How Early Should You Be for an Interview? (In-Person and Virtual)

Group of people waiting for the interview

When you're scheduled for a job interview, it's extremely important to be on time. It's even better to arrive a bit early. But just how early is appropriate? Get a good sense of how far in advance to arrive for a job interview with the following advice.

When to Arrive for an In-Person Interview

If you're going to a company's location to interview, plan to enter the office in interview-ready condition about 15 minutes before the time your interview is scheduled. This isn't an exact number. Arriving anywhere between five and 20 minutes early is likely fine. The most important thing is to make sure that you're not late, though you also don't want to get there too early.

  • If you arrive at the office at the exact time your interview is scheduled, that could mean you're actually late. You'll need to park, go into the office, and let the receptionist know who you're there to see. If the interviewer expected to start talking to you at 9 a.m., but you don't get there until that exact time, it'll probably be at least 9:10 a.m. before the interview begins.
  • If you arrive so far in advance of the interview that you end up waiting in the lobby for an extended period, that can make for a lot of awkward silence in the room. Your extended presence could actually keep the front desk worker from being able to take care of some of their work tasks. It could create a perception that your time management and organizational skills are not as good as they need to be.
  • When planning your commute to an on-site interview, be sure to account for all the factors that could impact how long it might take you to get there, and plan accordingly. Consider potential traffic issues, parking difficulties, weather delays, a possible need for restroom breaks, and other things that can slow you down. Allow plenty of time, and take a book or tablet so you can kill time in your car or a coffee shop in case you arrive too early to go into the office.

When to Log on for a Virtual Interview

If you're invited to a virtual job interview, you won't have to worry about variables associated with commuting time. However, it's still natural to wonder how early you should log on ahead of the interview time. Since dealing with computers doesn't always go smoothly, it's definitely best to avoid waiting until the last possible moment to log on. It's generally best to log on around five minutes ahead of time when you're interviewing via Zoom or another virtual platform.

  • When you log on a few minutes ahead of time, chances are good that the interviewer won't already be there. You'll probably get a message telling you that the meeting has yet to start, or that the host will let you in shortly. That's a good thing. It's much better for you to be waiting for the interviewer to start the meeting than for the interviewer to log on at the designated time to find that you're not there yet.
  • Once you connect, stay in your seat and maintain a professional demeanor while you're waiting, as the interviewer can launch the meeting at any time. Remember: you'll never get a second chance to make a first impression.
  • To reduce the chances of being late due to computer issues, restart your computer and your router a few hours before the interview. This will help keep you from dealing with unexpected reboots. It's also a good idea to log into your Zoom app (or whatever platform is being used) in case there are any pending updates that should be installed.

Set the Stage for a Successful Interview

Use your time management skills to help make sure that you're able to arrive a few minutes early for your next job interview. This will allow a bit of cushion in case there is a small, unexpected delay on the way. Plus, when you arrive a few minutes early, you'll have time to get situated, take a few deep breaths, and prepare to make an incredible impression on the interviewer.

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How Early Should You Be for an Interview? (In-Person and Virtual)