Getting an invitation for a job interview can be an exciting yet nerve-wracking experience when you’re hunting for the next step in your career.
Interviews are a chance to tell your potential future employer about what you’ve done and how you’ve achieved it, but it’s also an opportunity to show them how you interact and communicate.
Ahead of the interview, you might be planning to brush up on your skills.
Some of the questions you have might include how you should answer interview questions and – in this case – how long should interview answers be.
The way you answer job interview questions can be just as important as what you say.
With that in mind, how long should interview answers be?
What is the optimum amount of time to spend on each question?
Table of Contents
- The General Rule – 60-90 Seconds
- Open-Ended Questions – 2 Minutes
- Talking Too Little or Too Much – Getting the Balance Right
- It Depends on the Question
- How to Get the Timing Right
The General Rule – 60-90 Seconds
In general, you should limit each answer to 60-90 seconds.
A minute can feel like a long time to talk, especially when you’re under pressure.
Don’t feel that you need to aim for 60 seconds – use it as your limit.
The person interviewing can always ask follow-up questions if needed.
If you feel like you’ve covered the key points succinctly in your answer already, pause to allow the interviewer the space to ask any further questions on the subject.
Open-Ended Questions – 2 Minutes
Interviews may choose to ask you more open-ended questions, such as ‘tell us a bit more about yourself’.
These types of questions normally give you a little bit more time to speak, so you can go into further detail in addition to what they’ve already seen on your resume.
In this case, how long should interview answers be?
In summary, they should be long enough to sum up the answer in a level of detail you feel is sufficient – many experts recommend sticking to a 2-minute time limit.
Talking Too Little or Too Much – Getting the Balance Right
The key thing to remember with interview questions is that the balance is important.
When thinking about how long interview answers should be, talking too little and responding with 10-second answers could leave the interviewer feeling like you don’t have much to say or that you won’t be very communicative in the role.
On the other hand, speaking too much can become annoying, especially if you don’t allow pauses for the interviewer to interrupt and steer the conversation elsewhere as desired.
It Depends on the Question
There is no straightforward answer for how long your response to every question should be. It will generally depend on the question asked.
If the interviewer asks you to outline three of your strengths along with an example to go with each, it’s probably going to take a little longer to answer than a question asking about one time you solved a problem effectively.
Similarly, summing up all the responsibilities of your previous job is likely to take longer than an answer about why you want this next job.
Therefore, consider the question before you answer to determine how long you should really spend answering it.
How to Get the Timing Right
Practicing your interview responses at home or with a friend can help you to get the timing right when you go for the real thing.
While you can try to predict which questions you may be asked, it is difficult to know exactly what you’ll have to answer on the day.
Having some broad guidelines for what interviews will expect – or want – from you can help to give you more confidence as you go for the interview.
It can also help you to formulate and practice some answers in advance and work out how much information you can fit into a 1-minute or 2-minute answer.
During the interview, if you feel like you have covered all the main points but sense that the interviewer wants you to continue, you can always ask them directly.
Ask if they would like you to carry on or expand on anything you’ve said.
This shows initiative and allows them the chance to move on to another question.
They’ll listen to how you articulate your words and how succinct you can be while answering questions.
Getting a good balance on the time spent answering interview questions can help the whole experience to go smoother and give you a better chance at landing the job.