How early should you show up for an interview?

woman on her way to job interview

It’s easy to overthink the small details before an interview— what you’ll wear, how many copies of your resume to print, and how firm your handshake will be when you meet the interviewer.

One of the questions that may be looming large in your mind is how early you should be for your interview. After all, your arrival time will be one of the first impressions the employer will have of you and you want to be sure it’s a good one.

6 tips for getting to your interview on time

Although you want to make a good impression with punctuality, arriving too early can actually be a turnoff for potential employers. Here’s what you need to know about finding the right balance.

1. Arrive in-office five minutes before your scheduled interview time.

When it comes to making a good impression in an interview, showing up early is key. Arriving on time is a given, but when you arrive a few minutes before the scheduled time, you can demonstrate that you’re genuinely interested and excited about the opportunity. If you’re punctual, your potential employer is more likely to see you as dependable and considerate— qualities which are essential when aiming for a successful career.

2. But don’t walk in too early.

Being on time for a job interview is incredibly important to making a good first impression. While showing up late will obviously leave a bad impression, showing up too early can be detrimental as well. 

Arriving fifteen, twenty, or thirty minutes early can make you seem overly eager and unprepared, and can be a major inconvenience for your interviewer. Instead of having time to prep for the interview or finish up other tasks that they have, the interviewer now has to focus on entertaining the early arriver.

If you find yourself surpassing the five-minute mark before the meeting, it’s best to wait it out in your car or a nearby coffee shop until closer to its appointed time. 

3. Give yourself extra time for traffic, parking, and finding the office.

Headed to an unfamiliar location? Check the route and parking situation ahead of time. This is especially important if you’re interviewing in a downtown location or office building that you’ve never been to before.

Leave extra early to give yourself room for traffic or to search for traffic. Again, if you find yourself there more than five early, you can always wait it out before walking in.

If you have any questions or concerns about where to park or how to find the office, ask the person you’ve been communicating with at the company ahead of time. Don’t wait until the last minute! Your interviewer may not be at the computer to answer any last minute emails that come through.

4. Take time to relax before going in.

Preparing for an interview can be a nerve-wracking experience. It’s important to take some time beforehand to relax and collect your thoughts, so you enter the conversation organized and clear-headed. 

Taking the time to settle in before entering the meeting room fosters a sense of focus and calm that will have you feeling ready to tackle any of the questions thrown your way. Take a few breaths and remind yourself that you’ve got this—that could be your new office looming just around the corner!

5. Use any extra time to practice.

Still have a few extra minutes to spare? Use the extra time to review your qualifications and give yourself a mock interview. This could mean something as simple as rehearsing common interview questions in front or it might involve thinking through past work experience, awards, presentations and more to really understand exactly what you bring to the table. This will make sure that when the interview comes, you’ll be ready for anything that comes your way.

6. If you are going to be late, let the recruiter know.

Sometimes life has other plans despite the planning that you do. You may head out, only to discover that your car won’t start. The bus that runs by your apartment may pass you without stopping. Any number of things may happen that are outside of your control. 

If you realize that you are going to be late to your interview, send an email or call the recruiter you’ve been communicating with immediately. Apologize, let them know that something happened outside of your control, and give an estimate of when you’ll arrive. Don’t wait until it’s ten minutes past the time you were supposed to be there before letting them know you’re going to be late. Instead, use it as an opportunity to show them that you are proactive and communicative.