MBA Career Advice: Prepare for the Worst and Be Early

In this weekly series, our friends at MBA Career Coaches will be dispensing invaluable advice to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews. 

You know, of course, that if you are late for an interview, you are almost invariably not going to get the job, and in some cases, you will not even get the interview. Do we even need to state that? Well, we just did. But this blog post is not so much about being on time as it is about preparing to be early—very (very!) early.

If an interview is important to you—and it should be important to you, because otherwise you have no reason to be interviewing—then you should plan to be very (very) early for your appointment. Let’s assume that you have an appointment at 12:00 p.m., and let’s say that it takes you 30 minutes to get to the appointment. So, when should you leave?

  • 11:30
  • 11:15
  • 11:00

Which one? If you answered, “I know this is a trick question, because I would leave before 11,” then you are right (and probably are a super-thorough and professional person). Here is your rule of thumb for being on time for an important interview: double the commute time and add 15 minutes.

So, if your interview is at 12:00 p.m. and you have a half-hour commute, then you should leave at 10:45 a.m. at the latest. This way, you have a 30-minute train delay or traffic jam built into your trip, and you still have an additional 15 minutes to spare. If you are interviewing in another city, fly in the night before. In addition to making the right impression—interviewers love to see the diligence and dedication it takes to be early—it will put you in the position to perform your best in the interview.

When you arrive, get some water, settle yourself, and collect your thoughts. Nothing will derail your confidence more than having to jump into an interview without a chance to focus. If you start the interview frazzled, sweaty, and stressed out from all the energy it took you just to arrive on time, you will not perform your best. Of course, no one will penalize you for giving yourself even more time than that.

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