Late for a Job Interview? Use These 4 Tips to Recover

No matter how well you do in an interview, arriving more than a few minutes late for a job interview is likely to have a negative impact on an employer’s impression of you. Your tardiness may influence your chances of getting the job.

Compare it to competitive ice-skating—no matter how flawlessly or gracefully you skate, falling down can overshadow the rest of your performance and diminish your chances of winning.

With job interviews, avoid being late at all costs. In situations where you just can’t help being late, use these tips to deal with tardiness to a job interview as effectively as possible.

1. Call in Advance

If you’re running late for a job interview, and you’re doubtful you’ll make it on time, always call in advance. Avoid making excuses. Merely inform whoever answers the phone that you’re running late for a job interview and give a realistic time frame of when you’ll arrive.

The more notice you can give, the better. Calling when you’re already several minutes late is less likely to assuage their irritation than calling beforehand. However, if you’re more than 10 minutes late, be prepared for them to cancel or reschedule the interview. Have alternative times and days ready in case they do.

2. Sincerely Apologize

Earnestly acknowledge your mistake and express regret over having made your interviewer wait. Then respectfully move on and don’t dwell on your delay.

Don’t be concerned that apologizing will only draw attention to your lateness. Your interviewer noticed—you can count on it. Nobody likes having to wait for somebody who’s tardy, especially employers who have busy schedules.

3. Have an Excellent Reason

Crazy traffic, defective alarm clocks, or work delays sound like weak excuses to an employer who set time aside specifically to talk to you about a job. An organized, reliable candidate will account for potential mishaps or delays when planning for a job interview.

Anything short of a family emergency or a severe accident is unlikely to convince your interviewer that you aren’t at least somewhat flaky. When arriving late to a job interview is unavoidable, honesty and remorse are better than excuses.

4. Put Your Game Face Back On

As frazzled as you might feel about being late, take a moment to regroup, gather your thoughts, and regain your calm before meeting the interviewer. Don’t let your tardiness dominate your thoughts and overshadow the entire interview.

Once you’ve apologized for your late arrival, don’t bring it up again. Shift the focus as quickly as possible from your faux pas to your strengths and skills that would make you an asset to the company.

Remember that everyone makes mistakes—even the people who are interviewing you. Find natural opportunities during your job interview to alleviate any concerns they may have about your reliability. Convince them through your good manners, experience, and personal references that you’re not only entirely dependable but also flexible and able to change course quickly when the unexpected happens.

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Nicole Cavazos writes about the job market for ZipRecruiter.

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