Interviews are often the most crucial part of any recruitment process. Employers often ask the question, “How long should an interview last?” while professionals want to know “How long do interviews last?”
Spending too little time in an interview can mean you don’t pick up on a candidate’s skills - too long and you will experience a diminishing return on your time. The average job interview process in the UK consists of two interview stages, while senior roles usually have a minimum of three stages and will always include at least one face-to-face interview.
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 you and your staff’s availability.
So, to help you to decide on how long an interview should last, here are some points to consider:
How long do job interviews last?
There are six main job interview styles, and they can all vary in time taken to conduct. Each style has its own benefits and drawbacks, while the type of interview you choose should be relative to the position. The types of interviews are:
The most common form of interview, the one-to-one allows for easy conversation. This style of interview is best for helping the candidate relax and is easier to plan and organise. However, it can be better to have more than one interviewer present to provide another perspective.
In-person interviews typically last between 45 and 90 minutes, depending on the interviewer and if the applicant needs to perform tasks or give a presentation. In some cases, you may ask interviewees to undertake tasks to prove their ability and capability for the role.
Video interviews are a great option when face-to-face interviews are not possible and when you’re recruiting for positions that can be done remotely. There has been a 57% increase in the use of video interviews from 2019 – 2022, mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, technology can fail or operate poorly, which will not be a good interviewing experience for both parties.
You can expect a video interview to last anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the seniority of the role and stage of the recruitment process.
Competency-based interviews are also known as structured, behavioural, or situational interviews. This is where you ask situational-style questions to gauge how the candidate uses their skills to solve problems. You can see how the candidate would deal with real-life work scenarios, removing some of the guesswork of whether they are the right person for the role.
However, candidates often prepare extensively for these types of interviews so you may not get as much insight into their strategic thinking – and be left with pre-prepared, sometimes generic, answers. These interviews tend to last between 45 and 90 minutes.
Group interviews are often a good exercise if you are hiring for multiple roles – or if teamwork is an essential and important part of the job. You can quickly see how candidates work with others, but you must ensure that everyone in the group has an opportunity to be heard. With this in mind, how long do group interviews last?
These interviews usually last around an hour, but this all depends on the size of the group taking part in the interview.
Telephone interviews are often the first stage of the interview process and a good way to filter applicants into a shortlist. They require little organisation and can be done quickly and efficiently. However, you should not use these in place of a face-to-face interview as they often don’t provide a complete snapshot of the candidate.
Typically, a recruiter calls to confirm the details on the jobseeker’s application, including available start dates for an in-person interview, and, in some cases, about salary requirements. These interviews can expect to last around 15 minutes, but can go up to 45 minutes if additional questions are asked about work styles, and specifics on a CV.
Panel interviews comprise more than one interviewer and are therefore beneficial for getting a variety of perspectives on the candidate. However, they can be intimidating to the prospective employee.
Panel interviews usually last as long as traditional one-to-one interviews but for roles that require specific expertise or skills, they may take longer – up to two hours in some cases.
Before the interview
Preparation is key for any job interview, for both recruiter and candidate.
To make a good impression, professionals often arrive or are ready for the interview before their allotted time. Ensure either you or a member of staff has the time to greet them before the interview begins.
Research your interviewee
It's important to identify and be aware of exactly who you’re interviewing by taking the time to go over their application before the interview. This will help you to formulate some opening questions to really get to know their background before the official line of questions gets under way.
It often helps to try and find common ground with your interviewee to ease any nerves they may have. For example, you could start by introducing yourself, alongside a brief introduction to your role, the company and what the atmosphere is like among the team.
Prepare a set of opening questions
At the start of the interview, most interviewers take time to get to know the interviewee – lifting their application from the paper to the person in front of them. Use this time to try to ascertain the applicant’s motives, ambitions, and desire for the role. Consider questions such as:
Tell me about yourself.
Tell me something about yourself that isn't on your CV.
What part of your CV are you most proud of?
Give your preparation and questions a final glance before the interview begins, to keep them fresh in your mind. You’ll want to convey a sense of professionalism to the interviewee in-person or online, to help put everyone at ease.
Also make sure you have copies of the applicant’s CV and the question list handy, as well as any other supporting information, like task documents or the company mission statement to refer to throughout the interview.
It’s a fact that first impressions count, so as soon as the interviewee arrives, ensure you come across as personable and professional. Attention to detail can go a long way to helping the interviewee be themselves.
When determining how long the interview may take, consider adding 15 minutes to the total time for candidates arriving early.
During the interview
A pre-planned decision about the interview structure will help dictate its duration.
If an interview is a structured series of competency-based questions, 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, extra time may need to be factored in depending how the conversation develops.
Give the utmost respect to the interviewee – it’s your role to make sure the reputation of the organisation is upheld when dealing with potential new employees. This may be their first experience of the company, and you want to make sure it’s a good one and leaves a lasting positive impression on them.
Non-verbal behaviour is the best way to set the tone of the interview and make sure you act as professional as possible. Consider:
Keeping eye contact with the interviewee during the interview.
Make sure to always sit upright and be open with your body posture, creating a calming influence.
Look interested in all the answers the interviewer is saying, but don’t be afraid to make notes.
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, time for these will also need to be factored in.
It's also important that a candidate has the opportunity to raise anything they're unsure about. Remember to allow time for questions at the end of the interview. Questions surrounding the role are common, as the interviewee will be looking to gather more information that wasn’t put on the job description.
This can include:
What’s the biggest opportunity/challenge I’d face in this role?
Can you tell me what a typical day looks like?
Can you describe the supervisor’s leadership style?
Based on the current team, what skills or traits are most important in order to excel in this role?
Who would I be interacting with regularly?
Also, don’t assume the interviewee knows all there is to know about the company. Interviewees will want to know about the company culture to see if they are a good fit and it ticks their boxes in terms of a positive work environment where they can grow, develop, and enjoy themselves.
You may face questions like:
What will the onboarding and training process look like?
What sort of development and/or learning opportunities does the company offer?
Where does your company see itself five years from now?
What are some of the department’s long-term goals?
Tell me about the biggest challenges facing the company/department.
It’s common for questions and answers to add 10 or 15 minutes to the schedule. Some employers allow for additional time for introducing candidates to colleagues and other staff members. In situations like these, some interviews can take up to two hours.
After the interview
After the interview discussion, 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. Conducting a job interview doesn’t stop when the interview ends. Following up with the candidate is a vital step of the process.
Outline the next steps
During the final moments of the interview, give an update, if possible, about what will happen next. You should tell the interviewee when they can expect to hear back with a decision, and that you will let them know if there are any delays in the process. Outline when, how and with whom the follow-up will take place, giving interviewees the peace of mind as to the next steps in the decision-making process.
If your business does not deal with sensitive information or financial matters, you may be unaware of the benefits background screening can bring, and the risks it can mitigate. For example, many employers don’t check references, but reviewing a candidate’s work history is vital to verify that the information supplied is factual - hiring the wrong person can be extremely costly and time-consuming.
Some candidates may alter or make up details on their CV, from including duties that were someone else’s to creating imaginary roles at big-name companies to impress potential employers. A common CV lie is the extension of job start and end dates to give the impression of being more experienced at a task.
YouGov found that 35% of those who admitted to lying on their CV did so by extending their employment dates. This highlights the need for correct referencing – especially if length of experience is a requirement to the vacancy.
It’s essential that organisations protect themselves with a high-quality pre-employment screening process.
Director, Reed Screening
With an already candidate-driven market, employers are encouraged to act fast to secure the talent they want. Not following up could damage your reputation and lose that prospect. It’s vital that your interview process is effective, that it keeps applicants engaged, and ultimately helps you to secure the talent you want at your organisation.