Is a Short Interview a Red Flag or Just Efficient?

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Are brief interviews bad? Absolutely not! Learn why in the article below.
Mar 14, 2024 13 min read

You are in the middle of an interview, and you think everything is going well. You’ve been able to answer all the questions that your interviewer had and even shared some details from your own life about your experience and skills. You seemed to build rapport with your interviewer, and even the joke you told went over well when everybody smiled. But suddenly everything comes to an abrupt end when the interviewer says, “Thank you so much, and will be in touch.”

It can be confusing when your interview is cut short, and it can even lead you to feel like you’ve done something wrong. But before you go into panic mode, there are many reasons an interview might be cut short.

In this article, we will address:

  • The average length of an interview.
  • Some reasons an interview might be cut short.
  • The difference between quality over quantity.
  • Signs that an interview went well or badly.
  • How to navigate a short interview effectively.

What’s the average length of an interview?

There truly is no set answer on what the average length of an interview is. Depending on the field that you’re in or the level of seniority that you have, interviews may range from 30 minutes to hours. Usually, initial interviews are conducted through phone or video call, and these can last anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour and a half. These first interviews are introductions to who you are, your skills and abilities, and what you can offer the company. They are mainly done to weed out candidates who are unfit for the position before they go deeper into the interview process.

Recently, video interviews have become really popular. Through popular applications like Skype, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom, many potential hiring managers have been able to remotely interview candidates for a position. A video interview is typically an intermediate length, between 30 minutes and 1.5 hours.

In-person interviews last between 45 and 1.5 hours, but it’s not unheard of to have an interview that’s only 30 minutes. It’s important to keep in mind that if an interview is roughly 30 minutes, it can mean that the interviewer found everything that they needed to move you into the next round of interviews.

In-person interviews can also go longer, especially if an interviewer asks an applicant to perform certain tasks to show that they are competent and able to perform the duties of the role. Also, some interviews might be group interviews, where you are interviewing with several other people.

What are some reasons an interview might be cut short?

Every single job interviewyou go to will be different in some way. Whether it’s the style of questions you're being asked to the length of the interview itself, the unpredictability makes interviewing difficult. Whether you feel the interview went well or could be improved upon, it’s always difficult when you feel you are left with more to say.

Below, you’ll find a list of reasons an interview might be cut short, as well as detailing some tips to help you discern why the interview came to an abrupt end.

The interviewer has all the information they need

One reason an interview may be cut short is that the recruiter has all the information they need to decide. This isn’t always a bad thing. Some people are more decisive, and able to make tough decisions in a short period. It also might be a sign that the interview went really well.

It may be a sign that you’ve made it to the next round of interviews. If you feel confident in the answers that you’ve given, and noticed that the interviewer was receptive to what you said, then that might be a good sign for you that you made it to another round of interviews. Remember, although you may rehearse for an interview, it’s unlikely that you will give all the answers that you had ready. Sometimes, if you knock the ball out of the park on the first interview, that is all you need to get to the next round.

Type of Interviewer

Different interviewers may have different objectives to accomplish when they interview you. For example, if you’re meeting with an HR representative, they're likely going to be asking you questions about your resume and seeing how your skills fit the role that they're hiring for. In that case, an HR manager might not have an intimate understanding of all the details of your role. They simply want to know a bit more about you.

Hiring managers may have more information about the specifics of the role, and may seek to dig down deeper and learn a bit more about you. You might be asked in future interviews a little more about your soft skills, like leadership skills. Even so, a hiring manager may cut the interview short if they feel that you’ve answered all the questions effectively.

You may also be interviewed by a recruiter, who acts as an intermediary between job applicants and hiring managers. Recruiters are often skilled at understanding the type of candidate that an employer is looking for. As a result, they can understand and discern whether somebody fits that role.

Different assessment methods

Each interview tries to accomplish a specific goal: to weed out those who don’t fit the role and to find the person who does. To do this, most interviewers will apply different interview methods to gain a better understanding of who you are and what you bring to the table.

Below, you can see some specific methods that interviewers might use, and discover how that may affect the total length of the interview.

  • Screening: An initial screening is usually a quick, concise style of interview where an HR representative or hiring manager sifts through all the suitable candidates from the unfit applicants.
  • Personality assessment: Sometimes, interviewers will ask pointed questions to learn more about your interpersonal skills, leadership abilities, and even whether you will make a good fit for the culture of the organization.These may be more than just simple interview questions, and you may be asked to fill out personality assessments.
  • Tests or evaluations: Some hiring managers may also ask you to complete a test or an evaluation to make sure that all of your skills meet their level of expectation.
  • Meeting the team: another method to make sure that you’ll be a good fit for the position is to bring in team members you might be working with. Effectively, your peers can judge whether you would be a good fit for the position and offer advice to their boss on whether they should hire you.

During an interview, an interviewer may use these methods to assess you. And if that’s the case, the interview will tend to be longer, as a result. However, if an interviewer spreads these out over individual interviews, then you may have several shorter interviews.

The difference between quality over quantity in an interview

Have you ever met somebody who just couldn’t stop talking? Maybe they were nervous and wanted to make a good impression, but as a result, they kept jabbering on.

The English poet George Herbert once said, “Good words are worth much, and cost little." This piece of wisdom is also important for an interview. There is something to be said by saying what you need to say and leaving it at that.

You don’t want to be the kind of person who ignores the cues that an interviewer is giving you and continues to prattle on way past the point.

If you want to make a lasting impact and you only have a short period, follow the steps below to achieve success in your next brief interview.

Prepare concise talking points

Before you interview, come up with some prepared talking points which offer precise details of why you believe you’re an excellent candidate for the position. If you’re stuck and you don’t know exactly what an interviewer might ask, check out this article about the 30 most common job interview questions.

Once you’ve got a list of questions compiled, draft answers for these questions. Make sure that all the key points that you make can convey why your skills, expertise, and experience make you the ideal fit for the position. Keep your talking points concise and to the point, so that you avoid babbling. Be sure to practice these talking points so that you can recall them from the top of your head at a moment's notice.

Use the STAR method

When answering behavioral or situational questions, structure your responses using the STAR method: Situation, Task, Action, Result. This method can help you create concise answers without veering off-topic, as you can explain the specific tasks that you completed and the result that came from it.

This method can greatly benefit how you answer questions during an interview because you’re able to show the difference you made using quantifiable, real-world data.

10 Good signs and 10 bad signs about a short interview

If you’re the type of person who feels like they’re in the hot seat when they’re being interviewed, then it’s a good idea to know the difference between the signs of a good interview versus signs of an unpleasant interview.

Below, you’ll find a list of signals that help you discern whether an interview is going well:

10 Signs that a short interview went well

  1. The interviewer had positive body language, and they were leaning towards you.
  2. They were also smiling and nodding as you responded to each of the questions that they asked.
  3. They kept eye contact with you throughout, never looking away or seeming bored.
  4. They even got friendlier as you continued on in your interview.
  5. They shared with you details about the company as if they wanted you to become part of the team.
  6. The interviewer shared candid details about the work that you will do in the role, giving you a detailed list of tasks.
  7. You felt a sincere connection with the interviewer.
  8. Conversation just seemed to flow and didn’t feel forced at all.
  9. The interviewer hinted at scheduling another visit, either as an interview or to tour the office.
  10. The interviewer responded warmly to your answers and seemed genuinely interested in what you had to say.

10 Signs that a short interview went badly

  1. Throughout the interview, the recruiter smiled less.
  2. The interviewer spent a lot of time looking at their notes, around the room, or even out the windows of the office, instead of focusing on you and what you were saying.
  3. The interviewer didn’t seem to focus on the answers that you gave.
  4. Instead of nodding in approval, your interviewer’s body language showcased that they were puzzled or frustrated (eyes starting to narrow and eyebrows furrowed).
  5. The interviewer had negative body language, where they were leaning back, seemed unfocused, and genuinely didn’t look like they were paying attention.
  6. Your eyes and the interviewer’s eyes never seem to really connect.
  7. They offered you a cool response to the question about what the next steps look like, “There are still a lot of candidates that I am interviewing, but will let you know.”
  8. The interviewer’s words were tinged with more coolness than warmth, and when they wished you “good luck” at the end of the interview it didn’t seem warm or friendly.
  9. A negative or neutral tone, which seemed to lack enthusiasm and warmth.
  10. Limited discussion about the actual role.

One thing to keep in mind when assessing whether an interview went badly is that even if you’ve had one or two of the examples above, it doesn't necessarily mean that the interview went poorly.

For example, if an interviewer is constantly checking their phone or their computer, it could mean that they have an important meeting coming up that they don’t want to miss. In addition, some people tend to talk in more of a monotone, neutral manner and it may be difficult for you to discern their feelings from the tone of voice that they have.

Tips to navigate a short interview effectively

Body language is key

If you have a short period to showcase your skills and abilities, make the most of it by mirroring good body language and conveying a positive attitude. Maintain a good body posture, try not to fidget, and keep your eyes peeled on the interviewer. Just focusing on your body language can go a long way to creating a good first impression.

Research the position before the interview

Before you step foot inside the office, you should have a pretty good understanding of what the position is and what the company does. Understand the specific requirements and responsibilities of the role you're applying for to tailor your responses accordingly.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to better research a company before an interview, check out this article on the Five Essential Notes to Take Before Your Next Interview.

Use active listening skills

The best thing that you can do during an interview is listen to what your interviewer is saying and make changes accordingly to better answer their questions. Try to tailor your answers to the questions that you’re being asked, as well as the things that you’ve heard that the company values and finds important.

For example, an interviewer may share with you they have a strong company culture that values inclusivity. They might ask you how you feel your leadership role fits within the company’s culture, and this is a perfect time for you to include any initiatives that you promoted to create diversity, inclusion, and equity among team members in previous roles.

Time management

Sometimes, going into an interview, you’ll know that it will be shorter. For example, if you know you are doing a phone or video interview, you can adjust your time accordingly and make sure that you answer your questions concisely and to the point.

In addition, sometimes an interviewer will tell you how much time they have. The hiring manager may be upfront with you and say it’s going to be a 30-minute phone call. If you know that you only have that amount of time, condense your answers so you can fit everything in.

Follow-up after the interview

Whether you believe that the interview was too “short”, it’s important to follow up with your interviewer afterward. Share with them how grateful you are for being able to interview for the position, and that they took time out of their day to focus on you and whether you’ll be a good fit for the role.

You can also ask an interviewer if they have any feedback for you in order to get better at interviewing. Feedback is important when interviewing, as you build up your interviewing muscle over time. Even if the potential hiring manager seems to criticize your interview technique, at least you’ve learned what you need to grow.

If you’re stuck in can’t make heads or tails of the last interview you had, speak with a career counselor from Enhancv. They can give you valuable tips and tricks to interview well, while also providing you with insights on how to best tailor your resume to ATS software to get a much-coveted interview.

Key takeaways

  • A short interview doesn’t necessarily automatically mean that it was a bad interview.
  • The length of your interview depends more on the type of person the interviewer is, the methods that they’re using to gain answers, and even the difference between in-person and over the phone.
  • There are some key signs that an interview went well, including being able to keep the attention of the interviewer.
  • Aim for quality over quantity and keep your talking points concise.

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Is a Short Interview a Red Flag or Just Efficient?
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Dave Van Kooten
Is a human resource expert that helps passionate jobseekers to put their best foot forward to prepare for an interview. He believes that success can be achieved through going out of your comfort zone.
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