What to Do If You're Late for an Interview

Published on: 3 Mar 2021


Being late for an interview is one of life’s nightmare situations. Of course, the first way to avoid having to deal with this situation is to not be late in the first place, but sometimes, life gets in the way. Maybe you overslept, had commuting troubles or just couldn’t find the place, being late is sometimes unavoidable. However, we all know that being late to an interview doesn’t exactly reflect well on you as a candidate. If you do find that you’re running late, here’s how to handle the situation:


1. Make contact

Letting your interviewers know that you’re going to be late can be a bit of a contentious issue. On the one hand, if you’re certain you’re only going to be a few minutes late then emailing ahead is only going to draw attention to something that the interviewer may not have noticed otherwise. On the other hand, turning up late to an interview with no prior warning or excuse suggests to the interviewer that you are unorganised and have poor time management skills.

Our advice would always be to get in contact with your interviewer and let them know about your tardiness, regardless of how late you are. Be it via phone call or email, sending a polite message informing your potential employer that will be late is always best practice in these situations.


2. Give a good excuse

If you’re running late to an interview you better have a pretty strong excuse! ‘Sorry I’m late, I overslept,’ is hardly going to convince the company that you’re a professional and self sufficient individual. If your trains were completely messed up beyond your control or you had a family emergency, this is more understandable. Providing your interviewer with a valid and unavoidable excuse is likely to relax the situation a little.


3. Be apologetic

Remember, not only does being late to an interview reflect badly on you, but it also inconveniences the interviewer who will have to waste time waiting for you to arrive. So, it’s important to be apologetic.

Apologise first when contacting the interviewer to inform them that you’re running late. Apologise again in person when you first meet the interviewer. Apologise once more at the end of your interview and thank them for their understanding.

Obviously, apologising profusely isn’t going to make the company forget that you were late, but at least they’ll realise how seriously you’re taking it and that you are owning your mistake.


4. Give an estimated time of arrival

Emailing the interviewer to say you’re going to be late is pretty futile without providing a new ETA. Letting the interviewer know exactly how late you are going to be gives them the chance to make other arrangements and to rearrange their schedule.

Additionally, there is a huge difference between arriving to an interview 5 minutes late or 25 minutes late. Providing a new ETA passes the decision to the interviewer as to whether they want to continue with your new time or reschedule to a more convenient day for them.


5. Don’t lose focus

Okay, so the worst has happened, you’re late. As long as you deal with the situation in a responsible and polite way, all is not lost. You may still be able to win back favour by delivering a stellar performance in your interview. Don’t let your lateness knock you off your game. When you have arrived, take a deep breath and continue with your interview to the best of your abilities. Stay focused on the end goal – your dream job!

Check out our dedicated interview advice page for more tips and guides.