When Should You Arrive for an Interview

We’ve been doing a lot of interviewing as we grow our team in Hudson, Ohio for Telerik Services.  We have a fairly small office in a suburban environment, where you can basically park right outside the building and walk right in – no elevators, reception area, parking decks, or other hassles you might find in a more urban location.  As a result, we’ve learned that if we schedule an interview, we should be prepared for the candidate to arrive at least ten to fifteen minutes earlier than the allotted time.  This is somewhat in contrast with what I learned was the “right” thing to do, which is to arrive 5 minutes early, so that you’re not interrupting whomever you’re meeting with by arriving any earlier.  Now, it’s important to leave plenty of time in your travel plans to ensure that you can arrive 5 minutes early, but if I were to arrive 20 minutes ahead of the scheduled time, I would find somewhere to spend a few minutes before knocking on the door.

Since so many of the recent candidates for positions were arriving 15 or more minutes ahead of schedule, I thought I’d run a twitter survey to see if my own position was in line with current industry expectations.  It turns out that most folks do, in fact, think that arriving earlier is the appropriate thing to do, with most of the respondents suggesting candidates arrive 10 minutes early, and the 2nd most suggesting 15.  A couple even suggested arriving earlier than that.

Note that I specifically stated “arrive at the reception area” – not the parking lot – for this question.  I understand that if you’re going to an urban environment or a large corporate campus you’ll want to leave plenty of time to get from your car to wherever your meetings are scheduled.

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Of course, this isn’t a terribly scientific poll, but it does at least serve to demonstrate that our recent experience isn’t outside of current industry expected behavior.  I’m not sure this information will change my own behavior when I’m the one visiting another office – I still think “on time is late, 5 minutes early is on time.”  But it seems like, more and more, that wisdom is shifting earlier:

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I wonder if the answers would be terribly different if I asked the same question, but about when to show up for a dinner invitation at an acquaintance’s home?  In that case, is it better to be “fashionably late,” or at least, not to arrive 20 minutes early when the hosts are no doubt still preparing for the visit?  Maybe that’s a poll for another day.

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