What to Do if You Are Late to a Job Interview

Oh, no! You are driving to a job interview and run into an unexpected car accident that delays you half an hour. Even worse, you spent a few too many minutes deciding between your black or blue blazers and you are speeding and get a ticket! This means you will arrive at your interview…late.

If we were to compile a list of the seven deadly sins of job interviewing, arriving late is certainly one. How can you recover from this snafu and remain cool, calm and collected to present your best self, even after this anxiety-producing event? Here are 5 tips to help you salvage your interview, get the job and never be late again.

Call Ahead

This is not just advice to pacify your mother. If you are going to be late, notify the company as soon as possible. Inform your contact person of an expected arrival time, and if you are extremely late, ask if the hiring manager would prefer to reschedule. If you show up late for the interview and don’t mention it, why would a company trust you in the role to be prompt or meet deadlines? You send a message that you don’t value the time of the hiring manager, which is exactly the opposite of what you hope to convey during an interview. Time is money, and being on time is not just common courtesy but expected for any job interview.

Have a Good Reason

The first question will certainly be – why? Your first instinct may to be to lie and provide a wild excuse for your tardiness about the worst accident you’ve ever seen, complete with exploding cars and fires. Ignore this instinct because the last thing you want to do is establish yourself as a liar. Be honest.

Apologize, but Not 100 Times

It is 100 percent necessary to apologize for your tardiness, but apologizing too many times directs the focus away from your skills and the actual interview and can place even more focus on your lateness. Ensure your apology is respectful and sincere. A sample apology could include something like “I sincerely apologize for being late. There was a car accident, and I was caught in terrible traffic. I absolutely value your time and pride myself on being prompt for arrivals and in meeting deadlines.” The best-case scenario is that your interviewers will appreciate your maturity and ethics and decide to overlook your tardiness.

Forgive Yourself

It is very easy to harp on your belated arrival thinking you’ve ruined your chances, but you need to focus to ace the rest of your interview and perform especially well. While lateness is an error, this doesn’t mean you can’t salvage the interview and score the job. However, if you are too busy worrying about the ramifications of your tardiness, you can’t focus on moving forward and being present. You need to be on your game with great answers to the hiring manager’s questions and establish yourself as a top candidate. Take a deep breath, compartmentalize, and don’t let lateness throw you off your game.

Learn From Your Mistakes

Whether you are an individual who is chronically late or someone who likes to arrive early, it is imperative you arrive on time to your job interview. If you know you are someone who is typically late, plan out all the components of your interview preparation and travel including outfit choice, transportation and parking. Pad your time adding an extra 20 minutes or so to ensure that even if you dawdle a bit, you will still arrive on time. It is always better to arrive early and spend some time sitting in the car or walking around than arrive late. It is best to be prompt, but people understand that there are circumstances out of your control. Doing everything in your control to ensure an on-time arrival will be to your benefit for any future job interview.

Learn from your mistake. Don’t be like the White Rabbit in Alice In Wonderland. Be on time for your interview.