receptionist I was in the wrong building. I walked about 5 minutes to another building to be told my original building was the correct building. Once I made it back to the original building everything had been squared away. However If I had only arrived 5 minutes early and had to walk back and forth to another building, the result would have been me appearing to be 10 minutes late. – rogerdeuce Apr 7 '17 at 17:37
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    "Arriving early at reception doesn't inconvenience anyone" if the office has 10,000 employees sure. If it has 30 there's a good chance you're going to be inconveniencing someone or creating the pressure to entertain. – user42272 Apr 7 '17 at 18:06
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    I've heard this 'pressure to entertain" argument before and it literally baffles me. What pressure? You're early. Receptionist says "we'll be with you when it is time. Have a seat." Carry on. Who seriously expects somebody to entertain them? I've got my phone, my papers, etc... it isn't that person's job to entertain me. Their job is to show me where to sit and let somebody know I'm there. I ignore them after that as they should me. – NKCampbell Apr 9 '17 at 21:26
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    I've arrived early at every single interview I've ever done - and once it was even 30 minute in advance. It's never been an issue. I've always got away with a good impression, "despite" earliness. Worst case, I can use it as an ice-breaker "you're here early - yeah, traffic was light / yes, I was in doubt of location bla bla bla". It's always better to be early than late in my experience and opinion. And I've applied at some very small companies and larger companies - and if they don't have time for me yet, I'll just sit and wait until they have time. And it's worked each time. – Allan S. Hansen Apr 10 '17 at 6:08
33

5 Minutes Early Is On Time; On Time Is Late; Late Is Unacceptable!

The above saying should help answer who comes too early, and also be a suitable answer to people who complain.

  • 73
    So 5 minutes early is unacceptable? I'm confused... jk – dasdingonesin Apr 7 '17 at 11:22
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    @DonQuiKong It's a pretty common saying here in the US. Draken's edit added a reference from 2007, but I've definitely heard it before then. – David K Apr 7 '17 at 12:36
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    @KyleKhalaf Dasdingonesin was cracking a math joke by purposely misreading the statement using the transitive property. Don't worry if you didn't catch it... that's probably an indication that you are a little more hip than we are. :-) – DanK Apr 7 '17 at 15:42
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    $on_time = $five_min_early; $late = $on_time; $unacceptable = $late; ..DOH!!! – coderodour Apr 7 '17 at 17:53
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    A mantra like this without thinking about why is just silly. This phrase has always bothered me - I've literally never saw someone come into a meeting at 2:00 and thought to myself "What a slacker, wasn't here at 1:55..." – corsiKa Apr 9 '17 at 2:40
17

In addition to other answers which focus on interviews only, turning up late for meetings is a strategy often used to gain an advantage in negotiations. It puts inexperienced people off their stride and they can lose focus. It's shows your lack of respect for them as individuals and shows you think you are superior.

It's used on purpose by some hard nosed people.

The counter is to just leave the meeting if they're not there on time, and let them chase you.

  • 12
    That's definitely a slippery slope. Next thing you know you're being told things that were agreed upon in your absence. It really depends on the specific power balance you have. – JMac Apr 7 '17 at 10:41
  • @JMac It's just one strategy, you use it in the right circumstances like any other. I don't use it myself, but have seen many who do. – Kilisi Apr 7 '17 at 10:57
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    Just a nitpick: while leaving if they're not on topic can be a valid counter, if the person who is late actually is in a superior position, leaving before they arrive can turn out very bad for you. It exposes you to agreements made in your absence, as JMac indicated, or even accusations of unprofessionalism (and yes, I do see the irony of someone being late for a meeting accusing someone who was on time of being unprofessional, but most people who would be deliberately late as a power tactic wouldn't scruple against throwing people under the bus if they think they can get away with it). – Beofett Apr 7 '17 at 12:24
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    @Beofett I agree, it's a judgement call, and a power play. The important thing is you recognise what is happening, rather than lose focus. – Kilisi Apr 7 '17 at 13:16
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    @JMac Trump can use it wrt Cabinet Meeting b/c nothing can be agreed upon in his absence. If something could be agreed upon in your absence then this is a risky strategy. (The candidate is late, let's trash his candidacy.) – emory Apr 7 '17 at 20:10
14

I certainly do not appreciate people showing up much earlier than the agreed time (and not just for interviews), because I may not be ready to receive them. Their unwanted interruption messes up what I had planned, and adds to my stress.

For example, if I call a candidate for an interview at 10am, I like to have another look at their resume just before the interview (say, at 9.30am), and prepare a list of points I want to discuss with them. I may also want to quickly discuss with my peers or manager the plan for dealing with my "absence" for the next few hours (when I am doing the interview). There could be some other official or personal business I have to take care of.

Most of these things are most effective when done shortly before the interview. For example, reading the candidate's resume a week or even a day in advance means I am likely to forget some points, and identifying a backup plan to deal with my absence of a few hours may become obsolete by the events of the day.

If the candidate shows up before I have had a chance to do this preparation, it puts me in an awkward situation where I have to tell them to "hang around" until 10am. Then doing that preparation also becomes stressful because I know someone is out there waiting for me to finish.

  • 6
    It's certainly nice that if a candidate is early you feel pressured because they're hanging around, I think most people would feel that way. But some people like myself may be a bit more cautious as to eliminate the possibility of being late by being quite early, and I don't intend it to stress the interviewer and I am very happy to wait. Plus, you're the interviewer that set the time and in control of the situation, so it is perfectly reasonable for you to have them wait for you. – user1997744 Apr 7 '17 at 8:49
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    @user1997744 Please look at it from the perspective of the interviewer: I told you the time I want to see you. You are ignoring my request when you come in a lot earlier. If it would be possible for you to wait outside the building, in your car, wherever, until shortly before the interview time (unless e.g. prohibited by bad weather), I would expect you to do so. And yes, it would be totally okay to let you wait, but it's also not courteous to let someone wait. So you now shift the decision to be polite or correct onto me. This is not a good start for an interview. – Dubu Apr 7 '17 at 9:28
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    @Dubu But a waiting room for example in an office is precisely for that purpose - to wait, and I use that environment to get myself into the zone for the interview. In addition, if the interviewer does come out earlier to greet me, I always say something like 'I know I'm early, just wanted to make sure I'd be on time, please take your time' or something along those lines. – user1997744 Apr 7 '17 at 9:45
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    @user1997744 We do not even have a waiting room at our location. The person you want to visit would be notified of your arrival by the reception and would have to pick you up in the lobby (no seating there, sorry). And hopefully the meeting room would be prepared by then. – Dubu Apr 7 '17 at 9:56
  • @user1997744 I am ok with the candidate planning to arrive early. Hey, I do it myself when I am the candidate! I prepare to reach the place about an hour early, to account for unexpected traffic delays and such. My concern starts when the receptionist calls me to say, "Mr. John Doe is here to meet you for the interview" at 8:30am for an interview scheduled for 10:00am. It is even worse when my manager tells me, "Hey, John Doe is here early, why don't you go ahead with the interview now?" If the candidate comes in early, he should just wait outside the office. – Masked Man Apr 7 '17 at 13:31
5

If you are interviewing with a small company (start up), show up dead on time. There is no receptionist, you will cause disturbance if you show up early. Don't walk into a company space 5 minutes early; it is too early.

Some small companies have shared lobbies, and you can be as early as you want, because your contact will come to pick you up when they are ready, that's a different story.

4

I think it very much depends on the type of business you're dealing with. In a big office, you're going to have to speak to a receptionist who will have to work out who to get in touch with, and then it might take them a few minutes to get to you, or for the receptionist to deliver you to the right place. And you might be faced with a queue when you turn up. So it's important to arrive a few minutes early, to leave time for that process.

In a small office, you might well find the door answered by your interviewer. One time I had a candidate arrive to find the door being fixed by their interviewer (me). So there's much less need to turn up early.

I never mind when people turn up 15 minutes early to their first on-site interview, as it's not always clear which situation you're going into. But if they have a second interview in a small office and still arrive early, that's a little annoying.

To be honest, though, the time someone arrives at is only a tiny part of looking at a candidate's fit. I've had candidates arrive at completely different times to when we've expected them, mostly because the recruiter messed up somewhere: so long as you make a good-faith effort to turn up basically when you were told to turn up, I can deal with that.

2

No matter what time you arrive, some interviewers will be annoyed if they get notified about it too early or too late.

The best thing is to hold your arrival announcement just ~5 minutes before the interview. This is as simple as asking the receptionist to make the announcement 5 minutes before the scheduled time. Then you just go 5 minutes before the interview to the receptionist and indirectly remind her - "Sorry, could you please notify my interviewer that I'm here?".

This ensures that you never irritate an interviewer and that you have time to relax, visit the loo, eat a banana, etc.

  • 4
    Making a special request to the receptionist seems weird. If you think showing up five minutes early is important, then just announce yourself to the receptionist five minutes early. – user45590 Apr 7 '17 at 14:18
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    I am not sure it is a great idea to make such requests to the receptionist. Why should they care? They are not being hired to be the candidate's personal alarm clock. – Masked Man Apr 8 '17 at 8:22
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    @MaskedMan it's their job to communicate who is in and out? – Johannesberg Apr 8 '17 at 18:53
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    @dan1111 true but at some times you are expected by the receptionist to inform who you are. Sometimes the receptionist is before the actual lobby. Just going and sitting there would seem even weirder. – Johannesberg Apr 8 '17 at 18:55
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    Sitting around in the lobby does look weird, and if you stick around for long enough, the receptionist would ask you what help you need. To avoid that weirdness, all you have to do is walk up to the receptionist once you get there, tell them the purpose of your visit, and that you would wait in the lobby and come back to them 5 minutes before the agreed meeting time. There is no need for the receptionist to keep watching the clock, you can do it yourself. – Masked Man Apr 8 '17 at 19:22
2

You'd think people would appreciate the additional information and opportunity of a candidate showing up 15 minutes early, but based on many responses they do not. Especially if you have a receptionist to run interference for you, I don't see this as a problem. It's not like having a party at your house and guests show up when you're not ready. If your butler answers the door, you can wait in the parlor while I get ready.

There are times I wish someone showed-up 15 minutes early. I can then decide if that's to my advantage or not. There's less risk of our interview getting cut-off because of another appointment I have. Otherwise, I'm more than willing to make you wait.

As others have pointed out, show up early to avoid the risk of being late. Many people will look at this negatively. If you're not comfortable with showing up too early, then just wait a few minutes before acknowledging your presence. Based on these responses, it can be frowned upon if you show up too early and interviewers are uncomfortable making you wait.

1

There is no best time to arrive for an interview/meeting/appointment. The arrival time that won't impact your impression is in/on time.

Regarding interviews, I asked a friend who works in HR the same question. I was about to have my first job interview at that time. She stated that I should not attach too much importance to the accurate time of showing up but the best impression I could make to the recruiter. I think she has a point.

About meeting, I would say it sometimes depends on the specific situation. Some people think that the important one always shows up last.

Talking about appointment, I would say that we should never be late with an appointment with dentists/doctors. This may cause serious inconvenience to other people.

  • 4
    "I should not attach to much importance to the accurtate time of showing up" - Really? It's pretty much agreed upon that arriving late for an interview is really not a good way to start an interview. – camden_kid Apr 7 '17 at 8:40
  • @camden_kid: what I mean is 8:15 or 8:17 are not that important. Even if the interview is at 9, you can just show up at 9. Fifteen minutes earlier doesn't make any sense to the recruiter :) – Vanianna Apr 7 '17 at 8:50
  • Understood. When you show up early is not important. – camden_kid Apr 7 '17 at 9:07
  • +1 for covering all the bases from the question. I would also add that for any appointment where you are a paying customer (e.g. physician, hairstylist, banker, auto mechanic, etc.), being early gives them the option of seeing you early, if their previous appointment is a no-show, or finishes earlier than planned. – Dan Henderson Apr 9 '17 at 18:20
0

I really would try to be as punctual as humanly possible. In my experience, someone being late (or at least reasonably late i.e. 5-10 minutes) is quite acceptable, in fact sometimes quite "fashionable", while coming (too) early is quite a nuisance. That being said I think punctuality is definitely a trait that the interviewer is going to appreciate, so really try to be perfectly on time. I would try to arrive at the building 5 minutes before the interview (or meeting, conference etc.) and make yourself seen perfectly on time, as the event starts.

  • 1
    I can't think of a professional situation in which being late is seen as a good thing by those waiting for you. Sometimes being 5-10 minutes late is no big deal, but fashionable? – user45590 Apr 10 '17 at 4:53
  • By that I mean that they could respect you for having the self-activeness to be late, which puts you in a higher position of control. For example like when the boss can come late but the employees cant. – Casey Neistat Apr 10 '17 at 11:52
  • I'm aware that people intentionally show up late as a power play, but do the people that are kept waiting appreciate or respect them for it? I think not. – user45590 Apr 10 '17 at 14:44
  • @dan1111 They might not directly appreciate it, however it gives that person a quality of power which people will respect. – Casey Neistat Apr 10 '17 at 14:52
0

If you have an interview at xx:xx, then you are supposed to show up at xx:xx. At least, is what I liked when interviewing candidates.

What happens, for example, if the company you are interviewing for has no "visitors space"? Are they supposed to keep you standing in the entrance for 15 minutes? A little earlier (at max 5 minutes) is ok, as much as a little late (again, 5 minutes).

Myself, I always arrive earlier (just to be safe) and then ring the bell 30 secs before the interview :-)

  • 2
    At large buildings, where there is a possibility of having to walk some distance from the entrance to the location of the interview, it's probably better to be a bit earlier. – Dan Henderson Apr 9 '17 at 18:22
  • arriving early also accounts for whether they may have paperwork for you to fill out - sometimes you don't know that until you arrive. I've always lived by the motto "to arrive on time is to be late, to arrive early is to be on time" – NKCampbell Apr 9 '17 at 21:22

protected by enderland Apr 7 '17 at 20:06

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