being intentionally late to an interview as a strategy

A reader writes:

I’d like to share a job search tip with you (or at least receive your opinion about it).

A resume attempts to showcase past achievements but it doesn’t do much to demonstrate a candidate’s character.

So I deliberately call in late to the interview. About a half hour before the interview time, I will call the company and say I’m in traffic and would be it ok to arrive about 15 minutes late. They, of course, always say no problem and they will let the interviewer know.

So I arrive and sit down with the interviewer and I thank him/her for the reschedule. If that interviewer makes special effort to note that extra effort and that most people don’t do that (which certainly has happened with me) I have both an indicator or the character of that interviewer and an instant segue to ask questions about the personal qualities that management values.

The point is that just because you’re a candidate doesn’t mean you can’t create some trigger event that gives you feedback about the inside. (In the science/tech arena this is called ‘blank box’ testing. I’m saying it applies to human interaction and the job search market as well.)

Uh, I think this is a really bad idea.

You’re deliberately arriving late for an interview? In order to see if the interviewer thanks you for calling to warn her?

First of all, as an interviewer, I often allot a specific amount of time for an interview, and I can’t go over it because I have other meetings scheduled right after it. So if I’ve allotted an hour and you arrive 15 minutes late, you’ve just shortened our time to talk by a quarter. Not only is that not good for you, but it’s also annoying, frankly.

Second, it doesn’t reflect well on you to be 15 minutes late. You should be planning to leave yourself enough of a buffer that you don’t need to worry about getting stuck in traffic, because you’ve planned for the possibility — because you know that arriving on time for an interview is important. Now, if there’s an incredibly unusual traffic jam, that’s different — but as someone pointed out in the comments on another post recently, many cities are small enough that your interviewer is going to know if this is the case or not.

Third, you’re expecting the interviewer to note the “extra effort” that you made to call them and alert them that you’d be late? Since that’s the bare minimum expected from a candidate running late, that’s a little like expecting to be thanked for making the extra effort to brush your teeth that day. You should be apologizing; they shouldn’t be thanking you.

And last, you’re doing this to test the character of your interviewer? There are a lot better ways to do that than to intentionally disrespect someone’s time when they’ve set aside a block of their day to meet with you.

What do others think?

{ 56 comments… read them below }

  1. Fred*

    Bad idea. Arriving late to an interview is bad in any case; doing so deliberately is just plain wrong.

    I doubt you truly get the insight into the interviewer's character that you think you do. On the other hand, the interviewer has been given a "charming" first impression that you're undependable, inconsiderate and possibly even arrogant.

    The only person you're helping by being deliberately late to an interview is the next candidate.

  2. Lance*

    This is about as clever as faking a serious injury to see what the organizational response to crisis is…

    It seems petty. Why not just ask them and not be an inconvenience? We rake on employers for being dishonest or inconveniencing interviewees, this deserves as much flak.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I’m now thinking of the interviewERS who faked a fire during an interview and got upset when the interviewee called 911.

  3. Anonymous*

    You call and say you're going to be 15 minutes late and think that you should be rewarded by being thanked for doing the bare minimum when it was you that were in the wrong for being late in the first place?

    This is just plain stupid. Regardless of how good you are I would definitely make a note of you being late. And even if you are in a large city with a lot of traffic, you should know that and be able to account for it. If you can't make the interview how are you going to arrive to work on time?

    You're just making yourself look bad. I certainly wouldn't make a point of thanking you.

  4. Devin*

    This is just bizarre. What does this even mean: "If that interviewer makes special effort to note that extra effort and that most people don't do that" — most people don't say "sorry I was late" and "thank you for waiting"? Sure, it would be weird if someone didn't apologize for being late, but not apologizing isn't as bad as being late in the first place.

    I can't imagine that you'd want to be known as "that guy who showed up late" when people are discussing you later.

    There are a thousand better ways to prove your worth as a candidate and to learn more about the way a company works than to do some passive-aggressive "manipulate the system" crap.

    This is like the Ladder Theory of interviewing.

  5. Jason*

    Maybe I've just had a bad week, but if I were to get a call saying they're stuck in traffic, I'd likely just offer to reschedule.

    If you're going to use a "strategy" like this, it'd be best to come up with something a little better than traffic as your excuse. I'm just as likely not to interview a candidate at all if they call in with that reason unless there's legitimately a major incident (tanker spills, 12-car pile-up, etc.).

    As Alison (and others) have suggested, this is simply bad interview etiquette and shows that you haven't planned for the most important part of the interview – being on time.

    Fred's last sentence is dead on.

  6. Susan*

    I can't believe someone would actually think this is an interview strategy! At times, it has never happened to me thank goodness, someone gets into a car accident or there are uncontrollable circumstances that would make an interviewee late. I imagine the interviewee would be incredibly apologetic and trying as much as possible to look much better in the way of skills and what they can offer to the company to compensate for basically getting off on the wrong foot. Never in my wildest dreams would I think the interviewer should apologize to or even thank the late interviewee. I can hear it now. Although you were tardy for our interview, thank you so much for calling me so I could cross you off the potential hire list because you're an incompetent and arrogant boob.

    So many of us expect interviewers to treat the interviewee with respect and behave in a professional manner. I think most of us expect that the interviewee behaves in a respectable and professional manner as well. Faking tardiness to an interview is not respectful or professional. I've heard everything now. Maybe my students should try this strategy!

  7. youshouldonlyknow*

    Questioning someone else's character by use of deceit? Interesting. I wonder if they also decide what stores are good to shop in by attempting to shoplift, or how responsive a babysitter would be by giving the kid a shove down the slide?

  8. Anonymous*

    (I am the original poster)

    I stated the reason was about bad traffic and in your answer you noted that as the exception you would be ok with.

    "There are a lot better ways to do that than to intentionally disrespect someone's time when they've set aside a block of their day to meet with you."

    Showing up late without notice would be disrespectful. This is not that scenario.

    "Not only is that not good for you, but it's also annoying, frankly."

    But your reply speaks exactly to the point. I want to know if that person gives more credence to me requesting they adjust their schedule by 15 minutes (or 10, or 5, or even zero because one can call ahead, warn of possibly being late, and show up on time!..which I have) or to being accountable for such a small infraction.

    My experience (many times) is that the general public doesn't care much about personal integrity and the interviewer is grateful I tried to be respectful of their time.

    You said you would be annoyed. Fine. That's your personality and that's exactly the insight I wanted to know.

    One person said "If you can't make the interview how are you going to arrive to work on time?"

    Is that logical? Do people who show up on time to an interview never come to work late? One shouldn't be late for work but it's ok to call ahead and be accountable for it?…but not the same for an interview. That just speaks to my point. It's better to work for people who are more flexible and appreciate your accountability.

    Another said "I can't imagine that you'd want to be known as "that guy who showed up late" when people are discussing you later."

    But you're not showing up late. You're calling and asking if it's ok to be 15 minutes late. (I don't think people are understanding the scenario).

    "It's called "black box," not "blank box."

    Right. And I actually knew that and typed it wrong. Thank you.


    "Questioning someone else's character by use of deceit?"

    There's no deceit. The examples you propose are horrible.

  9. Rachel - I Hate HR*

    When a candidate arrives over 15 minutes late (whether they called or not) my managers are not interested.

    Yes, employees sometimes arrive late to work. Well, you're not an employee yet! The first impression you've given them is now a bad one.

  10. majigail*

    I once had a guy show up 45 minutes late for an interview for a volunteer position. Then he asked if we had any open paid positions… Not for him!

    I consider myself incredibly flexible with my staff. You need to be late today, fine- make it up later, its your paycheck. You need to take tomorrow off because the gas company is coming sometime between 9-3, I get it. There are a few positions that I can't offer that to because of shift changes… if you're late, then the person you're relieving can't go home on time, not cool.

    However, when it comes to interviews, I've got a 15 minute rule, show up 15 minutes on either side of our scheduled time and I'll give you a pass, beyond that either way and you've annoyed me. Even with a call. Then you better be darn sure that you wow me when you do show up.

    If I even got a whiff that this was a game to test my character, he'd be out. Maybe that's why he's still looking…

  11. Kerry*

    I think you should keep doing this. This technique (and your subsequent reply) give interviewers valuable insight into your character. That makes everyone's job easier, and helps make sure you're only hired at places that will value your unique point of view.

  12. nuqotw*

    AAM is telling you she would feel annoyed, not that she would say to the interviewee that she felt annoyed. (Though she might – I can't speak for her) And that's true of a lot of other interviewers. Your little experiment will fail b/c interviewers will act polite about your phone call, and conceal their legitimate annoyance. There's no reason to tell you that they are annoyed; they assume you know and telling you won't change their consideration of you and their lateness.

  13. Rebecca*

    "There's no deceit" ?

    You promised an interviewer that you would arrive for an interview at a specific time. Then, you knowingly and deliberately show up late.

    And you don't think there's been any deceit on your part.


  14. jaded hr rep*

    Ha, this logic sounds like someone who would deliberately flub a test so the next time, he can score higher to show that he can learn and grow and improve! No. While calls if you're stuck in traffic are indeed good, showing up on time and being punctual and respectful of someone else's time is better.

  15. HR Godess*

    I share the same sentiments as Kerry. Continue to do what you're doing so I have an easier time hiring candidates who actually care about honesty and integrity!

  16. Just Another HR Lady*

    AAM…you're very patient to give such a thoughtful and professional response to this writer. I think I would just say "grow up".

  17. theolderepublicke*

    I think it's a bad idea because it's simply dishonest. However, it might work as a tactic if the skill you offer is in such high demand that the employer will probably have to hire you anyway because he or she can't find anyone else. Then, maybe, it can be looked on as a way to "test" the interviewer.

    Still, there's almost always someone as qualified or better qualified for the job. And it's rude.

  18. theolderepublicke*

    Anonymous ("original poster"):

    If this strategy works for you, then go ahead and do it.

  19. Anonymous*

    This strategy is probably why the OP is still interviewing for a job and hasn't been hired.

  20. Interviewer*

    I wonder how many times that guy knows he's been called a jerk.

    Wake up. Interviewers are just being polite. It's rude to waste their time, but it's even ruder to tell you, "hey, candidate, you're wasting my time." So they thank you for calling them in advance, which you perceive as "passing" your stupid test (of what? their ability to show gratitude?) and they conduct a shorter interview, say goodbye, and take you out of consideration for the position.

    Seriously. And you know why you're a jerk? Because a true jerk can't see this is what's really going on.

    I'm going to guess that you have a lot of interviews in your future, so you can keep trying your stupid little test as much as you want.

  21. Charles*

    OMG – the low level of ethics that some people have!

    Intentionally lying to see what someone's reaction is?

    First – just an FYI, to lie (regardless of your intentions) is to deceive. Learn to use the dictionary.

    Second – "playing games" is unprofessional. I hate it when reruiters do it – so what are trying to do? Turn the tables? "Well, then kudos to you for being so brilliant" (sarcasm off)

    Third – You've just let everyone here know how poor your character is by saying:

    "But you're not showing up late. You're calling and asking if it's ok to be 15 minutes late. (I don't think people are understanding the scenario)."

    I think you don't understand your own scenario. Whether you call or not – being late is still being late. And then to say that others don't understand your idea. Did you forget to take your meds when you thought up this idea?

    Fourth – I agree with Kerry – keep this up. And if someone does hire you anyway – PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE let us know who so that I can avoid working for that idiotic employer in the future. Thank you!

    Fifth and final – AAM, In reality I think your blog has made it to the big time because someone is now trying to "punk" you! I mean can people really be this stupid? so, Congrats, you're a big time blog now!

  22. class-factotum*

    the general public doesn't care much about personal integrity and the interviewer is grateful I tried to be respectful of their time.

    Speaking of not caring about personal integrity – how much integrity do you have to run this little charade? You are respectful of the interviewer's time when you are on time.

    You're calling and asking if it's ok to be 15 minutes late.

    And if the interviewer says, "No?" Do you show up on time or late?

  23. Anonymous*

    Hey Original Poster: If you're not going to take her advice, then why did you write in to begin with?

    It sounds like you just wanted confirmation of your retarded plan. And make no mistake- it is retarded. But keep doing it- if more people do what you do it will help me get a job when I need one.

    1. Elizabeth*

      I’m 4 years too late for this reply to be seen by the person who wrote the above, I’m sure, but I had to say it: It’s not okay to use the word “retarded” in this way. It genuinely does hurt the feelings of people with mental disabilities.

      I agree with basically everyone else that the OP’s scheme is a terrible one. But there are so many other ways to say so than to use the word “retarded.”

      1. Jazzy Red*

        Elizabeth, this bugs me, too.

        I have a co-worker who uses that word instead of “stupid”. I correct him every single time, and I’ll continue to do so.

        1. Anonymous*

          FWIW, Jazzy, “stupid” is also an ableist slur, as well. I like AdAgencyChick’s “asinine,” which is more to the point.

          1. Jamie*

            Per the dictionary asinine means “foolish, unintelligent, or silly; stupid:

            How would stupid be a slur, but a word meaning stupid is not?

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        +1. I used to use that word all the time, and then one of my coworkers — the nicest, easiest-to-work-with person I know — had a baby with Down’s.

        He never called people out on using that word after that, but I stopped. (I used the two weeks he was out on paternity leave to train myself to use the word “asinine” any time I wanted to say “retarded.”) I can’t imagine he would have liked hearing it as a pejorative.

  24. Anonymous*

    WOW! The audacity of some people. Worst "strategy" I've ever heard!

    This is the way to "feel out" the company? NOT GOOD!

  25. Anonymous*

    I am not sure where the original poster came up with the idea that most people don't call ahead to let the interviewer know they are running late, thus they'll stand out by doing so.

    Nearly every late interviewee has called me in advance to let me know they're running late – by doing this you are not making yourself stand out as incredibly considerate, you are making yourself stand out as another late person. Seriously, calling ahead is not unique – you are not the first person to have thought of it.

    And as far as thanking the person for calling – why would I thank someone for doing what they are supposed to do? Calling ahead when you're late is a minimum requirement for moving on in the interview process. Those few people who do not call ahead generally don't move forward in the process. This is like thanking employees for calling in when they are running late for work, it's really not optional if they want to keep working for the company.

    Finally, if I have narrowed down to two equal candidates, both with good personalities, excellent work history, etc. and one was 15 minutes late to their interview and the other was not, who do you think I'm going to pick?

  26. Kay*

    The writer sounds like an incredible douchebag, and I guarantee that hiring managers can see it, too. They can probably smell him coming. (Probably especially the women, who have doubtless had to deal with this exact personality disorder in various social settings before.) But yeah, go ahead and keep doing it. It's just going to make everyone else (i.e., those who show up on time and are respectful of the interviewer's tight schedule) look that much better.

  27. Lisa (lablady)*

    This is a terrible "strategy"! First and foremost, you ARE late, admit it rather than covering up with, "the appt. was rescheduled." No, it wasn't rescheduled, you are late, period. Rescheduling means a different day and time completely.

    Second, I agree with the others, you should have made a dry-run to see how the traffic was in order to get to the interview on time. The fact that you didn't make the effort to do this and to arrive a little early or on time says a lot about you…and it's not saying anything positive. It leads them to think you cannot plan ahead, are not resourceful and take people for granted that they will adjust their schedule to fit yours. Not a great first impression.

    Third, you've decided that it's okay to start your relationship off with a lie in order to manipulate a response from your prospective company/employer. You think that's a good thing? It's not.

    Fourth, you mention that it now offers you the opportunity to ask what personal qualities the interviewer looks for in employees. I guarantee they are looking for someone who is prompt, considerate, honest, has integrity, all of which you've just thrown out the window by being rude, inconsiderate and dishonest. Do you really believe you have these traits to offer after pulling this stunt?

    And, remember, you're not only being inconsiderate to the interviewer but to everyone else they have to deal with after they meet with you…the employee who now has to stay an extra 15 min. before taking her break or leaving to go pick up her child at daycare, or begin training, and/or making your interviewer late for his/her next meeting which in turns makes the person they're meeting with late and so on and so on. It's not just one person you're doing this to…I find that highly inconsiderate and dishonest.

    And fifth, I have been a manager and there are many times when I can't speak to you when you are 15 minutes late, esp. if I only have 30 min. to interview you. I'm busy: I have a store (i.e. in retail) to run, have customers to attend to, have others to interview or train. If you called to say you would be 15 min. late, I would have to reschedule you which means I would have to call you back with another day and time…and I'd think twice before I did that since you didn't make the effort to be on time for the first interview.

    It's bad form, bad manners all around. And, I have to ask, if you think this is such a good "strategy" (which implies you've been doing this for quite a while), then why are you still looking for work? It doesn't seem like it is working for you. You are shortchanging yourself from a thorough and successful interview.

    You obviously have a control issue going on and usually when you need to be in control, there is a fear behind that need. You might want to ask yourself, what am I afraid of that causes me to think this is okay?

  28. Anonymous*

    I love how this person states this is their strategy. How many interviews have they done this on? And they wonder why they still have to schedule more and don't have a job yet?

  29. Willr*

    Another "this is a stupid strategy", I expect people (particularly interviewees) to be prompt unless something really strange happened (hit by a car).

    I really wouldn't try to defend this strategy, it is just plain stupid.

  30. Sarah G*

    It seems all the comments here presume the person writing the letter has some semblance of intelligence and integrity, which clearly he doesn't.

    It's also clear, especially in his (or her) response to the comments, that he didn't genuinely want anyone's input. He opened up his letter by saying he wanted to "share a job search tip," before parenthetically asking for an opinion. Hi self-righteousness and delusion about this strategy exhibit his inability to be receptive to anyone else's feedback. I think a couple others said it well when they expressed this guy should just keep on using his strategy and let other non-moronic applicants get hired for the desirable jobs.

  31. Anonymous*

    OP says,"You said you would be annoyed. Fine. That's your personality and that's exactly the insight I wanted to know."

    What kind of of interviewer/manager would suit you in this case? Clearly the Mommy/Daddy who you expect to praise you everytime you did something within your job specs.

  32. raymund*

    It's really easy to throw stones at people on the Internet so I hesitate to do this, but here it is: Psycho!

    As an applicant, it's reasonable to want to understand more about the company's culture or the management philosophy. But that's why we ask at the end of the interview if you have any questions. By showing up late, you may rob yourself of that opportunity. You will rob yourself of the opportunity to make a good first impression

  33. Anonymous*

    WTH? It's one thing to be late unintentionally, quite another to be arrogantly late to play games.

    To my late candidates *good luck* this moron just gave me a reason not to give you benefit of doubt.

  34. Anonymous*

    I can't imagine that being an effective strategy. Calling ahead to advise of lateness is something that most people do, and in truth, is the bare minimum of what people should do if they expect to stand a chance of being hired.

    Do the places you're applying to really have such low standards that "unprepared but at least polite about it" is enough to stand you head and shoulders over everybody else?

    There are just so many things about this "strategy" that make my brain melt. You must have an amazingly low opinion of your competition. Which is interesting, seeing as how you don't seem to be winning those positons!

  35. Anonymous*

    No, It's not ok to be fifteen minutes late.

    Yes, you should be a

    No, arriving fifteen minutes later is not rescheduling, rescheduling would be making it later in the day or tomorrow.

    No, I shouldn't thank you for letting me know you're late. You shouldn't be late.

    NEXT! (resume goes in the trash)

  36. Anonymous*

    No, no, no. This is BAD advice. Are you trying to keep people unemployed? I would never try this, because I actually want to work.

  37. Anonymous*

    Wow. What an hilariously stupid strategy. This reminds me of a guy I worked with for a — thankfully — short time whose work strategy was to do really poorly at his job so as to lower expectations. That way, when his performance on an assignment was merely adequate, it would be considered an improvement.

    He was later fired, for which his colleagues were vocally grateful.

  38. Anonymous*

    I agree with Raymund–this strategy is ineffective. You lose time where you could be asking legit questions to probe for insights into the interviewer and company's character. Some good questions to ask can be found here (not my blog)
    I have used these questions and the responses I've received have been informative. I've been able to use that information to my advantage in determining company culture and if there would be a good fit with them/me.

  39. Kimberley*

    To the OP – if you truly want to stand out in an interview do the following:
    – Arrive 10 minutes early
    – make polite conversation with the receptionist while waiting
    – dress business professional
    – research the company in advance
    – prepare in advance with some interview role playing

    Trust me, if you are prepared you will stand out.

  40. Leslie*

    Several words come to mind: petty, manipulative, rude, and DO NOT HIRE are at the top of the list.

  41. Anonymous*

    Seriously, who the hell does that?! Lol, someone is obviously extremely self absorbed and more than likely, unemployed.

  42. Donald Trump*

    This is very affective , you should do it at every interview and at lunch every day… I did and look at me now!

  43. Charpenon*

    Just recalling the fear, anger, and panic I felt running into an unexpected detour in an unfamiliar city on my way to a Very Important Interview, I cannot imagine ever making the decision to look bad in front of an interviewer on purpose. I was able to call, my interviewer was mercifully understanding (she knew I was coming straight from my current job and couldn’t have planned any better), and get directions relatively quickly.

    I also didn’t like that LW’s response was very defensive and self-righteous, rather than open to hearing other people’s takes on the set-up, which makes me like this plan even less.

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