How long should your interview answers be?
How long is the best length for interview responses?
Interview answers should be between 30 seconds and 2 minutes for basic questions and 3 to 4 minutes for answering behavioral questions.
Simple factual questions should have the shortest answers. The answer to the question “Where did your Master’s?” is an example. It can take less than 30 seconds.
Answering more complex questions, such as “Why would you like to work here?” will require you to answer a longer question. You should not take more than 1 minute to answer a complex question like “Why do you want to work here?”
It can take up to four minutes to ask a question like “Give us an example of when we worked on a complex project.”
Stay under 4 minutes, even if you are answering a behavioral question. Interviewers may become bored if they have to listen for so long. You can only go for 4 minutes if you have a complex story to tell in a behavioral question answer. But, if you go beyond that, it becomes easier to follow.
While there are many opinions on this topic, I can tell clients that it is less likely to be criticized for how long or short your answer is.
Here are some examples of the length you should use for “Tell Me About Yourself.”
These are the real answers that my clients provided to this question. Are they the right length?
Sample answer #1 to the question “Tell me more about yourself.”
“I have more than five years experience in communication with French multinational companies, creating and implementing corporate communications plans. I was responsible for organizing conferences and events for these companies. This included the creation of the program, logistical aspects, the development of content, and working with partners, experts, teams, and third party vendors. I am interested in becoming a Communications Strategist at IMF to help develop my skills and do work that will benefit the community. “
Sample answer #2 to “Tell me more about yourself”
“I am an experienced business developer, project manager, and product manager who has managed all aspects of business development and product management functions such as identifying new business opportunities, closing business deals, and developing sales leads. I won US$30M from the Smart Vehicle Program from a car company through an electronics company. I was responsible for identifying the business opportunity and leading a cross-functional team in the creation of the product proposal. I also presented the business case to the higher management to secure the budget. Finally, I closed the contract with the [electronics firm] by negotiating the pricing and development schedules. Because I believe [company] is well-positioned for it, I am applying for the Senior Product Marketing Manager position. I want to share in your success. “
These are both long. They will only take one minute to speak if they are told in conversation with lots of pauses, correct intonation, and many breaks. You can give a longer answer but don’t bore the interviewer.
If you are wondering how to organize your answers, read this post. You’ll be able to create the perfect solution if you follow the correct structure.
Here are some examples of the length you should use to answer “Why do I want this job?”
“Why do this job interest you?” Sample answer #1 (for a position in communications at the WHO).
“Working at the World Health Organization would help me achieve my personal goals. Society needs to be redesigned to avoid extreme poverty and other health issues. I believe in humanity and its ability to be resilient and innovate. Communities like yours are essential to bring hope to people and engaging stakeholders. This is why I want to be a part of this amazing organization. I also love the process of implementing conferences. Every event is unique to me and everyone is exciting. To learn more about experts and collaborate with many people to create a program, I enjoy being in touch. My career goal is to combine communications and events planning with a mission-driven organization such as the WHO. “
She gives a great answer because she first talks about the company and the specific mission, then discusses the role and why it is the right fit for her. She is an excellent fit for the position because of her (1) company and (2) experience, as well as her evident enthusiasm.
It is also the perfect length.
“Why do this job appeal to you?” Sample answer #2 (for a position as a consultant in the mid-level pharmaceutical industry team at PwC).
“Well, PwC’s reputation is definitely a factor. It would be a proud thing to work for a company that has a history of being a leader in the industry. My proven track record of leading teams and my education as a pharmacologist make me a great fit for the job. The role excites and motivates me because it allows me to create customer solutions for the pharmaceutical sector. I am confident that I can start delivering results as soon as I start. “
Again, this answer talks about (1) the company, (2) the role, and (3) his experience/education. Although he does it faster than the previous person, he still covers everything.
It is shorter than the first answer but still the perfect length.
Example of the right length to ask, “Why should you hire me?”
“Why should you be hired?” Sample answer
“I am the best person for this job because I can be reactive and handle unexpected situations. When I was at [company]l, my CEO was in a random airplane crash just a few months before a major conference on energy and climate. We had to modify a portion of the program we had planned. I had to make all the presentations online and offline, inform all speakers about the changes and their impact on their speeches, and then send out new invitations. I had to do it within a short time frame. I prefer to remain positive and see the potential in the problem.