At one time, virtual interviews were common only for candidates relocating to a new area, and even then, many companies would simply cover the cost of travel in order to meet the candidate in person. However, with many companies going completely remote, virtual interviews have become more popular than ever before. (One HR survey showed that more than 85 percent of organizations are conducting virtual interviews to hire candidates.) This brings up a whole new set of rules when considering the question of how early you should be for an interview.
When to arrive for an in-person interview
When you’re going to an in person interview, it’s important to account for various factors such as parking, navigating a large campus or office building, and completing necessary paperwork. Be sure to allot enough travel time and consider possible traffic delays as well when calculating what time you should leave your home. Google Maps has a tool that estimates travel time based on time of day / when you need to arrive, etc.
When asked about how early you should be for an interview, Alison Moody, senior human resources business partner at HOVER Inc., explains: “Fifteen minutes for an in-person interview. It shows that you are timely, but not so early that it would make the interviewer feel rushed to complete what they are working on. I’d even recommend asking the recruiter [how early you should arrive] as well, because it helps set expectations and might give you a sense of the company’s meeting culture”.
When to “arrive” for a virtual interview
With virtual interviews, external factors such as traffic delays are eliminated, however different challenges may arise, such as figuring out where to take an interview when multiple members of the household are working from home or children are participating in virtual learning.
Additionally, you face the challenge of technical difficulties; however, you should try to reduce the risk of technical trouble ahead of time. Moody goes on to say, “For a remote/Zoom interview, I’d suggest being five minutes early. And practice your Zoom setup with a friend beforehand!”
To practice your virtual setup ahead of time, sign on to the company’s platform of choice and use that to connect with a friend. Ask them if they can see and hear you clearly, and if they have any suggestions for how you might improve your virtual interview setup.
Some companies integrate technical assessment time prior to the interview and will tell you to sign on to the video conferencing platform 15–30 minutes ahead of your scheduled interview time. If this is the case, there's no need to sign on earlier than that; however, it is very important that you’re not late. Being late may be considered a sign of disrespect or laziness, neither of which will work in your favor going into an interview.
Read more: Can a Former Employer Badmouth You?
What to do if you arrive late to your interview
If you’re running late, be sure to alert your interviewer. Calling is the fastest and most direct route. If no one answers the phone, leave a message and send a quick email to explain the situation. If you’re running only a few minutes late, you’ll likely be able to continue with your interview as planned, but if something has set you back 20 minutes or more, ask the interviewer if they would like to reschedule. You never want to be late for an interview, but sometimes situations arise which are out of your control, and most interviewers will understand this.
What to do if you arrive early to your interview
If you arrive early to an in-person interview, take some time to mentally prepare before going inside. You can always wait in your car or take a quick walk around the block (exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety, which will put you in a better mindset going into your interview). If you have time to spare before your interview, familiarize yourself with the area to give you a better sense of what it may be like to work there.