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Written by Anna MuckermanAnna Muckerman

How early should you be for an interview?

7 min read
How early should you be for an interview?
Showing up early or late to an interview can have a big impact on the employer’s first impression of you. This blog will answer all the most common questions when deciding how early to be for an interview.

Interviews are all about first impressions: a good one can set you up for success and increase your chances of landing the job, while a poor one can have a snowball effect on the rest of your interactions with the company. Deciding how early to show up is the first important step that can make or break the rest of your interview experience.

Luckily, there’s no need to stress. This blog will provide clear guidelines and advice both about how early you should be for the interview and also other common interview etiquette questions like what to wear and whether you should accept water once you arrive. Here’s what we’ll discuss:

  • Exactly how early should you be for an interview?
  • Why is it important to arrive at the right time?
  • When should I arrive for a remote interview?
  • What should you wear to an interview?
  • Should I accept water at an interview?

How early is appropriate for a job interview?

Showing up at the right time for a job interview is essential to get comfortable with your surroundings and make a strong first impression on the hiring manager. That’s why we recommend showing up 15 minutes early for an in-person interview.

There are a few reasons why 15 minutes is the perfect amount of time:

  • Gives you a cushion. 15 minutes is ideal, but you won’t automatically be penalized if you arrive 10 or 5 minutes early instead. Give yourself this wiggle room in case you get stuck in traffic or have a hard time finding the address.
  • Gives you a chance to get comfortable with your surroundings. Take a moment to look around and observe the environment of the office. Do people seem stressed? Hard at work? Bored? This is valuable insight into the workplace.
  • Gives you a chance to prepare. By arriving early and calmly reviewing your notes, you’ll be more confident going into the interview.
Expert tip

Is it OK to be 20 minutes early for an interview?

While 20 minutes won’t break your interview experience, we don’t recommend showing up too early for a job interview. Arriving half an hour early or more can signal to the employer that you are desperate for the job, don’t have anything else to do, or can make them feel rushed to accommodate you when they are not ready. It can also serve to heighten your sense of stress as you sit waiting. That’s why 15 minutes is the sweet spot between too early and too late.

Why is it important to arrive at the right time for a job interview?

Arriving at the right time sends a positive message to the employer and gives you a chance to feel comfortable in your surroundings. Above all, it is important never to be late for a job interview. This can immediately dash your chances of landing the job. If you are running late because of traffic or other forces outside of your control, your best bet is to call the office and explain clearly how late you are planning to be. When you arrive, make sure to take a moment to catch your breath before walking into the office. Think of a quick line to explain your lateness and proceed with the interview calmly and confidently.

Expert tip

How early should I be for a Zoom interview?

We recommend showing up 5 minutes early for a remote or Zoom interview as the interviewer is unlikely to log on earlier than the scheduled time. However, we recommend making sure your camera and microphone are working earlier that day so that there are no technical hiccups when connecting for the job interview.

Should I accept water at a job interview?

You might think it would be rude to accept water or coffee at a job interview but the opposite is actually true! Even if you are not thirsty, accepting a drink when offered can break the ice and give you a chance to talk informally with the hiring manager. Plus, you might get a quick tour of the office while walking to the coffee machine. This can be a valuable opportunity to learn more about the work environment. Drinking water or coffee with the hiring manager also helps to put you on the same level and show your confidence.

What should I wear to an interview?

When it comes to what to wear to a job interview, there’s the famous expression dress for the job you want, but a better adage would be dress to fit in. The goal is to both look the part and immediately give the impression that you’d fit into the work environment. When in doubt, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed, but showing up in a suit for a job at a construction site might also get you laughed out the door. Make sure to research the work environment and consider other factors like the season and weather before deciding what to wear to the interview.

Circles with fun facts about a job interview
Circles with fun facts about a job interview

Key takeaways

  • Show up 15 minutes early to a job interview to make a strong first impression
  • Never be late to a job interview or you could be written off before you arrive
  • For Zoom and video interviews, show up 5 minutes early as long as you’re sure your camera and microphone are working
  • Accepting water and dressing to fit in are also great ways to get your interview off to a good start!
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