One of the first interviews I attended shortly after graduation was for a marketing position for the Disney Store based in London. Being a typical Northerner, London was a bit like Narnia to me – it was a strange and mystical place that I wasn’t sure existed, but the letter asking me to attend suggested that there was such a place!
At the time, I wasn’t well-traveled and had no smartphones, so getting to London and finding my way around was quite a stressful experience. It seems ridiculous now, but the Tube completely befuddled me, and I went in the wrong direction several times. Against all odds, I did actually get to the interview on time, but the interviewer whisked me into a room the moment I arrived. Unfortunately, I was so stressed that I could only hyperventilate and repeatedly say the words Mickey Mouse.
Unsurprisingly I didn’t get the position, but 15 years on it has at least provided me with an anecdote to demonstrate the importance of being prepared and punctual for an interview.
I learned the lesson the hard way, but I have written a few essential tips from my experiences so you don’t have to and, as you will see below, being early is very much the best policy:
1) Don’t wing it:
In today’s society, it is so easy to rely on a smartphone to get to places. Still, phone batteries can run out, and signals/GPS aren’t always reliable, especially in rural areas and in the middle of large city centers. Even if everything is OK with the technology, it has been known (dare I say it?) for Google to be wrong (there goes this website’s rankings!). Plan your journey and print out directions.
It is also advisable to print out contact information in case you need to ring ahead for assistance.
2) Be at one with yourself:
Arriving early to an interview allows you time to de-stress from the journey and collect your thoughts. It will give you time to review the questions you have prepared, run through your presentation (if applicable), and review the answers to questions that will likely be presented to you.
It will also give you time to calm your nerves, have a drink of water, and go to the bathroom if necessary. This will hopefully allow you to enter the interview as relaxed and comfortable as Lenny Henry in a Premier Inn double bed.
3) A glimpse into the future:
How you behave at an interview is a reflection of how you will potentially behave if you were to be offered the position. Being late for the interview may suggest to the interviewer that you would be regularly late if you were offered the job and employed by the organization.
Being late isn’t the only action this may apply to. Nose picking, putting your feet on the desk, and drinking from a hip flask are also unlikely to be considered acceptable future traits.
4) The interview before the interview:
In many organisations the interview starts when you arrive in the building. How you interact with the receptionist or secretary may well be considered when considering you for the position – this gives the organization an idea of your personality outside of the formal interview setting.
If you arrive late or on time, you may miss out on the unofficial part of the interview process. So come early and be friendly to all staff you encounter, but definitely no flirting!
5) Ring ahead:
If you are running late for any reason – ring ahead.
It is easy to think I’ll explain everything when I get there when the time is against you but, again, with today’s technology, it is assumed that most people will have a mobile phone and the capability of giving the organization an update on your progress. However, you may want to consider carefully why you give for your lateness. Being scared of escalators, a man stopped me in the street to talk to me about a breakdown cover, or I saw a cute dress in the window of Topshop, which are unlikely to be considered acceptable reasons!
These are just a few of the reasons why being early is being on time for a job interview. If you take this advice on board, I am positive you will be setting yourself up for interview success and future employment as the early bird catches the annual salary, company car, and pension scheme. Still, I wouldn’t suggest adopting this mantra in all aspects of your life as you are likely to become unpopular at house parties.