In business, before you are assessed on your appearance, body language, and facial expressions, you are first and foremost assessed on whether you are ‘on time’. Punctuality is a critical part of your professional image. Without it, the most expensive Armani suit or Chanel dress may not save you from a negative impression.
Why is Punctuality Important?
Punctuality conveys respect. Respect for yourself and your professional image. Respect for the other person and their time.
Punctuality and Job Interviews
For any job interview, you should announce your arrival at the company reception ten minutes in advance. When you walk into that interview room, it is vital that you look calm, collected and fully focused. Not flustered because you’ve had to sprint up the stairs.
Also, leave a few minutes extra to visit the bathroom beforehand to check your clothes, hair, teeth, and don’t forget to wash your hands. When you are nervous, your hands may become clammy. Washing your hands eliminates this oil build-up so you can offer your potential employer a perfectly dry and warm handshake.
Punctuality and Business Meetings
You should announce your arrival at the company reception five to ten minutes in advance for a business meeting. Be careful you don’t arrive too early.
Arriving more than fifteen minutes in advance will pressure the other person to finish what they are doing and meet you straight away. This will not help form a positive first impression. If you do arrive too early, simply wait downstairs in the lobby and use this time to make sure your business cards and paperwork are in order.
Punctuality and Culture
When you work internationally, you will notice that different cultures have different notions of ‘on time’. Some cultures are quite stringent in relation to time, while others are more flexible.
In Japan, China, Switzerland and Germany, punctuality is highly valued. If doing business in those countries, I recommend you arrive ten minutes in advance for appointments; arriving late will convey great disrespect to those you are meeting.
In India, attitudes toward punctuality are more relaxed. Of course, it’s always prudent to arrive early for a meeting, but arriving late will not be catastrophic.
In many Latin American countries it is common and culturally acceptable to be late for meetings. This does not indicate a lack of respect; it simply indicates a more flexible attitude toward time.
Wherever you are, remember that punctuality is part of your professional image. Use it to convey a positive first impression and be aware of what is culturally acceptable as ‘on time’ in other countries.