how long should interviews last?

A reader writes:

I’m a relatively senior executive who’s back on the job market. Whenever I’ve been a hiring manager in the past, I’ve always made it a point to block out 60 minutes on my calendar for in-person interviews. They usually don’t take that long, but I want to give myself flexibility in case I really hit it off with the person and want to keep talking to them (or if we encounter any delays). But now that I’m interviewing for jobs myself, I’ve noticed companies are frequently allocating only 30 minutes, often with a hard stop at the end.

To be clear, I’m not talking about the old “this interview is a train wreck, so I’m going to use the excuse of another meeting to end it now” trick. Nor are these HR screens where they just need to check salary requirements and available start dates. I had a second-round interview recently that was scheduled for a half hour and ended with the interviewer getting pulled out of the room for his next meeting when I was in mid-sentence. The entire interview felt incredibly rushed, with 28 minutes of him firing questions at me and two minutes for me to ask questions of him.

This particular interview process was fairly disorganized from start to finish, so I may just be reacting to an overall bad candidate experience, but in general, I find the notion that you only give candidates 30 minutes — and no more — to make their case to be ill-advised from the company’s perspective, and borderline disrespectful to the candidate. Yeah, I know, everyone’s really busy, but shouldn’t hiring be one of the activities that’s worth allocating time for? And what sort of message are you sending to potential employees when you prioritize the Quarterly TPS Report Planning Meeting over their time?

Half an hour isn’t enough time for an in-person interview. It’s enough time for an initial phone screen, certainly, but not an in-person meeting with the hiring manager. Let’s say five minutes is taken up by getting-to-know-you pleasantries and 10 minutes is taken up by the candidate’s own questions at the end (and that’s not enough, but we’ll use it for the sake of example). That leaves 15 minutes for the interviewer to ask questions and listen to the answers. 15 minutes to decide on a possible hire. That’s ridiculous.

In-person interviews should usually be an absolute minimum of 45 minutes and ideally 60 minutes or more, to ensure that you can truly talk in-depth and that the candidate has time to ask their own questions. And that’s assuming that it’s one of multiple meetings in the process. If it’s the only interview you’ll be having with the hiring manager, it should be longer. (It still might wrap up earlier if it’s the wrong fit, but more time should be blocked out, since you can’t know that in advance.) There’s just no way any employer should be confident hiring someone without talking to them for longer than that.

What you’re seeing is people who don’t know how to hire and who don’t value the importance of the hiring process strongly enough.

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