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Timing is everything

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The first thing I noticed upon moving to Washington is the surprising amount of traffic. Being from California and making frequent trips to Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego, I was convinced I had seen the worst of it. I was wholly unprepared for the viscosity of Interstate 5 in this region. My first two weeks, I struggled to make it anywhere on time; thus, I strongly empathize with job seekers who suffer the tragedy of being late to an interview. Being new to the state, I was given the benefit of the doubt, but most job seekers and new hires won’t be so lucky. I often hear of opportunity lost by just a few minutes.

Too often, a job seeker reports not being interviewed because s/he was three minutes late. This seems to be the case most often at large companies but should be treated as the rule for all employers. A few minutes is a lifetime to a potential employer. Failure to arrive on time may be judged as irresponsible and disrespectful. At the very least, a tardy job candidate lacks passion for the company and position. This may be an indication the candidate is disengaged and unreliable, which is a liability to employers. Bad hires cost companies considerably. This is precisely why hiring process continue to become more structured and complex. The ability and drive to successfully navigate a sophisticated hiring process is part of the applicant appraisal.

In my classroom presentations one instructor always asks, “How early should you show up for a job interview?” My standard answer is, “Two days!” It is important to map out an efficient route and scope out the traffic situation. This initial trip may just be a drive by, but the day before an interview should be a full dress rehearsal of the arrival. I expect job seekers to drive the expected route and an alternative route. I also want a parking plan. Does the employer have a private parking lot? Is there public parking nearby? If street parking is the only option, which nearby streets are the best bet for finding available space? After sorting out parking, explore the neighborhood. On the day of the interview, I recommend candidates arrive to the area two hours early but only check in with reception 15 minutes before scheduled.

Becoming familiar with the area will help to establish a close “nesting” area. No employer wants a potential new hire lingering around their reception area for two hours. Finding a place to wait for an appropriate time to walk over will ensure timeliness and will also allow time and space to work through anxiety before the much dreaded interview. I’m a fan of coffeehouses but parks, restaurants, and bookstores also work well. Be sure to have a backup outfit in the car if you do choose to eat or drink anything. Use the time to rehearse stories and answers to potential questions. Being prepared helps reduce stress and boosts confidence. Being prepared means being on time.

Stephanie McWilliams is Director of Career Services at Charter College, Fife Campus. She can be reached at (253) 252-4232 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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