Being late, a sure way to mess up your chances

Being late, a sure way to mess up your chancesI’m sipping espresso at a quirky coffee shop waiting for a woman who I’m interviewing as a potential assistant. We had a 9:30 appointment and at 9:30 she emailed me that her estimated time of arrival was 9:37. Well, it is now 9:42 and she still hasn’t made it. It’s a shame because I heard great things about her. But I’m a stickler for punctuality and being late for an interview is like writing on your resume that you have great communications skills and spelling “communications” with one “m”. If you can’t make it on time for the interview, how do I know you’ll make the tight deadlines? How do I know you’ll show up on time for events and not an hour late? You see, this small initial gaffe can close the door for this candidate and for you if you don’t take punctuality seriously. It just puts a question mark on your reliability.

She arrived 15 minutes late and after hearing her apology I said with poorly constrained disappointment, “This is a bad first impression. We are Latinas and this is a stereotype we must fight against. Most people will not give you a second chance.” A part of me was also wondering if she thought it was okay to be late because as a Latina, I would understand…

She was mortified, her eyes reddened with what I could only assume was a combination of frustration, anger at herself and embarrassment. But once we moved past this first awkward moment I was quickly able to tell that she had the kind of qualities I was looking for: she was warm, had an excellent communication style, was fluent in both English and Spanish, had experienced in marketing…

Eventually, we went back to her lateness. “You know,” I said, “we all have busy lives but often the problem with being late is that we don’t want to say ‘no’ even when you know it will be hard to fulfill your promise. You could’ve asked me to meet at 10:00 if 9:30 was too tight for your morning routine with your kids.” She agreed and, in her favor, she never tried to make excuses for being late which was in itself a great trait.  I suggested that next time, before she makes a commitment, she looks at her calendar and allows for at least half an hour of cushion time. “Arriving early is actually being on time,” I said. “And one more thing: If you can’t chose the time of the meeting, try to make arrangements for someone to cover your family responsibilities so nothing unexpected keeps you from making it on time and in good shape. Getting to the appointment frazzled doesn’t make you any favors either.”

Before I made a decision, I asked her to create two documents for me, a test she passed with flying colors. So I invited her to join my team. Now the burden would be on her to prove that her lateness was a one-time occurrence.

Image via Thinkstock

This article was originally published on Mamá Latina

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