At recent interview I attended, the interview initially went really well. The panel were all technical people, it was friendly, and challenging.

The CTO was prepared to offer me the job, but one of the panel had dissented, and so he called in a couple of extra guys (from HR, and a solution architect) to ask some additional questions.

At this point the interview went a bit south. The interview which had been scheduled for an hour, at this stage had already been going for 1.5 hours.

They asked me a series of confrontational questions, which I felt weren't going anywhere like 'What's your worst workplace mistake?' and 'What's the advantages and disadvantages of a small office vs a big office?'.

We were all aware that the interview had gone over time, and it felt like it was going around in circles.

I'm wondering if I had said, 'Hey can we wrap this up, I do need to get back to work', would have been a good idea.

From the CTOs point of view, he might have appreciated that actually, we weren't getting much value out of these questions.

Alternatively - I could ask something like 'I'm not sure what you're wanting to get out of these questions, is there something you're trying to ascertain?'.

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    You could say in a relaxed but fully alert way "I am sorry but I am expected to be back at work. Otherwise, I am pushing my luck and they'll start wondering" They'll most likely cooperate but if they have a question that they really wanted to ask you and didn't get a chance to ask, they might hold that against you. By the way, "What was your worst mistake" is not necessarily a confrontational question as you might think - I think of it as a stress question, and not a particularly tough one at that if you have prepared to kill it. I take that you haven't :) Next time, be a tough customer :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Apr 17 '14 at 0:45
  • Next time, be a tough customer, slaughter'em all and tell'em I am sending'em my love :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Apr 17 '14 at 0:51
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    What you call "confrontational" questions sounds more like general interview questions (the latter one seems a bit strange though) - you absolutely need to prepare for these types of questions (and generally be ready for any question). – Bernhard Barker Apr 17 '14 at 3:05
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    Hey geek, welcome back to The Workplace. The only way to know if it's a good idea or not is to try it and see how it works -- you have a better read on the situation than we do. Could you make an edit to your question to focus it a bit? For instance, "How can I professionally remind an interviewer that we are well over the scheduled time?" or something of that sort. Thanks in advance! – jmac Apr 17 '14 at 3:58
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    From the CTOs viewpoint if they weren't getting any value from the questions, he would have stopped asking them. Just because they weren't questions you liked didn't make them useless to the people asking them. – HLGEM Apr 17 '14 at 17:45

The ideal solution is of course to take the afternoon off, so you have no place to be.

Having the interview take place during your lunch hour (which I'm guessing you did) is of course preferred from an arrange-with-your-current-employer point of view, but you should expect this to happen occasionally - if possible, try to arrange that the interview will happen at the earliest point you can take lunch, so that you're less likely to get missed, since it's still during an acceptable lunch period, and probably work a bit later to make up for having it take a bit longer than expected.

I might even go as far as saying don't wear a watch and/or try to avoid looking at the time - you don't want to give yourself something else (time) to stress about.

In general, I'd try to avoid asking them to wrap up. If it's simply to get back to work, this rather shows where your priorities lie, doesn't it? If it's for something important (that's scheduled), you could be seen as not planning particularly well, unless we're talking about something like 3+ hours for a 1 hour interview.

On to actually asking to wrap up.

I'd generally avoid mentioning this beforehand, as most interviews probably won't run much longer than the scheduled time, and mentioning this might give the impression that you don't think very highly of them.

Pick a time that's the absolute latest you can leave (or 5-10 minutes before that), which I suggest should be at least half an hour after the scheduled end.

About 5-10 minutes (in addition to the optional 5-10 minutes mentioned above) before this time, say something like:

I see the interview's running a bit longer than scheduled. I can still comfortably stay for a few more minutes, but I'd appreciate it if we could start wrapping it up.

You could even mention the latest time you can leave (e.g. "... comfortably stay until 14:00, but ..."), although doing so may not come across that well, but is more likely to lead to the end of the interview by then.

The hope is that this will fairly promptly lead to the end of the interview.

If this is not the case, you may have to go for something more assertive (once the time comes):

I'm sorry. I can't really stay any longer. Can we try to wrap it up with the last few questions?

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    "The ideal solution is of course to take the afternoon off, so you have no place to be." <-- This. Unless it's a preliminary screen or you've been told in advance that there's a strict time window, don't assume that the interview will be over promptly. You're selling yourself to them; how would you regard a salesman who had to cut his pitch short to head back to his office? – Julia Hayward Apr 17 '14 at 8:04
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    If it's simply to get back to work, this rather shows where your priorities lie, doesn't it? Surely they would want to employ someone who prioritises their job? – starsplusplus Apr 17 '14 at 9:06
  • @starsplusplus You are at an interview for another job - I imagine they won't think your priorities lie with your current job. Some may think little / nothing of this request, others may see it negatively, and a rare few (I imagine) might see it positively. And I guess the key point is that the option isn't really between telling them that you actually have to get back to work, but you'll rather stay here, or that you have to go - the first choice is telling them nothing at all (and, if asked, not saying you have to go (as such), because being prompted before saying something isn't that good). – Bernhard Barker Apr 17 '14 at 11:08
  • Well, where are you suggesting they'll believe your priorities lie? I didn't really understand what you were getting at in the sentence I quoted. – starsplusplus Apr 17 '14 at 11:10
  • @starsplusplus Perhaps with your current employer / job, rather than with them - they may see you as not too serious about leaving your current job, or that either you went in without too much interest or lost interest during the interview. – Bernhard Barker Apr 17 '14 at 11:28

I think this is something you need to discuss first-hand. Interview length varies from time to time. Ask in advance how long the interview is going to take and make sure you have some extra time after. If you need to leave at a certain time it's best to say it in advance so that the interviewer prepares accordingly. Also, it will not appear rude if you remind him that you need to leave if the interview takes a bit more time.

If you have not mentionned it in advance you risk being seen as unprepared for not mentionning it or, worst, uninterested.

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