This week, I had three meetings with job seekers. All three were mid-career professionals with deep experience in their industries.
One was a former Army officer and West Point graduate, who has been out in the civilian sector for fifteen years.
Another was a career Naval Aviator, with a broad array of high-profile assignments around the world. He’s been a civilian for just over a year.
The third was a civilian, also with a diverse career and high-profile assignments around the world.
Each meeting went well, and each candidate has a ton to offer the right candidates.
There was one striking difference between the two Veterans and the civilian.
The two military candidates arrived 10 minutes early. The civilian was 30 minutes late.
When I was in the military, it was pounded into me that “If you are ten minutes early, you’re five minutes late.” I’ve been out of the Navy for a long time, but I still carry that with me. Most people are more casual with their promptness. Most Veterans share my obsession with being timely.
When I meet with prospective candidates, everything is under evaluation. How they dress, how they talk about themselves, their demeanor,if they are on time. Being late is a huge red flag for me. For my late civilian, one of his skills on his resume is “attention to detail” – and he forgot to put the meeting on the calendar (wah wah). He got further in the hole by not apologizing for wasting 30 minutes of my time. I have a job. He does not. My calendar is jammed. His is not. If our meeting were a job interview, I guarantee he would have been removed from consideration. At this point, if I were to represent him as a candidate to a client, if I cannot be confident he’ll show up on time to in interview, what else will he not do to get the job? For my two Veterans, their ability to plan and prioritize our meeting tells me that they will do their part to shine in an interview.
If you are a job seeker – being on time to an interview is non-negotiable. As part of your interview preparations, if possible, do a drive-by a few days before to see where you need to go. A “recon mission” will help you eliminate any panic the day of the interview if the GPS leads you astray, finding parking, or finding out that there is construction or some other obstacle. Barring that, use Google Street View to see what it looks like on the outside. Confirm your interview with a quick email the day before and ask if there are any special instructions for arriving, like which lot to park in, having an IS for the security gate, etc.
The day of the interview, plan on arriving at least 30 minutes early in case there is any traffic delays. Lurk nearby at a coffee shop or in the parking lot. Report to your interview 5-10 minutes early, no earlier than that. Showing up too early conveys that you do not respect the interviewers time – you won’t get any bonus points. Instead, use the time to review your resume, practice your “tell me about yourself” answers, or read any current events about the company you are meeting with. Walking in on-time will send the right message and if your stress levels will be much lower.
If Murphy’s Law is in effect, and you will be late or there is a chance of being late – while not ideal, it is forgivable if you are proactive and there is a valid reason. Don’t lie. If you say traffic is a mess and it’s not, they can easily verify traffic conditions. Call or send a text as soon as you suspect you will be late vs. sending an email. They might not see the email until after your interview. When you arrive, apologize for being late and thank them for their flexibility. Then move on…do not dwell on it. Most people will be understanding, so don’t let it ruin your interview.
If you are going to be significantly late - like by more than 30 minutes - offer them the option of rescheduling. This is respectful of their time, but also ensures you get a full interview. If every other candidate gets an hour to interview and you get 25 minutes, you will be at a disadvantage.
If you are a job seeker, you need to bring your A-game during the whole process. Being on time and prepared for an interview is one of the few things you can control, so you need to own that. It is a small demonstration that you are reliable and professional. It shows that you are respectful and considerate of others. In today’s society where late is the norm, IT IS NEVER THE NORM TO BE LATE TO AN INTERVIEW. It can telegraph the wrong message and eliminate you from consideration before it has begun.
My experience this week is another in a long list on why Veterans make good employees. A full topic for another day.
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