Debunking Common Interview Benchmarks

“Did I give the candidate the opportunity to shine?”
“Did I ask enough questions to provide a fair assessment?”
“Did I give the candidate enough time to ask questions?”

These are a few of the things interviewers should consider after every interview they conduct. But guess what? Most don’t.

So, in this month’s blog, I’ve decided to tackle common interview benchmarks. 

There’s plenty of guidance out there about how long you should talk during interviews, how many questions you should ask candidates, and more, but most seem to be guesses and opinions. There’s nothing out there that’s based on looking at thousands of interviews and understanding how best to run them.

I've delved into our interview archives to give you a data-driven approach to these benchmarks and what we’ve seen as key contributors to a successful interview.

Length of Interview

Let’s tackle this one first. Outside of a recruiter screen, the fact that hiring managers and interview teams believe they can get a good sense for a person’s skills for a role in 30 minutes drives me absolutely crazy. They can’t. Please don’t let them do 30 minute interviews!

The duration of an interview can vary depending on several factors, including the level of the position, the complexity of the role, the number of interviewers involved, etc., but as a general guideline, we recommend:

  • Screening interviews > 20-30 minutes. These are typically shorter as the purpose is to quickly assess the candidate’s skills and interest in the role. 
  • Standard interviews > 45-60 minutes. These are interviews that dive deeper into the candidate’s background, skills, and fit for the role. Indeed recommends 45 minutes, and somewhere between 45 and 60 minutes is the ideal length to really dive into a person's fit for the role. Any shorter, and it’s impossible to make a well informed decision (by the way, candidates are less satisfied with shorter interviews too). 
  • Task-based interviews > 45-60 minutes. Typically these will be more towards 60 minutes than 45, but it depends on the time it takes for the task. Allowing enough time to complete the task (sales pitch, coding assessment, etc) and then having a good discussion around it takes time. 

Talk Time 

This is the ratio the interviewer talks vs. the candidate. There are varying opinions on the web about this benchmark. LinkedIn says the candidate should speak for 60% of the time while UC Davis says the candidate should carry 80-85% of the total conversation. In a standard interview, our data shows that the candidate should talk 75% of the time. This provides enough time for a thorough assessment of the candidate’s abilities, skills, and overall suitability for the role. 

In general, interviewers talk too much. Across all the interviews in Pillar, we see candidates talking 62% of the time. 

Note: Recruiter screens are more like 50-50 because they are pitching the opportunity and are answering a lot of initial questions about the role.

Number of Skills Covered   

How many skills should you cover in an interview? This of course varies depending on the length of the interview, but for a 1-hour interview, LinkedIn recommends covering 3-4. In reality when we look at the data, we see that it’s actually possible to cover 5-7 key skills or competencies in sufficient depth in a 60 minute interview.

It’s important to find a balance between prioritizing a sufficient number of skills and allowing enough time to dive deep enough into them. Initial questions with 2-3 follow up questions allows for 5-7 skills to be covered and leaves enough time to open the interview,  for the candidate to ask questions, and to close the interview. It’s worth noting that every candidate should be assessed on the same set of skills for the same role (sounds obvious but you’d be surprised by what we see!).

Time for Small Talk

While small talk is necessary to build rapport and establish a comfortable atmosphere, it’s essential to strike a balance and ensure that it doesn’t overshadow the main purpose of the interview. This is the area where a lot of biases creep in. You should spend no longer than 5 minutes on intros and small talk as best practice. Small talk should be used to build a connection with the candidate and put them at ease…then smoothly transition into the main purpose of the interview. 

Time For Candidate Questions

Oftentimes, interviewers forget to leave enough time at the end of the interview for candidates to ask their questions. Remember - interviewing is a two-way street, and you want to ensure the candidate has a chance to find out about the company and the role they may end up working in! Around 10 minutes is best practice at the end of an interview for candidate questions. And if a candidate doesn’t have any questions - red flag!


As we always say at Pillar - great teams start with great interviews. Getting a view of these benchmarks within your interview teams will give you a sense of how well your interviews are being run. Good interviews are crucial for making better decisions, minimizing bias, and creating a fair and equitable interview process for all candidates.

What’s your take on these common interview benchmarks? Any we missed or that you’re seeing differently within your interview process? Shoot me a DM here and let me know.

Until next month,

Mark Simpson
CEO & Founder 

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