I missed my bus this morning because it was early (as near as the six of us waiting for the next one could figure). That got me thinking about times when being early is bad (aside from babies).
I’ve learned not to show up too early for meetings, and especially job interviews. I know how I feel If I’m interviewing someone at 2:00 p.m. and he shows up at 1:45. I don’t think, “This guy gets the worm.” I think, “Now I can’t do that thing I needed to do in the 15-minute window before my next meeting.”
If it’s a morning meeting, that thing might be coffee. Double plus ungood.
Yes, I could leave the candidate marinating in the lobby. But that can be hard in a small office, or if someone brings the candidate to you. “You’re two o’clock is here! You deal with him.”
If I’m early, I make sure I’m in the right place, then wait until five minutes before the meeting time to approach the receptionist or knock on the door.
The converse or possibly obverse is also true. If you’re in the relative position of power, you send signals about what you’re like to work with. If you’re late, that could mean you’re disorganized, or don’t respect other people’s time, or your company is the kind of place where meetings never start on time and always run long. Those are never good signs, no matter who you’re meeting.
Presumably there is a mutual benefit to your meeting, regardless of who’s buying and who’s selling. (Not that I haven’t been to pointless meetings that benefit no one, but that’s another blog post.)
If you’re an overworked manager hiring for an essential role in a strong market, you may well be the one with the most to lose from making a bad impression. I heard a story from a candidate being wooed by several Bay Area companies. The second time he got stood up by a senior exec at his first choice company, he left and took them off his list.
In a perfect world it would look like a stock photo: the interviewee striding purposefully toward the waiting interviewer, hands reaching out in anticipation of a firm, dry and mutually-pleasurable handshake. And everyone would be smiling.
Except that one guy in his cube who can’t make heads or tails of all those darn spreadsheets and is holding his head in frustration.
I think his name is Kevin.