How Long Should an Interview Last?

Before you interview a candidate, you must prepare. Mapping out an interview beforehand structures the meeting to avoid wasting everyone’s time. Exactly how long should an interview last?

How long should an interview last?

Everyone has an opinion when it comes to answering, How long are interviews? There isn’t one set length of time the meeting should last. Your average job interview length will depend on the industry, position, candidate, and interviewer(s).

How long do interviews last when they are in person?

As a general rule of thumb, a face-to-face interview should last around 45 minutes to one hour. A 30-minute discussion is also a decent amount of time, but one U.S. News article found that going under 30 minutes could be a bad sign that the candidate is unfit for the position.

An interview should last long enough to let you get to know the candidate. But, it shouldn’t be too long because you end up getting off topic.

How long should a phone interview last?

Phone interviews and pre-screening questions can afford to be shorter than in-person interviews. These are typically the initial meetings where you get to know the candidate, but don’t go into too much depth. A phone interview might be around 30 minutes or less.

Take these steps to gauge the job interview length

There’s no way of knowing exactly how long an interview with a candidate will last. Each person is different, so the length of their responses will vary. But if you want to keep your interview around the 45 minute to one hour mark, you’ll need to be prepared. You can determine how long you want the interview to last by doing the following:

1. Have a plan

An interview without a plan is like a road trip without a map. You won’t know how to get where you’re going if you don’t prepare. An unorganized interview can eat into your time, your client’s time, and the candidate’s time.

Set up an interview structure. Make time for introductions, which can take longer depending on how many people are conducting the interview. And, you will want to learn more details about the candidate.

You should reiterate the job requirements and responsibilities. You shouldn’t be doing all the talking, but you need to ask questions and interject to keep the interview on track.

Make sure you set aside some time for the candidate to ask questions about the position, company, and culture. If your client wants you to give the candidate a tour of the company and introduce them to other employees, factor in enough time.

At the end of the interview, go over the next steps in the process, such as when the candidate will hear from you or whether they need to do a job-fit assessment.

2. Prepare interview questions

Without writing down interview questions ahead of time, you might blank and ask general questions that don’t reveal much about the candidate. And, it’s critical that you ask candidates the same questions so you can compare their answers.

Before going into an interview, sit down and think about what you want to ask them. Then, estimate how long each question and response will take. Don’t keep firing questions at the candidate. Leave room for other discussions and miscellaneous things that could come up.

Questions should ask candidates about their skills so you can judge how successful they would be in the open position. You should also determine whether they would be a good cultural fit at your client’s company by asking questions about the candidate’s character.

Here are a few examples of behavioral interview questions you might ask:

  • Tell me about a time you set a goal but didn’t reach it. What did you do?
  • Describe a time when you had to communicate with a person you didn’t like.
  • Tell me about a time you were stressed out at work. What did you do?
  • Was there ever a time when you found it difficult to be honest? Tell me about it.

If there is a lull in the interview, ask more in-depth questions. Encourage the candidate to put thought into their answers. You and the candidate shouldn’t breeze through questions, or you’ll end up with a short, unproductive interview.

3. Keep the discussion on track

Getting caught up in conversation is natural. One topic can bring up a million more ideas. But during an interview with a limited time frame, you need to come up with ways to keep the conversation on track.

You shouldn’t limit the natural flow of dialogue, but you also shouldn’t go into detail about the candidate’s personal life. Circle back by asking a new question or referencing the requirements needed for the position if the conversation is off track.