How Long Do Job Interviews Last?
Recruitment processes can be daunting experiences. These days they are highly competitive, and depending on the industry, can involve multiple hurdles, such as psychometric testing, group exercises and presentations before candidates even reach the interview stage.
By the time you have the coveted opportunity to impress at interview, you’ve already invested a large chunk of your time in securing the role, and the stakes feel high.
The best way to increase your chances of success at interview is to be fully prepared for the experience. That way, you will know what’s expected so you can focus on checking all the recruiter’s boxes.
Logistics are important and – after the who, what and where of the interview have been ascertained – another question tends to arise: How long will my interview last?
Knowing the expected duration of your interview will help you to be fully prepared for the encounter. Although there’s not likely to be an exact time limit, having an idea of what to expect can ease your nerves around the process, and signal the level of rigorousness involved.
Interviews vary in length according to the sector and your career level. Whilst some consist of a standard question-and-answer format discussion, others include short exercises, case studies or presentations.
The culture of different companies will also have a bearing on the requirements of the recruitment process and therefore the interview run time.
What Influences the Length of a Job Interview?
Different factors can influence how long an interview will run. For example, individual interviews will be shorter in duration than group interviews, and in-interview tasks or tests will significantly lengthen the meeting.
The possible variables and their impact are explored below:
Different industries and sectors have different skill and competency requirements, which can affect interview run times.
For example, interviews for administrative roles tend to fit into the standard 30–40-minute bracket.
Conversely, interviews for investment banking positions (whether for graduates or experienced hires) often comprise an entire day of scheduled interviews with associates, partners and HR representatives.
Public sector interviews often involve a panel of interviewers, rather than the single interviewer most commonly encountered for an equivalent role in the private sector. This means they are longer in duration, as each panel member will have assigned competency-based questions so applicants can be fully assessed against the job criteria.
When preparing for your interview, consider the industry to which you are applying and adjust your expectations accordingly.
Whether the interview is a group or individual undertaking will greatly impact the time allocated for it.
Group interviews are longer affairs, and often involve group tasks or individual tasks performed to the rest of the group.
Interviews with multiple candidates need to allow for all participants to convey their talent and motivation. In an individual interview, you are the sole focus, so less time is needed to facilitate and manage the conversation.
Panel Interviews vs 1:1 Interviews
The format of the interview will have a bearing on its duration. Panel interviews are lengthier affairs, due to the increased number of voices and the organization needed.
Also, group conversations simply tend to take longer to flow (whether the group is on the interviewer or interviewee side of the fence).
Extra time is built in to ensure all panelists have air time, and there is scope for any follow-up questions or comments.
Interviewers on a panel will all take notes as you speak, so they can compare thoughts and impressions once the interviews have concluded. This can slow down the process.
Interviews with pre-assigned in-interview tasks will be longer in duration than a conversational interview.
For example, if you receive an interview invite with details of a presentation you will need to deliver as part of the interview, you can assume that your interview will fall into the 60–90-minute bracket, exceeding the standard 30–40-minute duration.
This is because the time it takes to set up for a presentation, to deliver the content (on average the required length tends to be 10–15 minutes) and to run a question-and-answer session after, needs to be built into the interview run time.
If the interview features any in-interview tests, these will increase the duration of the encounter.
Tests that may be featured during the interview include:
- Error checking tests (numerical or verbal)
- Technical skills assessments (for example, coding tests)
- Verification tests (to confirm results of psychometric tests completed at home earlier in the hiring process)
You will be given a fair and proportionate amount of time to complete these tests. Your pace will not need to be quicker simply because these assessments are administered at interview.
The interview stage also influences the duration of the interview. A first stage or initial video interview tends to be shorter in duration, focusing upon the information provided in your application form.
A later stage interview, whether part of an assessment center or a stand-alone event, will be more comprehensive.
At this stage, the level of talent is much higher, and recruiters are closer to making their final decision. Accordingly, these interviews tend to be intense, rigorous affairs, requiring solid preparation as well as the ability to think on your feet.
The medium through which the interview is held will also impact its length. Interviews can be held face-to-face at company offices, online via a video call (through platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams) or on the telephone.
Depending on the circumstances, candidates may find themselves participating in all their interviews remotely via telephone or video call.
Video interviews tend to be shorter and to the point, as there is less opportunity for natural interaction. There is also an awareness of avoiding technology fatigue across members of the recruitment team, who may be required to conduct many video interviews throughout the day.
Interview Length Industry Examples
Whilst there isn’t an average number of minutes an interview in each industry or sector lasts, there are some broad trends that are worth being aware of.
Long Interview Process
Roles in finance and banking tend to have long, strenuous interview processes involving multiple interviews spread across a whole day. This sector is known to assess candidate stamina and determination through a stringent selection process, and the interview stage is no exception.
Recruitment assessments for air cabin crew and pilot positions also tend to take an entire day. The interview is conducted alongside health checks, first aid trials and simulator exercises.
Design and architecture firms have lengthy interview processes, as these interviews often involve portfolio reviews, design exercises and presentations.
Also, if the role you’re applying for is graduate level, it will almost certainly have a full assessment and interview day as the final hurdle in the recruitment process.
Mid-Length Interview Process
Interviews for practical jobs, such as teaching, tend to be slightly longer than average. This is because applicants will often be asked to demonstrate their skills.
For example, a prospective teacher will be asked to deliver a lesson so their teaching style, quality and rapport with the students can be appropriately assessed.
This lesson will be followed by an interview, which will ask reflection questions on the task before moving on to cover more behavioral or competency-based questions.
An interview of this type usually takes around half a day, so you would need to block out either a whole morning or afternoon to attend.
Interviews for roles in technology companies also fall into the mid-length bracket. These interviews commonly include a form of short technical assessment, such as a coding skills test or evidence-stated key competencies.
Short Interview Process
Office jobs in areas such as administration, business operations or HR tend to have standard-length interviews. This is because these roles most often recruit using an individual, one-on-one interview structure, and tend to omit any pre-assigned interview tasks or tests from the process.
As an example, a mid-level administrative post will tend to have an interview of 30–40 minutes. It is unusual for an interview in this sector to exceed an hour.
Hospitality interviews also follow this simplified structure. An interview for this sector resembles a traditional conversational interview, rather than the lengthy assessment-day structure favored by other industries.
The construction sector also has standard-length interviews, focusing upon exploring a prospective employee’s skills and competencies, and getting a sense of who they are and how they work. These interviews rarely exceed the 45-minute mark.
Entry-level interviews for hospitality and construction tend to be shorter than those for senior positions, unlike their equivalent graduate-scheme counterparts.
How to Prepare for an Interview of Unknown Length
If you’re unsure of how long your interview will run, don’t panic. You will still be able to comprehensively prepare, so you’re ready to tackle any unexpected questions or tasks.
Here are some tips on how to prepare if you are unsure about the duration of your upcoming interview:
- Call the HR team – If you don’t want to ask directly, pose a question that will give you an idea – such as inquiring whether you need to bring lunch, or whether a specific window of free time between X and Y o’clock will be enough for the interview.
- Inquire how the interview will be structured – Finding out whether it will be a panel or one-on-one, or group or individual format can give you an idea of the length of time required.
- Ask about the duration of tasks – If it is an interview featuring technical tasks, these will most likely be timed. Inquiring about the length of these will give you an idea of the overall interview duration.
- Consider previous experience – If you have had other roles in the industry, consider your previous interview experiences. Although structure can vary from company to company, the requirement for interview tasks and testing tends to be influenced by the industry.
- Is it an interview at a graduate fair? – If the interview is to be held on your university campus as part of a graduate fair, it is likely to be fairly quick. Recruiters at these events have many candidates to interview, and only a small window to do so.
- Take water and snacks – Just in case the interview is a lengthy process, take along a bottle of water and a snack to keep your blood sugar and energy up. You’ll need to be on top form to impress the recruitment team.
- Prepare a set of insightful questions to ask – A range is best, with some relating to the practicalities of the job or work environment, and others to the landscape or developments of the company, sector or industry. Perceptive questions convey curiosity and enthusiasm for the role. Preparing questions is also a useful exercise in itself, as it encourages you to think about potential topics of conversation and your considerations around them – invaluable if your interview turns out to be a lengthy experience.
- Check the length of your interview as early as you can – This will give you more time to conduct informed preparation. It also comes across as taking initiative, displays organizational skills and conveys a commitment to being fully prepared. On the flip side, inquiring at the last minute looks unprofessional and suggests that you are not invested in the hiring process.
Whilst it is useful to know the length of your upcoming interview, focusing upon the content of the meeting and how to shine through the process will have a greater influence on your success.
If little information is provided about interview length, do your research on the company, and see if you can uncover details about its interview process. Always use your initiative before contacting the recruitment team directly.
Note that occasionally it may be the company’s policy that such information is not shared. Regardless, you will still be able to prepare so you are confident on the day.
If you’ve made it to the interview stage, you’ll want to give the opportunity your best shot. So, if in doubt about the duration of the interview, prepare for a long day – just in case!