Have You Ever Been Late to Work

How to Answer Interview Question: Have You Ever Been Late to Work?

As the popular saying goes ”punctuality is the soul of business”.  Regardless of how smart, capable, or competent an employee is, habitual lateness can undermine a professional reputation. Punctuality displays respect for people and time. A chronic latecomer causes the natural flow of work to be disrupted, as other employees will have to adjust to cover up for the person absent. For instance, let’s take a mental picture of a pizza or coffee shop that has a staff strength of 40, serving an average of 400 people every morning. Each employee ought to handle 10 customers but if 6 out of the 40 comes late to work, then the remaining 34 will have a hard time handling the remaining 60 customers they were to handle.

Punctuality plays a big role in workplace productivity. Therefore it is of utmost importance that an employer recruits a candidate who understands the importance of punctuality to a business.  So it should not come as a surprise when an employee asks you this question “ Have you ever been late to work?. It might seem like a weird question, as you might think “who hasn’t been late to work before”.  The interviewer not only wants to determine your ability to be punctual but wants to know if you are proactive and can handle unexpected situations. The interviewer knows that no matter how planned a person is, life happens and you can’t control the outcome of events. The key to acing this question lies in the candidate’s ability to structure the answer. Below is a breakdown of ways a candidate can structure his or her reply.



The SCORE ( situation, complication, resolution) framework enables a candidate to prepare and present top-down compelling stories to an audience. When telling a story, summarize it into 3 key stages. Every stage must have value and directly add meaning to the previous stage.

Situation- What was the situation like?

Complication- What issues did you face?

Resolution- How did you resolve them?

The SCORE framework helps a candidate to answer behavioral, competency, or situational questions. This is a type of interview question that helps an interviewer access a candidate’s soft skills based on how the candidate handled a similar situation in the past. These questions are often easy to recognize. They always start with telltale openings like:

  • Have you ever
  • Tell me about a time when
  • What do you do when
  • How do u handle
  • Give me an example of

The SCORE framework helps you to explain the details in a compelling and easy-to-understand way. Knowing what the acronym stands for is one step, but understanding how to effectively apply it is another.

Follow these procedures to effectively communicate your answer using the SCORE framework

Rehearsal or practice

Although there is no way to be certain of the kind of questions an interviewer will ask, it is always advisable that a candidate reads up as many questions as possible before going for an interview. In the case of a behavioral question, there is no correct or incorrect answer. Every candidate has his own experience to share. What the interviewer is looking out for is how the candidate handled the situation. With that in mind, it is important to have a few stories that you can twist to fit into different scenarios. Brainstorm a few scenarios you have been late and use the SCORE framework to construct an answer.

Layout the situation

It might be tempting to include all the unnecessary details, especially when you are tensed. The interview might have hundreds of other candidates to interview and might not be eager to hear the story of your life. So keep it straightforward and simple. Your goal is to paint a clear picture of the situation you were in.

Highlight the complication

This is the stage to lay out the reasons why you were late and how it affected or complicated issues at work. A lot of candidates might be prompted to tell a lie at this stage. But you should bear in mind that the interviewer is keeping notes of your answer and will ask a follow-up question depending on what you say. Behavioral questions can tend to be candidate-led. An interviewer asks a question and depending on the candidate’s answer, follow-up questions are asked. A candidate that lies at this point might find it hard covering up his track when the follow-up questions start coming in. In as much as you are expected to be truthful, do not give answers that will undermine you too. This is why it is important to rehearse and construct a good example to give.


This is the time to explain how you resolved the situation. This is your chance to showcase strength during a weakness. Although you were late to work and that act alone caused a lot of chaos, your ability to take responsibility and seek solutions speaks volumes of your strength. This is actually what most interviews are looking out for, the measures a candidate took to resolve a challenge. Their strength in adversity. Dig in deep and make sure you give enough information about the steps you took. You can also share the result of the action you took. Talk about what you learned and how you took the necessary actions to improve.



Asides from the SCORE framework, there are other frameworks that can be used to answer behavioral questions like “ Have you ever been late to work “. A perfect example is the STAR ( situation, task, action, and result) framework. This is another popular framework that works perfectly well too. Using the  SCORE framework, an excellent answer has been given below:


Have you ever been late to work?

Situation: In my last role as a human resource officer of a fleet management company, one of my duties was to review new driver’s requests every last Friday of the month.

Complication: unfortunately for me, my child came back from a long-distance journey with chronic diarrhea and had to be rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night when the symptoms did not subside. I stayed with him all night and had to sort out some things before going to work the next morning. Although I informed my boss that I was going to be late, there was no way he could inform the numerous applicants that were to come for the interview the next day.

Resolution: I eventually made it to work around 10:30, which means I was 2 hours 30 minutes late. Candidates we’re already assisted since 8:00, waiting for their names to be announced. I apologized immensely for my actions and started the interview around 10:55. I had to stay an hour extra to round up the interview before heading to the hospital that day.

This example follows the SCORE framework explicitly and gives a breakdown of what, when, how, and why it happened. The candidate above was able to show the interviewer how she was able to successfully handle a personal and professional challenge at the same time. This shows her ability to balance her personal and work life without having a breakdown. She was able to turn a weakness into strength.


Interview Questions

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