Structuring Interview Time

When I teach interviewing, many people want to know how to shorten their interviews. They think they spend too much time interviewing candidates. When I probe a little more, here’s what I find.

  • Many people spend 30 minutes or less in the interview.
  • They try to “sell” the organization in the interview.
  • They ask only superficial questions and don’t ask follow-up questions.
  • They want to know what questions the candidates have–even if they haven’t asked the candidate any questions yet.

I generally need 45 minutes to interview a candidate with any experience. I don’t sell the candidate; I let my questions do that for me. I ask candidates about their questions at the end of my 45 minutes.Here’s how I structure my interviews:

  1. First 30 seconds to one minute (I don’t time this): Greet the candidate, walk the candidate to our private area, ask innocuous questions until we arrive at the private area for the interview.
  2. Next 20 minutes: ask questions, in a conversational fashion, with the candidate. Focus on behavior-description questions.
  3. Check on how I’m proceeding with the interview. Do I need to speed up/slow down? If I need to slow down, I’ll ask if the candidate has questions. If I need to speed up, I’ll mentally review the last few minutes and see if I’ve allowed the candidate to ramble on or move to a tangent. If so, I think about how I’ll ask the candidate to tighten his/her responses.
  4. Next 20 minutes: Finish asking my behavior-description questions.
  5. Last 5 minutes. Ask if candidate has any questions. Start moving candidate to next interviewer.

If you ask behavior-description questions and build one off another, it’s easy to use 45 minutes and to feel as if you’re using the time well.So review how you’ve been interviewing and see if structuring your interview time might change what you do.

One Reply to “Structuring Interview Time”

  1. I do ‘sell’ and do it first. I sell a personalised version, where they will fit in, what they can expect etc. I do it based on what I know (from detailed research) are the key points that people in that area feel about what makes the department great to work for. I also present the frustrations that people find, partly to weed out those who won’t accept them (because stopping at this stage save lots of time/money compared to them leaving when they realise) and partly so as to appear as transparent. My take is that the interview is a two way process and therefore both sides should be given similar time.
    Let’s say that takes 15 minutes, probably me up on the whiteboard. Therefore my interview is going to last about 1 hour. I have been known to take twice this time. I only want to stop when I’m confident on my position, and feel I have the evidence to convince anyone of that position.
    Your points are pretty spot-on. Your observations are similar to what I see when I train. The only thing I might add a case study, especially an open-ended one with no ‘right’ answer to show the thought processes.
    Good post!

Leave a Reply