How early should you arrive for an interview? (With tips)

Updated 16 March 2023

If you have an upcoming job interview, you may wonder the answer to, 'How early should you arrive for an interview?'. Planning ahead and arriving before your scheduled interview time shows the hiring manager that you're professional and may improve your chance of securing the job. Understanding how early you should arrive can help you prepare and boost your confidence. In this article, we explain the reasons to arrive for an interview early and offer helpful tips to ensure you plan your arrival time effectively.

How early should you arrive for an interview?

Knowing how early you should arrive for an interview helps you prepare. Unless the hiring manager instructs you otherwise, arrive at the venue 15 minutes before your scheduled interview time. This gives you time to review your CV, complete any necessary paperwork or relax and organise your thoughts. Approach the reception area when you arrive so the staff can let the hiring manager know you're available. This allows them to greet you, read through your CV before meeting with you or start the interview early.

Related: How to beat interview anxiety (a guide for before and during)

Why is it important to arrive early for an interview?

Arriving early can help you perform better in the interview, thereby improving your chances of impressing the hiring manager and securing the job. Getting to the venue ahead of time gives you time to use the toilet, have a drink of water to calm your nerves and advise the relevant personnel of your arrival. You can also fill in any necessary paperwork, such as candidate screening documents, before proceeding with the interview.

Related: How to approach job interview: Practice in 9 simple steps

Benefits of arriving early for an interview

Punctuality reflects your organisational skills, professionalism and respect. It can also help you remain calm and start your interview in a positive manner. The following are the benefits of arriving early for an interview:

You can familiarise yourself with your surroundings

You're less likely to find your surroundings intimidating if you're familiar with them. Arriving early for your interview allows you to acquaint yourself with the venue, which can help you relax and remain focused. You may also avoid the needless distractions and negative thoughts that can occur if you arrive late or rushed.

It conveys respect to the hiring manager

Hiring managers may view a late arrival as a sign of disrespect and lack of professionalism. Arriving early conveys your respect and commitment and shows the hiring manager that you are taking the job interview seriously. It demonstrates the level of competence that employers typically expect from job candidates.

Related: What not to do in an interview (plus useful tips)

You have time to relax

You may use extra time before an interview to practise relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, visualisation or mental rehearsal. Being at ease before your interview can help you respond to questions more effectively and distinguish you as a strong candidate. Having time to compose yourself before an interview may also boost your confidence and ability to show the hiring manager that you possess the necessary qualifications and skills to succeed in the role.

Related: Top job interview questions and answers: examples and tips

What to do if the hiring manager requests you arrive early

You can consider a hiring manager's request to arrive early as a change to your interview schedule and prepare appropriately. For example, if the hiring manager requests you arrive 15 minutes early for an interview scheduled for 2 p.m., your revised interview time would be 1:45 p.m. In this situation, arriving at the interview location at 1:30 p.m., 15 minutes before your rescheduled interview time, would be advisable.

A hiring manager may request you to arrive ten to 15 minutes early for your appointment if there's paperwork for you to fill out and to give the reception staff time to enter your information into the system before your interview. Depending on the job you're applying for, they may require you to complete authorisations for background checks, candidate surveys or employee eligibility forms. These forms typically require proof of identity, so ensure you take a photo ID to all job interviews.

What to do if you arrive too early for a job interview

If you arrive more than 30 minutes early for a job interview, you can use the time to prepare. You may also take a short walk or sit on a bench and get some fresh air. The following are ways you can make productive use of time before an interview:

  • Review your interview notes and CV. You may find that reading through your notes and envisioning the interview helps you to prepare. Reviewing important tips to improve your interview skills can also be useful.

  • Relax physically and mentally. Working from your head to your toes, try tensing and releasing your muscles individually as if you were going to sleep. Relaxing your muscles can help you appear calm and composed when you enter the interview room.

  • Practise positive self-talk. You may find positive affirmations help to boost your confidence. Remind yourself to approach the interview as an opportunity to demonstrate your skills rather than a test.

  • Visualise your success. Consider visualising yourself succeeding in the interview and your subsequent actions. This method may help you to approach the interview as an exercise and respond to questions confidently.

  • Ask questions. You can use extra time before an interview to make a note of any questions you may have for the hiring manager. For example, you can ask about the company's policies on issues that are important to you and learn more about their employee expectations.

How to arrive early for job interviews

Preparation is key to arriving on time for a job interview. Planning your arrival time can help you remain calm and organised and make a good first impression. The following are useful methods to help you plan an early arrival time for a job interview:

Plan to arrive early

Plan to arrive around 15 to 20 minutes before your interview. This gives you time to find your way around the building, collect your thoughts and check in at the reception desk. When planning your schedule, consider adding extra time for potential delays. For example, if you plan to arrive at 1:40 p.m. for a 2 p.m. interview and experience a five-minute delay, you still have time to prepare.

Related: The ultimate guide for how to plan your day successfully

Prepare your attire beforehand

Consider selecting what you want to wear to the interview the night before so you can put together an appropriate outfit. Ensure it adheres to the company's dress code. Wearing formal attire to an interview can help you appear confident and show the hiring manager you understand how to uphold the company's good reputation at meetings and events.

Related: What not to wear to an interview (And what to wear instead)

Review the route to the interview location

If you're unfamiliar with the interview location, it may be useful to drive there the day before to preview the route and acquaint yourself with the venue. Consider driving there at the same time as your interview. This may give you an idea of the traffic conditions and the fastest route.

Previewing the route before your interview also enables you to assess the parking arrangements. If you intend to use public transportation, pay close attention to the route, and carefully check departure and arrival times. Get to the stop a few minutes ahead in case the bus or train arrives early.

What to do if you arrive late for a job interview

If you're late for your interview, call and inform the hiring manager. Let them know what time you expect to arrive, and politely ask if it's possible for them to interview at that time. If it's not, suggest rescheduling. When you arrive, acknowledge your miscalculation, and offer a sincere apology that explains why you're late and conveys that you regret any inconvenience.

Give a valid reason for your late arrival rather than a vague excuse. Unforeseen circumstances, such as the weather or a health issue, are valid reasons that a hiring manager may consider acceptable. When the interview commences, show the hiring manager that you're a credible and qualified candidate. Remain confident and emphasise your unique skills and experience to impress the hiring manager.

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