How early should you be to an interview?
The rainiest day this month, Jennifer and I sit in her kitchen, chatting about her upcoming Skype interview; the clock reads half past one.
“It’s at four this afternoon,” she says, raising her coffee mug to her lips. “I’ve got time to prepare.”
“Let’s start now,” I say, pushing back my chair.
We sit down at her desk, planning to go over the questions and her responses, and something feels not quite right. There are papers everywhere, an open water bottle (makes me shiver, what if it fell on the laptop?), and entropy abounds.
A little too late, Jennifer checks the confirmation email: she’s made a mistake with the interview time, taps open Skype in a rush of nervousness, her interviewer is already calling.
“Sorry I’m late,” she blurts out to the interviewer, but, even though it’s only been ten minutes, he doesn’t seem thrilled about the delay.
From there, it’s already going downhill; Jennifer is not given the follow-up interview, nor the job.
Part of the problem began the day before: Jennifer didn’t have a plan for timing, a key ingredient in being successful in any meeting with a total stranger.
You’d think everyone would be on time to an interview; it seems like common sense. But so many are not, and that’s half the reason they don’t make it to the next step. Being ready to an interview well in advance of its scheduled time not only gives you an immediate advantage over the interviewer (and therefore, puts you in a strong position to be considered for the next step – whether that’s the job itself or a follow-up interview), but allows you to collect your thoughts, read through the potential interview questions to which you’ve already prepared your responses, and allows to get mentally prepared, readying your mind and your voice for the next 30 minutes which could have a massive impact on the next 30 years of your life.
Here are my specific recommendations, based on the time your interview is supposed to start:
For a Skype interivew:
40 minutes before the interview:
Make sure you’re seated in a quiet and calm environment. If there’s a window nearby that’s open, shut it. If your desk is a mass of papers and water bottles (like my friend Jennifer), pile the mess into one corner for sorting later (now is not sorting time).
30 minutes before the interview:
Make sure you have a blank sheet of paper and a working pen or a sharpened pencil to take notes, in case your keyboard malfunctions.
Open up a new Word document, ready to type up anything the interviewer says that you might want to recall for later.
Check your sound and video, to see if both are working at 100%.
20 minutes before the interview:
Practise saying hello, good morning, good afternoon to the interviewer, and double-check the time zone of the place from which they’re calling you. You’ll want to do this aloud, as it will loosen up your vocal chords and contribute to a greater sense of ease during the actual interview.
15 minutes before:
Get up, stretch, take a small walk, and come back to your chair. You should have something to drink nearby, in case your mouth gets dry during the interview.
10 minutes before:
Practise smiling. Though some studies indicate that smiling too much during the interview isn’t always a good thing, activating your smiling muscles before the interview will subsconsciously relax you and create positive expectations in your mind about the outcome of the interview and the people with whom you’ll be speaking.
By getting there early, I don’t mean 10 minutes or even 15 minutes early.
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For an in-person interview:
Get there 40-45 minutes early to give yourself time to check out the neighbourhood. Note the number of steps from the door of your potential future office and the nearest cafe or grocery store – if hired, it’ll become a staple in your daily routine.
Ask yourself: Do I feel comfortable in this neighbourhood? Do I like the architecture that surrounds me? Is there enough tree cover for extra-sunny days? Where am I going to park my car/bicycle? These spare minutes before your interview is when you visualise yourself being hired, and being expected to turn up every morning for your new role.
Imagine yourself going in each morning: walking to the building from the car/metro/bicycle parking, entering with the sun dappling your shoulders, hair neatly pinned back and ready for another morning saving the world, one baby step at a time.
How much time do you usually give yourself before an interview?