What Does a Short Phone Interview Mean?

When answering whether a 'short phone interview is good or bad'? In general, most people would answer 'bad'. The reasoning is logically sound, a company (recruiter) would not want to waste their resources (time) on someone they are not really interested in hiring, yet they would allow more interview time -- a long interview -- to a candidate who seems promising i.e they are interested in hiring them, and they are looking for further confirmation that they are the right person for the role.


It is important to bear in mind that the above can only be judged as the general case -- it does not necessarily mean that just because you had a short phone interview, that this means you have then had a bad phone interview. There are numerous circumstances (some, as listed below) where you have had a short phone interview but in fact, actually had a good phone interview.  

1. The Phone Interview Was Scheduled to be Short - the phone interview might have been short, because it was in fact only scheduled to be short -- if you weren't provided with the length of time it was approximately meant to last, you don't know how long it was actually meant to last for. For all you know, relative to other phone interviews the recruiter conducted, you may have in fact have had a long phone interview. 

2. The Purpose of the Phone Interview - if you were not detailed on the purpose of the phone interview, then this could perhaps be another reason for the phone interview being short -- perhaps it only needed to be short. For example, they were simply clarifying a few details of your resume, qualifications, work experience, assess your technical ability for the job -- they may have just wanted to build a quick rapport with you, before going on to inviting you into a face to face interview. It is hard to predict, unless stated, the true point of the interview at hand. 

3. The Phone Interviewer is 'Time Strict' - with phone interviews, there are many differing styles, some may find that if they feel a candidate is not right for them, they will cut them short. Another, may give everyone the exact same amount of time allowance, even to candidates they thought performed well -- you may be just one of them candidates, the phone interviewer had a certain time allowance for each candidate and they were going to stick to it. So it wasn't just you who got a short phone interview -- everyone got a short phone interview.

4. They Know You Are the RIGHT Person - another possible reason, is that they may just know from the off that you are the right person for the role and simply want to get you into the next stage of the application process E.g. it was clear from how you answered the technical questions that you had the ability -- and that's all they wanted to know. For the same reasons as above, why would a phone interviewer carry on asking unnecessary questions (wasting time) when they know the candidate is right for the job there and then? So they call you up, for the right reasons -- they may leave you a few hints indicating that you have done well towards the end of the interview.

5. You had a Good phone Interview But You are the Wrong Person - all it may come down to is simply you aren't right for the role being asked, the phone interview could have been going great, but you weren't exactly what the recruiter was looking for.

The Verdict -- Is a Short Phone Interview: Good or Bad Sign?

In truth, there is no sure way to tell if your short phone interview is a good or bad sign until they actually get in contact with you -- either arranging details for the next stage (good) or a simple "Thanks, but not thanks" style message (bad). As shown above there are various circumstances where a short phone interview may actually still be a good phone interview, but you need to bear in mind that there are also many where cases a short phone interview could also be a bad sign. 

Remember 1: Be sure to follow up your phone interview with a 'thank you letter', the very same day you had the phone interview, regardless of how well you thought you performed. By sending a letter or email to the interviewer thanking them for their time, is a really great way to earn extra brownie points with the phone interview.

Remember 2: If you happen to find yourself to be unsuccessful in the phone interview, be sure to send an email asking for some constructive criticism -- why didn't they hire you? How do you think you could have done better? Was it an unprofessional greeting? This will give you guidance on how to improve and what areas to work on in the future -- to come across as a stronger candidate.

On How to Improve Your Phone Interview Performance

If you thought you performed poorly in the phone interview or are wanting to improve your phone interview performance in general, then I have to urge you to check out two great books on the acing a phone interview firstly --  'The Essential Phone Interview Handbook' by Paul Balio and secondly '101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions' by Ron Fry -- at the very least check them out in a book store (or borrow them your friends). Also, you can check out my case study for an actuarial phone interview and the plan of preparation along with a list of To DO's and what Not To DO'S in a phone interview, for additional guidance. If you have any general remarks, experience or circumstances with a short phone interview being either good or bad, then I encourage you to please share a comment below.