Common mistakes. Easy fixes. (part two)

from getpickd

This post is part two in a series on common mistakes made by job applicants and easy fixes for addressing those mistakes.

Warning: Arriving early to an interview may adversely affect your chances of being hired.

It is important to show up on time for an interview. This is a rule of thumb that won't come as a surprise for most readers of this post. Incorrectly, most job applicants believe it is important to simply not arrive late to an interview. However, it is nearly as important to not show up more than five minutes early either. With many employers, arriving too early for an interview is only a slightly lesser offense than arriving late.

Why is arriving too early a blow to your chances of winning the job? The answer is quite simple. One of the primary goals of the interview process is to determine a prospective candidate's understanding of, and ability to operate within, the norms of a professional environment. One of those norms is an understanding of how your actions impact others around you and your respect for your co-workers schedules and time. Showing up early, or late, for an interview (or for any business meeting) is disruptive to the person you are meeting. To understand this, consider what occurs when you arrive early. The people with whom you are meeting will be notified that you have arrived. From a cultural perspective, most people don't feel comfortable making someone wait for them as it is considered rude—so the person you are meeting now has two options: a) they can interrupt their schedule to meet with you early, or b) wait for the scheduled time and be made to feel anxious about making you wait. In either case, you have made a bad first impression.

As an employer, I understand the motivation to arrive early for an interview. As with any meeting, you want to build in enough time so that you can be reasonably sure that you can find the location, and be prepared if any unexpected transportation delays occur. Building in a buffer for these things is smart, but it means that you will often arrive at your destination earlier than the scheduled start time. If you arrive 10, 20, 30, or more minutes early, find something else to do with your time. Find a coffee shop and read the paper, tour the neighborhood, or check out the local bookstore. Just make sure not to lurk pensively outside the office suite—this just makes people nervous. You should not actually enter the office suite where you are interviewing until five minutes before the scheduled start time.

Following this rule of thumb won't win you massive points with prospective employers, but it will start you off on the right foot.

Christopher Hertz is the CEO of New Signature, a Washington D.C.-based information technology firm.