Don’t be late for a marketing job interview. Period.
No, it doesn’t matter that traffic was five times worse today than normal. It doesn’t matter that you accidentally looked up the wrong address, or got sent to the wrong place by your GPS app. Excuses are entirely irrelevant. Don’t. Be. Late.
Of all the possible interview mistakes you can make—and trust me, I’ve seen some disasters over the years as a marketing executive recruiter—running late to an interview is really about as bad as they come.
Being late to an interview, or committing any of the most basic, essential interview faux pas—dressing inappropriately, speaking unprofessionally, coming unprepared, etc.—is and should be an almost instant death sentence for any hopes you have of winning the job.
This is true for everyone applying to any serious marketing job at any level, from entry-level junior marketing staffing all the way up to a CMO executive search. You don’t get extra leeway because you’re new to the professional world or a big-shot marketing executive. Five minutes to you is five minutes to everybody.
You don’t get any leniency for being extremely talented, either. Even elite digital staffing talent or experienced marketing masters we’ve recruited for a marketing executive search will get instantly rejected, regardless of how qualified they are on paper. Some things are more important than pedigree, and in the world of high-stakes marketing career opportunities this is at the very top of the list.
We’ve seen too many professionals who were seemingly perfect fit for an opening totally blow it because of just a few minutes. It’s always a little tragic to see a huge career move missed and massive potential wasted due to even five short minutes running late. But despite all the warnings we give, it’s still something that occasionally occurs to both our marketing contractors and our marketing executive search candidates. And when a client turns down an otherwise excellent candidate due to tardiness, we support that decision.
What 5 Minutes Say about You
When you fail to be punctual with your interview arrival, you’re disrespecting everyone involved by wasting their time. Even just a few minutes of a busy professional’s day are extremely valuable. But more important than the disrespect and lost time is the signal it sends about your character:
Tardiness of any kind tells a hiring manager and marketing executive recruiter that you’re unreliable. You can’t keep commitments. You don’t respect the company and the job enough to make the necessary effort to be in the right place at the right time. You can’t be trusted to keep your word and follow through with commitments.
And if you can’t even make it to a job interview on time, why shouldn’t a hiring manager assume that you’ll be perpetually late for work, for team meetings, or commitments to clients?
Sometimes hiring managers have to rigorously interview a candidate to determine their qualification, or put them through elaborate psychological and intellectual tests. Your tardiness makes it easy for them, though; it’s a glaring red flag. You might as well put a big red sticker on top of your resume that says “Not Trustworthy.”
Honestly, you probably wouldn’t even want to work with the kind of company that’s comfortable hiring people who are late to their interview. An environment where people aren’t held accountable to deadlines and coworkers are unreliable is a nightmare. If you’re a high-performing marketing professional, you wouldn’t tolerate it from your peers. So don’t expect a prospective employer to tolerate it from you.
Take All Necessary Precautions
If you’re serious about this marketing job opportunity (and if you’re not, why are you wasting everyone’s time in the first place?), it’s absolutely critical that you take every available precaution to make it there on time.
Expect the worst, and have backup plans. Assume bad traffic even during off hours, consider alternate modes of transportation in case your first choice becomes suddenly unavailable. Ask the person scheduling the appointment if there are any likely causes of delay. Research the time and place for any events, festivals, parades, races, presidential visits, or anything that could force a detour. And for goodness’ sake, don’t be the person who flies across the country for a marketing executive recruitment interview but makes it to the appointment behind schedule. It happens more often than you’d think.
Conventional interview advice says arrive for the appointment about 15 minutes early, and that’s about right. But in reality it’s a good idea to aim to be in the immediate area well before that to build in some buffer time. At worst, you get there early and have time to grab a coffee at a nearby café or wait outside and mentally prepare yourself until the appointment approaches. And it gives you some extra breathing room if you end up needing to negotiate a tricky parking situation or navigate a confusing office building.