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How the 80/20 Rule Applies to Interviews.


Meredith Stack


Hiring managers often struggle to strike the right balance of talking and listening in an interview. When you are trying to break the ice, it is natural to want to do the talking. And once you are talking you may not realize how much you are talking! Aim for the candidate to do 80% of the talking, while you do 20%. 

It is tricky to figure out how to spend your time in an interview. We recommend that hiring managers start conversations with a brief description of their role and background while being careful not to provide unnecessary details. Candidates don’t need to hear about every position you held, what your major accomplishments are or details about the changes you’ve seen at the company. Keep it high level.

Most importantly, don’t tell the interviewee what kind of person you are hoping to hire. If you mention the traits and skills that are most important to success, the candidate will naturally take what you said and frame their answers in a way that makes them look perfect for the job. It is this type of faulty information that can lead to bad hires and the feeling that the person that came to work is an entirely different person than you hired!

Say you have one hour for the interview, this is how you should spend your time. You have 12 minutes to talk. We recommend spending half that time asking questions. Spending 4 minutes answering the candidate’s questions. And the final 2 can be spent talking about yourself. 

How to spend your time in an interview.

Bar chart showing 80% of your time should be spent listening

Sticking to the 80/20 rule will help you learn more about the candidate, and better assess the strength of fit. Share this information with your hiring managers when you are discussing how to spend time in the interviews.

Download our Comprehensive Interview Guide to learn more about how to conduct meaningful interviews and get to know the real person.

how to spend your time in an interview

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