The Dreaded Long-Winded Interviewee was originally published on Hospital Recruiting.
**Editor’s Note: At the time of this posting, March 16th 2021, it is Healthcare Human Resources Week. For more resources on asking helpful questions in the interview process, check out our comprehensive list here:
You usually know by the start of the first question. Sometimes you know by the excited look on their faces when they walk in the lobby, feverishly looking around at their new surroundings, taking in the scenery. You can always tell by the look on your receptionist’s or security guard’s face when they say, “This is your 11:30 appointment,” practically running away from you as you turn towards your next appointment. The dreaded long-winded interviewee has arrived.
All interviewers have been there. You have managers of some level filling up your inbox because they need their position filled last week. They want options, which means multiple candidates in your already crammed schedule. They have a deadline; you have a deadline, and then suddenly you’re behind schedule because of one candidate!? What should you do? How do you speed up a long-winded interviewee?
Seems simple enough – right? A good practice I have found in the interview process (especially in a long-winded interview) is to set the expectation up front. “Hello, Mr. Howard, and thank you for coming out today. I just want to let you know that I have a 12:30 right after this, and I need to get through about ten questions, so I’ll just jump right in and get started. Is that ok?” By doing this, you also have eliminated two upfront questions a candidate might have.
Now, don’t lie to the candidate. You don’t have to say you have another candidate coming in right after them if you don’t. In fact, by saying there is another candidate right after them vying for the same position will most likely stress this current candidate out and potentially make him even more long winded in his answers! You can just gently let them know you have an appointment or meeting at 12:30, no need for the details.
Combine similar category interview questions
We know interviews are broken down into different question segments such as behavioral questions, situational questions, and case studies or real world/business questions to name a few. If you are wrapping up question three and are no longer on pace to finish the interview, you will need to look at the questions and see where you might have some wiggle room.
For example, two of your upcoming questions are behavioral in the sense of “Tell me about a time you were in a workplace confrontation or disagreement over something – how do you react?” and another question is “Please describe your worst professional mistake – what happened?” Both questions are looking to gauge not so much the confrontation or the problem the employee made (but it isn’t a bad think to hear about them either) but how he/she overcame it.
Once you know your interviewee is taking longer than the allotted minutes per question, something will have to give. If given approval ahead of time (or if you are the one who would approve), you can look at all the questions in the one subject and combine them into one question. The two questions in the above paragraph, for example, could now be condensed into a single question: “Please give me an example of a negative situation you had in a professional work environment. How did you react? How did you handle it?” This question essentially encompasses both of the above questions to save time, while simultaneously not hurting the structure of the interview since the two questions combined were from the same category grouping.
Be Persistent, Be Honest, But Don’t Be Rude
In addition to the methods listed above, don’t forget that you can remind the interviewee about your time constraints, or you can even let him/her know that the answers need to be a bit more concise. A gentle nudge can do wonders for a talkative candidate’s awareness of time. A phrase such as, “I don’t want to cut your answer short, but I want to make sure we have time to finish answering my questions so that your additional questions at end of the interview can be answered.” Another approach might be to say, “I’m sorry, but we have 5 more questions so get through and only 10 minutes remaining, so these next questions are going to have to be quick and straight to the point.” There is nothing wrong with this request, as you are trying your best to get the interviewee the best chance at finishing the interview!
Hopefully, these tips can help you the next time you have the dreaded long-winded interviewee. Remember to set expectations, be persistent and honest without being rude, and in a pinch, combine similar interview questions to make up for lost time. Now on to the next meeting!