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How long should an interview last?

Discover the full range of items to take into account when planning to interview a candidate

Interviewing candidates is often the most crucial part of any recruitment process. Our clients often ask the question, “How long should an interview last?”

Spending too little time in an interview can mean you don’t pick up on candidate skills. Too long and it you will experience a diminishing return on your time.

Commonly, face-to-face interviews tend to last no less than 30 minutes. Half an hour doesn't give either you or the candidate an accurate impression of each other. After all, you want to ensure that they are the best fit for the business.

Although it varies depending on industry, most interviews last between 45 minutes and one hour. This should provide sufficient time and flexibility from both sides to get to know one another.

But what works for one business may not work for you. The length of time spent in an interview is also highly dependent on how senior and/or specialist the role is, as well as the total time you and your staff have available.

So, to help you to decide on how long an interview should last, here are some items to consider:

Before the interview:

To make a good impression, candidates often arrive before their allotted time. Ensure either you or a member of staff has the time to greet them before the interview begins.

During the interview:

Making a firm decision on how an interview will be structured beforehand will help dictate the overall duration of the interview.

If an interview is a structured series of competency based questions then the overall time spent will be fairly consistent across multiple candidates. Rehearsing the interview process with another employee can help to gauge how long the interview will take.  

Less formal interviews often help to gain a better insight into a candidate and can help to build a greater rapport. If you're planning on a more relaxed interview style then extra time may need to be factored in depending how the conversation develops.

In certain industries, companies will often ask candidates for a demonstration of their skills alongside a traditional face-to-face interview. If there are any tasks, tests or formal presentations that need to be completed the time for these will also need to be factored in.

It is also important that a candidate has the opportunity to raise anything that they're unsure about. Remember to allow time for questions from the candidate at the end of the interview.

After the interview:

Once the discussions have taken place does the candidate need to be shown anything more, meet members of staff, or see your facilities?

The more you can plan your interview process, the better you will be at estimating how long the interview will take – which will give you a more effective recruitment process.

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