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Why were you late for the interview?

The best answer for this question is not to have to answer it. An interviewer knows if you can’t manage to make the interview on time, you’re a big risk for being late to work, missing deadlines, and mismanaging time in general. But, if something happens that makes it impossible to be on time, be prepared to explain it well.

Overslept:
“The alarm clock didn’t go off. I just overslept. It usually doesn’t happen.” The next thing most interviewers will say to this is “thanks for coming…Next!!!”

Traffic Accident:
“There’s a huge accident on the highway, a plane actually crash landed right across all the lanes, and all the alternates routes were jammed as a result. I left on time to get here an hour early, but there was no beating this traffic.”

Any traffic excuse better relate to very unusual circumstances. Employers don’t want to hear about heavy traffic or accidents, no matter what. But if a bridge crumbles, or there’s a fire, an earthquake, or a real disaster, then there might be an excuse. But if there is, a call ahead is in order.

“Hello, I’m scheduled for an interview at 9AM this morning. I wonder if we can move that back to 10AM. I’m on the train, and the tracks are blocked by a stalled semi truck. Word is it’s all about 45 minutes behind schedule.”

In such situations it may even be better, if possible, to move the interview to another day or much later time, such as afternoon when an interview was scheduled for the morning. One important element of time management is respect for the other person’s schedule. Leaving a client hanging, or being late for a sales meeting, destroys sales.

Miscommunication in time is a decent excuse, as long as the mistake was on the interviewer’s part.

“I have the email on my phone, you wrote that our interview is for 10AM, not 9AM. I’m sorry we got crossed up.”

Allowing for others’ mistakes shows a positive attitude, especially in a situation in which you gain by not embarrassing the other person.

“Darn it, I thought you said 10AM, sorry.” Watch for eye rolling after an answer like this.

If there isn’t a good reason, something out of the ordinary, this situation can’t be spun. Don’t make up stories, apologize and hope the interview turns better.

This answer, given on a recent interview, is a loser. “I’m always late, get used to it.”

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