I recently interviewed (twice) for an internship position at a tech startup company. After the first interview, which was by Skype, they responded within two hours asking to schedule an in-house interview the next day. The in-house interview was a programming challenge - 2.5 hrs to implement a text-search engine over a large corpus of emails. Needless to say, I didn't do too well on the in-house challenge. However, the my interviewer, the CEO, told me to expect contact within 48 hrs.

What does this quick turnaround on the in-house interview mean?

  • 7
    It means that they're quick to make decisions.
    – nadyne
    Commented Jun 15, 2013 at 4:41
  • 3
    If they actually hold the prommise it means a good and fair HR process. (though I mark the programmig challenge as a major WTF)
    – Balog Pal
    Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 0:51
  • I knew it was going to be tough the instant he said "You know the company Enron, right? Well, when they went down, a large body of emails were released, about 1/2 a million. I want you to write a prefix-search engine for this corpus." Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 0:58
  • @BalogPal, I don't know. Writing code as a part of the interview process for programmers seems like a good thing to do. In fact, it's one of the items on the Joel Test. Using Enron's emails seems a bit odd, but I don't see any problems with the general concept. You might be surprised how many people can't actually write FizzBuzz (or even Hello World) in the programming languages they list on the resumes.
    – rbwhitaker
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 17:51
  • @rbwhitaker: The Joel I read had the interview at ~50 min length and some programming questions for 10-15. More mentors here: artima.com/wbc/interprogP.html I share with Scott Meyers "I hate anything that asks me to design on the spot. That's asking to demonstrate a skill rarely required on the job in a high-stress environment, where it is difficult for a candidate to accurately prove their abilities. I think it's fundamentally an unfair thing to request of a candidate. " And if fizbuzz test shows anything I believe your phone screen system is seriously broken.
    – Balog Pal
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 18:39

3 Answers 3


Getting promise of "contact in X hours" is quite common. Unfortunately it's even more common to never bother to keep that promise.

X being 48 hours instead of a week or two is a good sign, and if fulfilled a positive mark in "respect for people" category. Even if two weeks may be too long from the candidate point of view (you may have others opportunities).

Beyond that hard to tell anything -- the method chosen for the in-house "interview" (what actually was not) is hardly capable for anything good. But unfortunately that approach is common too, they can be honestly clueless and unaware.


It means they're going to know whether you'll work out, yes or no, in 48 hours. 'Didn't do too well on the in-house challenge' may be underestimating your chances. They may be looking at your approach more carefully than your completion. If you're new in the business, they're going to be looking for evidence that your approach is appropriate for the task. If this is evident you might be asked for another interview, if it isn't evident they may move on to other candidates. The next interview might be to see if you have better luck with a less ambitious objective.

  • By this, you mean a third interview? Commented Jun 15, 2013 at 6:04
  • 1
    You have three possible outcomes - In, out, and 'perhaps the candidate would work out better in a different role'. Since you're interviewing the owner of the business, the third option is unlikely. If you are asked for a third interview, it's likely to be for some role other than the one you were originally considered for. Commented Jun 15, 2013 at 6:09
  • Key words here are they will know. You can assume that if you didn't hear within 48 hours, that you were not chosen as it is uncommon to advise people when they were not chosen. Frankly I never wait on hearing from a company, keep looking until you get a firm offer that you want to accept. Don't worry about the ones that got away.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 22:14

Large software companies are starting their intern hiring processes earlier and earlier in the US school year (think October-December), because they want to hire the best engineering/CS students before the other companies can.

A quick turnaround time for intern hiring decisions probably means they are very competitive and want to hire the best interns while they can.

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