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Recently, I was interviewed by a company for a software engineering position. It was a 2-person panel, and according to their website, this should be the only interview. As it was a digital interview, I was looking at the camera more than their faces (I'm bad at reading body language).

I felt like the interview went well in my opinion. They asked questions and I asked questions, but it was expected to take 60-90 minutes and only took about 30, tops. The HR person on the panel was surprised the interview was somewhat short. I can't find any advice on how to read into this, and I didn't notice anything else to push the interview into the "bad" or "amazing" category.

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    Some technical hiring managers claim they can know if a candidate is bad within 5 minutes. Maybe that's what happened here. Feb 15 at 0:47
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    Or they were looking for something specific and you weren't it. That happens sometimes. Unless it happens in multiple interviews, it means nothing; continue applying and interviewing elsewhere.
    – keshlam
    Feb 15 at 6:16
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    30 minutes seems ok to me for an initial chat that also includes HR. 60-90 minutes would take up a lot of HR's time while they deep dive into technical subjects. Feb 15 at 10:56
  • I'm a little confused when you say you were "looking at camera". Somehow this doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I mean, the camera isn't showing you anything... what am I missing?
    – DaveG
    Feb 19 at 21:35
  • @DaveG If you're looking at the camera, it will seem to other people in the meeting that you're looking directly at them.  I'm guessing OP was choosing to do so for the sake of appearance — and perhaps the usual connotations of honesty and interest — much of the time, even though it meant they were seeing the interviewers less often.
    – gidds
    Feb 23 at 0:10

2 Answers 2

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When I am interviewing, then I have certain topics in mind that I want to cover, depending on the position and level that I am hiring.

And I usually ask roughly the same questions to all candidates, which allows me to re-calibrate my expectations and to compare candidates based on their answers.

And I might ask a couple of additional questions, for example,

  • when they bring up an interesting topic in their answer,
  • when I didn't get enough signals out of their answer, or
  • when the candidates answer my question in an unusually or controversial way.

Another factor that affects the length of an interview is the candidate's responsiveness.

  • Few people give very short and precise answers, while
  • others are very verbose but without providing much information.
  • Sometimes you have to pull every word out of their mouth.
  • And great interviewees find the right balance between giving great examples and details, but still get to the point in a reasonable time.

As an interviewer, I aim to be able to get answers to my most important questions and still have a bit of time left to dig deeper with follow-up questions on fascinating aspects.

When the interview takes too long, and I am not able to ask all my questions, or I didn't get enough signals out of lengthy answers, then that is usually a bad sign. (No to be confused with interviews that take too long just because both parties just enjoy talking about a topic.)

When I asked and got sufficient answers to all my questions, then there is not really a point in extending the interview – apart from avoiding the awkward statement that the interview was shorter than planned. It feels wrong IMHO asking more, unplanned questions that I not necessarily need an answer for the position in question, just to fill the time slot.

Therefore, when you are sure that you provided good answers with enough details and examples to their questions, then ending the interview earlier than planned is certainly not an issue per se.

In general, I would argue that the length of an interview is not a signal for the quality or fit of the candidate at all.

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    True. I made a consious effort to be concise and to the point, and I suppose they scheduled for someone less practiced at that.
    – Orion
    Feb 16 at 3:29
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The HR person on the panel was surprised the interview was somewhat short. I can't find any advice on how to read into this, and I didn't notice anything else to push the interview into the "bad" or "amazing" category.

My advice is don't "read" into it, as you/we would only be guessing on that person's reason to say that comment.

Instead, continue focusing on your job-hunting process. I suggest you keep applying to other jobs/opportunities that you find appealing in the meantime, as to keep your options open and minimize the time you take to land an offer.

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