Job Interview

What to do When Running Late for a Job Interview

being late for interview

No matter how well we plan out our days, sometimes the forces of nature can be against us. While it is sensible to be well prepared for your job interview, knowing what to do if you are running late is also just as essential to prevent it from ruining your chances of landing your dream job.

So – you have been very diligent with your company research, you have prepared some good answers to commonly asked interview questions, you have had a new haircut and have hung up your smart interview suit ready to slip into in the morning. However, your plans for a smooth and easy route to your job interview have been scuppered. This could be because your car wouldn’t start, or the bus was late, or your train has been delayed. Whatever the reason, it isn’t helping your anxiety levels one little bit!

It is easy to let a situation like this rattle you and make you feel less confident about your performance at interview, but not everything is lost! Let’s look at some ways to cope with arriving late for your interview that will leave you feeling more positive.

Don’t give up!

Many people may think that it wouldn’t be worth turning up at all at the interview if they were running late. But don’t do this.

Ghosting your interview because you are late can be a very negative reaction.

Doing this would completely blow your chances of postponing or re-scheduling your interview for another time. The company wouldn’t look too favorably at you and would probably never consider you for a position with them again in the future.

The repercussions of not turning up for an interview can go much further. Doing this can seriously harm your reputation. Your interviewer may well have valuable connections with other businesses that you would be interested in working for. Word could get around that you ditched the interview with no explanation, so other employers may be put off your application even before they have met you.

Here is what you do instead: Contact your interviewer to explain that you are running late. Ask them if it would be convenient for them to move your interview slot to later in the day to allow you to arrive and prepare. The interviewer may well be willing to move your interview time and arrange to have their lunch early or late to accommodate you.

Should the interviewer have scheduled back-to-back interviews with candidates, they may offer to change your interview to another day. While this may not be the best solution for you, especially if you are already on your way to the interview, it does mean you get second chance to create a good first impression. You will also be able to attend your interview completely unflustered by the day’s events.

Remember that when you initially speak to your interviewer to explain your situation, you should try to keep as calm and collected as possible. Try not to let your frustrations get the better of you. If you cannot talk directly with your interviewer, then leave a message for them apologizing for your lateness. Keep heading towards your interview and don’t turn back for home until you know the outcome and the decision from your interviewer. It is better to turn up and be sent home than not to turn up at all.

At your interview

Whether your interview was delayed for later the same day or was rearranged for another day, once you walk through the interview room door, simply apologize swiftly and politely, then take your seat. Your interviewer will appreciate your apology, but don’t make the situation any worse by continuing to apologize or offer a lengthy (and boring) explanation. More than likely the interviewer will be quite tired and will want to get on with your interview.

Overdoing your apology can make you look and feel awkward as well as make the atmosphere between you and your interviewer quite tense. Just apologize once, say ‘thank you’ and move on to your interview as if nothing had happened.

Focus your inner voice

Despite your best efforts to remain calm and collected at your interview, it can be easy to let your inner voice start to undermine your confidence. Try to focus your inner voice by repeating your rehearsed interview answers in your head. Look at your interviewer and listen to what they are saying. Listen for specific keywords they use when describing the job on offer and the tasks that the role involves. Think of the skills and experience you have that match with their descriptions and use these to make your interview a two-way conversation. This will help your negative inner voice to switch off.

With your interview preparations, try to have a couple of really engaging questions that you can ask your interviewer. Asking these will show them that you are focused and have shaken off your earlier lateness event. It will also make your interview memorable for more than just being late!

Good luck with your next interview!


  • Elena Prokopets

    Elena runs content operations at Freesumes since 2017. She works closely with copywriters, designers, and invited career experts to ensure that all content meets our highest editorial standards. Up to date, she wrote over 200 career-related pieces around resume writing, career advice... more

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