job seeker running late for interview

What to Do When You're Late for an Interview

It's a nightmare scenario: your car broke down, your alarm clock didn't go off, or your bus couldn't get through the traffic. Now, you're running late for the job interview you worked so hard to get. It's tempting to give up altogether. After all, why would any company hire a candidate who couldn't even make the interview on time?

The truth is, employers understand that things don't always go according to plan. Yes, being late makes a bad first impression, but if you handle the issue well, there's no reason why it should ruin your chances of landing a job. If you do find yourself running late for an interview, don't give up. Here are four interview tips that might help you save the situation.


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1. Stay Calm

Maintaining your composure is one of the most important things you can do when arriving late to an interview. Otherwise, you'll simply compound the problem by letting yourself become flustered, which will only lead to being in the wrong headspace later on.

Accept that you're going to be late: it is something you no longer have any control over. What you do have control over is the state you're in when you get there. Arriving a few seconds sooner won't do you any favors if you're out of breath, disorganized, and stressed when you step into the interview room. Instead, take a breath, compose yourself, and get there as quickly as you reasonably can.


Businessman calling interviewer and looking at his watch


2. Communicate

If you're able to, send your interviewer a quick email or give them a call to let them know you're running late. Doing so serves several important functions, not the least of which is letting them know you still plan to attend and that they shouldn't cross you off their list altogether. It also demonstrates that you're a professional and you respect the time they've set aside for you. Your message should contain a short apology (see below) as well as a reasonable estimation of when you will arrive.


Candidate and interviewer shake hands


3. Apologize

It's important to apologize when arriving late to an interview, but don't overdo it. If you're only a few minutes behind schedule, a brief mention is enough. Any more and you'll simply draw unnecessary attention to the issue, setting a negative tone for the rest of the job interview.

Quickly supplying a reason is often a good tactic as well, since it will show your interviewer that the situation was beyond your control, and that tardiness is generally out of character for you. Apologize gracefully ("very sorry, the traffic was terrible") and then move on with the rest of the interview. Needless to say, if being late was your fault, just stick to an apology… and try not to make the same mistake again!


Woman circles new date on calendar in red pen


4. Be Ready to Reschedule

Sometimes, being late for an interview may mean you miss a window. Perhaps your interviewer only had a few minutes to set aside for you, and now they must head to an important meeting. It doesn't mean all is lost! If you suspect you might not have enough time, let your interviewer know you are ready and willing to attend at another time. You can even supply a range of dates: "I do apologize for having missed you today, but if you're free any time in the next week or two I would be very happy to attend then instead."


Arriving late to a job interview can make you feel as though you've blown your shot at getting the position, but it's not the end of the world. Follow the interview tips above and you stand a good chance of being able to salvage the situation. After all, everyone's late sometimes—it's how you deal with being late that counts.

By Krishan C., Guest Author | August 15, 2017
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