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What to Do If You Are Late for an Interview

Ideally, you want to arrive at the interview a bit early. An early arrival gives you the chance to collect your thoughts, visit the restroom and polish your appearance.  A mad dash into the interview without time to spare is a major set-back. Face it, you’ve already lost points due to tardiness.  Plus stress can knock you off your game. Now it’s time to dig yourself out of the hole.

What to Do if Your Are Late (Photo: iStockphoto)

Make the call
Being late may be excusable. Not calling is inexcusable. Call the interviewer to apologize for the inconvenience. Conservatively estimate your delay and ask if it is still alright for you to arrive at that time. How well you handle the call determines if the interviewer will give you another shot.

Take responsibility
Let’s be real. If you had made a test trip to the location, left a half-hour early, checked the traffic reports and set your alarm properly, you would have arrived on time. Whether it’s because the train broke down or a major traffic jam has you sitting idle in a cab, give an honest explanation. Stick to a short and sweet version of what happened. Lots of unnecessary details or crazy stories about water mains bursting and your cab dropping into a sinkhole will make you seem ridiculous and insincere. You were late – take ownership of the mistake.

Don’t lose your composure
This tardy arrival has now become a test of how well you perform under pressure and how well you can think on your feet. When running late and rushing, the adrenalin escalates. Pause and take a big breath before you enter the office. You are being judged from the moment you enter the door and the receptionist greets you.

Rock the interview
Start with a firm handshake and a brief apology for the delay. Thank the interviewer for adjusting the schedule to see you. Take it easy, smile and summon your confidence. Don’t rush your answers. Consider yourself back on track.  Just as you had planned, integrate your selling points into the interview. At the close of the interview, once again thank the interviewer for their patience and apologize for your delay.

Of course, you would rather avoid this stressful nightmare. Anything can happen when trying to get from point A to point B in NYC. If you run late, follow the above tips for interview damage control.

Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at

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