I sometimes get visitors to this blog looking to find out whether a short job interview is a bad sign or good sign … or any sign at all. So let me try to answer that question as best I can: there is no absolute way to know for sure what it really means. But there are some clues that may help…
Short interviews with good signs
While short interviews aren’t the best of signs, from personal experience I know that sometimes, especially in the first round of interviews, we had to schedule it tightly to accommodate schedules. So we might give even the best candidates a short interview.
You can tell a lot in about 30 minutes, even if you need more than that to make a final decision. So short interviews aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Then again … sometimes a short interview is simply because we know right away, for any number of reasons, that it’s a bad match.
Here are some clues that help you know if a short interview might still turn out well in the end:
- What was their body language? Were they leaning in toward you?
- Were they smiling warmly and nodding as you answered? Was there good eye contact during the discussions?
- Did they seem to get friendlier as the interview went on?
- Did they spend time telling you things about the company, as if they wanted you to want them?
- Did the interviewer look at you more often than at his or her notes or watch or the interview room door?
- Did the interviewer start to tell you about what it’s like to work there, as opposed to what the job is?
- Did you feel a sincere connection with the interviewer?
- Did the interviewer seem to respond warmly to your answers?
- Did the conversation flow well and feel relaxed?
- Was your availability to start the job discussed?
- Did the interviewer say anything about scheduling a next visit?
Short interviews with bad signs
Regardless of the reason an interview is short – fit, scheduling, etc. – there are still sometimes clues to help you figure out if it didn’t go well:
- Did the interviewer smile less as the interview went on?
- Did the interviewer look at his notes or watch or the interview room door a lot?
- Did you get a feeling the interviewer was thinking about something else, especially as the interview went on? (You can almost feel them removing themselves mentally when it isn’t going well.)
- Did the interviewer’s eyes start to narrow (and maybe eyebrows too) as you answered, rather than being open and nodding approval?
- Was the interviewer’s body language one of leaning back watchfully or holding himself somewhat rigidly, with eyes not connecting too often?
- If you asked about next steps at the end, did he coolly say something like “We still have a lot of candidates. We’ll let you know.” rather than anything encouraging with a warm smile and good eye contact? (This is where your gut offers some clues when it comes to tone or any implied encouragement.)
- Did the interviewer stop looking at you or look without any real warmth in his smile as soon as he said it was over and you began leaving?
- Did the interviewer not mention next steps at all (or even say something encouraging about the process) if you didn’t bring it up?
- Did the interviewer end with a cool “good luck!” with none of the good signs to back it up?
A few more thoughts
Please don’t take any potentially good sign or bad sign as the ultimate answer to how you did in your interview. Interviewers come with a variety of backgrounds and personalities. The coolest interviewer could actually have thought you were great. And vice versa. Some people are nice to everyone, but that doesn’t mean they like everyone.
While you can use these signs to help you get a general idea of how a short (or long) interview went, the truth is you can’t really know how you did until you hear from them.
So PLEASE, in the meantime keep looking no matter how much you want any one particular job. And try to keep yourself busy with things that will help keep you sane during an admittedly tough process. Oh … and don’t forget your thank you note!
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