should I be worried by a hiring process that’s just a single 30-minute interview?

A reader writes:

I’m hoping for your insight on a strange job interview experience I recently had.

I’m applying for an IT role at a small company with five people on staff. The position is a new one, and this will be their first hire outside of family and personal connections. Here’s how the application process has gone so far:

• A recruiter I’ve been working with sent this company my resume. (No cover letter, no additional information.)
• They arranged for a 30-minute in-person interview with me.
• During the interview itself, the hiring manager talked at length about the company, what they do, and what they are hoping for with the role. I was asked one question during the entire interview, to the effect of “do you have any questions for us?”
• I was told by the recruiter that this was the only stage of the application process — the hiring manager would make his decision based on these 30-minute interviews with me and some other candidates.

This seems really weird to me. This is weird, right?

But other than that, the job sounds really cool; there are a lot of things in the work that make me want to accept it if I get the offer.

So, how concerned should I be about this interview process that doesn’t seem really thought through? Is this a “proceed with caution” situation or a “run for the hills” situation?

Also, if I get an offer, what questions could I ask the hiring manager to vet this organization better? They are so small that I can’t find any information about them online at all, aside from a one page company website.

Well, it’s definitely true that very small companies often don’t have especially rigorous hiring processes, because they haven’t had a lot of experience interviewing and hiring. And often they haven’t had the bad hiring experiences that often nudge companies toward realizing that they need to change the way they hire.

This can be problematic for you, the candidate, because you want to know that they’ve actually vetted you and determined that there’s a high likelihood that you’ll succeed in the role. You don’t want to end up in a job or culture that you struggle in or end up miserable, fired, or quitting a few months in.

You also want to have enough interaction with them that you’re able to make your own decision about whether you want this particular job, with these particular people, at this particular company. And you can’t do that from a single 30-minute interview.

Since they’re sort of abdicating their responsibility to run a thorough hiring process, what I’d do in your shoes is run a modified version of it yourself: Sit down and think about everything that you think needs to be considered and talked through in order for both of you to figure out if this is the right fit. Then, if you do get an offer, say that you’re really interested in joining them and wonder if you can set up a call with the person you’d be reporting to to make sure you have a thorough understanding of the job. You could even say something like, “I know that especially in small companies, fit is really important.”

Then, on that call, run through everything you came up with earlier: Do you have a good feel for the day-to-day work, how they’re defining success, and what type of person would succeed in the role and in their culture and what type of person wouldn’t? What are the biggest obstacles in the work likely to be? Do you have a good sense of their management style? What weaknesses do you see in your background when you match it up against your understanding of what they’re looking for — and if you call out those weaknesses specifically, what’s their take on them? (For example: “You mentioned that you’re looking for someone with experience in X. My experience in X is fairly light. How do you see that playing out in this role?”)

Then take that information and look rigorously at whether the role is really the right match for you. (And no rose-colored glasses on while you do this! I know that rose-colored glasses are practically the uniform when you’re job-hunting, but your future quality of life depends on you leaving them off during this analysis.)

Also, because there’s a recruiter involved, she might be able to give you additional insight into the company and the job, so use her as a source of information too.

That should get you to a place where you’re more confident in your decision, regardless of how they reached theirs.

One last note: Make sure you’re really thought through what it’s like to work in a company that small, and one where you’ll be the first “outsider.” Some people do just fine in that context, but it comes with a lot of its own weirdness, and it’s not for everyone.

{ 52 comments… read them below }

  1. CrazyCatLady*

    Allison has great advice for this situation and I just wanted to add that having worked only for small companies, this is so typical for their hiring process. A lot of times they don’t even realize “cultural fit” is even a thing, until they bring someone on who doesn’t fit – and even still, I don’t think they realize that it’s something they can try to assess during the hiring process.

    1. straws*

      Agree! We’re larger now, but the description reminded me of what we used to do. Right up until our first bad hire!

  2. CrazyCatLady*

    Oh, and I also agree about making sure you want to work in that sort of environment. I currently work for a family-owned company and it is very, very isolating and frustrating to not be a family member. There’s also often not much room for growth unless a family member/favored friend dies or moves on. There are definitely some benefits to smaller companies (much more room to improve processes/systems and make them “your own”, less bureaucracy, everyone knows you) but there are a lot of down sides to it. Depends on what you like!

    1. straws*

      I had a very different experience. I was employee #5 and the first outsider. I now work directly with the CEO, whereas a lot of the family have either moved on or just stayed in place. I did have a ton of ownership over processes (which is why I moved up – I rocked at making them more efficient!) This is why it’s so important to ask the right questions, like Alison outlines in her answer.

  3. K.*

    I’ve been through this even with larger companies, where I’m like “That’s it? There’s no way you can know if I can do this job based on that.” I’ve also done a version of this when I’ve had interviews that are more like conversations – steered the topic back toward my skills and abilities, and then asked a TON of questions in the “What questions do you have for me?” part. Or, if they don’t even bother with that, I’ve said “I have a few questions before we wrap up …”

    1. BRR*

      In my current job hunt I’ve had some interviews where the interviewer talked so much I have no idea how they could get the information they need to make a decision.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I would find it more likely to be a red flag in a big company. In a small company, maybe they just haven’t had enough experience to develop their practices. Which could also play out similarly in other parts of the workplace, but if they’re trying to learn as they go, could be okay and even kind of exciting to be in on. For a big company, though, it could signal that they have not cared to learn from their experiences, which would be much more frustrating in an employer.

    3. Nobody*

      In my last job search, I had interviews like this with two large companies. The hiring managers spent most of the interview time talking and hardly asked me anything. I was really disappointed that I didn’t get an offer for either, because I felt like they didn’t even give me a chance to prove myself.

  4. Folklorist*

    THIS post is exactly why I wish AAM had been around right after I got out of college/before I went to grad school (2006-2008). I took a job in a tiny company with a terrible vetting program despite many, MANY red flags on their part, and a feeling that I’d be a terrible fit. This was especially important: “Make sure you’re really thought through what it’s like to work in a company that small, and one where you’ll be the first “outsider.””

    No one had ever told me to interview companies back, that they didn’t have all the power. I was desperate for a job–any job. So I ended up in a super-toxic job with cliquish people who were the polar opposite of me in terms of working style, temperament, and expectations. I started out a happy, optimistic person at that company; by the time I left, I was a paranoid, crying shell of a human being. It’s taken me years to get myself back after that place. (A bunch of people mentioned in the “Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back” post about how they knew that they had to leave when they fantasized about getting into car wrecks on the way to work–that was me!)

    Anyway, OP–I don’t mean to say that this company will be like that for you; the italicized quote just really struck me. It’s awesome that you’re questioning and doing your due-diligence, which is why you most likely won’t end up the way I did!

    1. Switcher*

      I certainly feel you. I am unfortunately still stuck in the crappy first position that is ruining me as a human being. Last year I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and I am headed there yet again due to the highly toxic work environment and a 2 faced supervisor.

      The interview lasted a whole 15 minutes where they offered me a position at the end. I thought I was just that good but now I realize they just needed anyone willing to work for them that met their qualifications.

  5. Golden Yeti*


    I got suckered into a very similar situation, except the questions I was asked were very general, at least half of which were unrelated to the job itself; all kinds of illegal (personal questions about family, etc.); and some were just plain weird. There was a lot of describing the company’s mission, goals, past history (though I was only told the rosier parts), etc. As I remember, I actually had to ask what my day to day role would look like. I remember thinking the interview was odd, and I also hesitated at their offer–those were red flags I ignored. I took the job and got stuck.

    I’m not going to say all small family/friend businesses are that way, but as Alison said, plenty are. And also as Alison said, you will be the odd man out, at least to some degree. Would you be okay with not always being included in certain things? Would you be okay if other in the office got unexplainable perks/benefits that you did not, or whose mistakes were overlooked while yours were not?

    Do not ignore your gut instincts. Ask a lot of questions (specific questions), do as much research as possible (getting more info from the recruiter is also a good idea), keep your radar up for BS, and proceed with caution.

    1. Golden Yeti*

      Also, forgot to add: if everyone there is family/buddy-buddy, there is also a very real chance that when it comes to decision-making, you will have no real voice. Their opinions will all be in sync (and may not be objective), and if you are the lone dissenter, your opinion won’t be considered.

      Sorry to be the canary in the coal mine…it’s just that if I could go back to past me and warn me not to take the job, I would, so I’m trying to share my personal experiences for your consideration.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        I’ve also been the first “outsider” in a company, and I totally agree with all of this, and with what CrazyCatLady said above. There were definitely some great things about the company (I got along really well with the people, the work was interesting, and there were opportunities to take ownership over some of the processes/duties in the business), but also some real downsides.

        It’s certainly not true of every business like this, but I was held to higher standards, often had no real voice in anything that happened in the business, and pretty much had zero growth potential. The complete lack of growth potential was the real deal breaker for me. Unfortunately, the original employees in the business honestly believed that there was all the growth in the world for anyone who worked there, so I got some really attractive answers to my questions around what my career path might be or what kind of other development opportunities I might have available in the role during the interview process.

        My advice is to think about what questions you really need answers to and make sure you ask them before accepting an offer, but also consider how you’ll feel about some of the potential downsides outlined above. You might be at a place in your career where some of the issues I ran into wouldn’t really bother you, in which case this job might be fine. But if some of those might become deal breakers for you, it’s worth thinking through how much it will bother you if those are issues in this particular job as part of evaluating an offer.

    2. fposte*

      Just to clarify–while you may have been in a jurisdiction where hiring based on family status was illegal, it’s not generally in the U.S., and it’s almost never illegal to ask the question (it’s just stupid to ask if you can’t base hiring on the answer).

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Family or marriage status is specifically protected, but there’s been cases where it is covered under sex discrimination. Not always, but it can be.

      2. Golden Yeti*

        Fair enough, but I wasn’t just asked status. I was asked names, and other family details. Including my birth date (owner believed in numerology). And I’ve heard these same questions being asked in other interviews with this company. I’m not 100% sure if it’s illegal (I thought it was based on things I’ve read here, but I could’ve misinterpreted). Even if it’s not, though, it’s still unrelated and downright creepy.

        1. adonday veeah*

          “Including my birth date (owner believed in numerology)”

          Oh, honey… I feel for ya.

          I used to work for a company whose employees would regularly light candles for each other if someone was going through tough times. You’d go by someone’s desk and see a flickering candle, and you knew what that meant. If you asked about it you’d get someone’s sob story, and a request to light your own candle on their behalf.

          I actually loved this job and those people (and I lit my share of candles)… it’s just not for everyone.

        2. Gene*

          Not illegal to ask the questions, but illegal to make hiring decisions based on some of them. So smart interviewers don’t ask the question so they can’t be accused of not hiring someone based on a protected status.

          But it sounds like that is just crazypants.

    3. JGray*

      I once had a part time job as a cashier at an auto parts store. The other part time girl got the job because her parents knew the owner. Well she would not do anything but still get paid. For example, the cashier was responsible for light cleaning (dusting and straightening), and doing displays. There was a list for the 3 of us (2 part time and 1 full time person) and once you completed a task you had to initial it. Well the person who go the job because her parents knew the owner never did any of the things on the list and she would spend all her time at “work” talking on her cell phone. She did nothing but I would get scolded for things not getting done on the list. It was ridiculous and I quit after 3 months because it was unfair to me & the other cashier for us to do all the work while she did nothing but stand next to the register.

  6. T3k*

    This is pretty normal for a small business. First small business I worked for (about 6 employees, counting the boss) I met and talked with them for 30 mins. before they hired me after we finished talking. Second small business (5 employees) went more strangely. They were in dire need of a designer and a previous employee recommended me, so I essentially had the job already. I just showed up, went over what my role would be, was shown around, and settled on my salary and start date. The latter business is family owned as well, but only a few are actually family members, so I don’t feel as isolated.

    As a side note on the culture aspects of the business, I’ve never been one who cared what position a person held. I’m not disrespectful towards authority positions, I just don’t see any reason why I should automatically hold my tongue if I feel they’ve made a mistake on something or I disagree with them. Saying that, I’ve noticed with this family business we’re all very prone to just saying what’s on our mind and some will raise their voices. The previous employee did tell me they do get along like family, including yelling at each other.

  7. NickelandDime*

    I took two jobs where the interviews were very short and both were terrible mistakes. I was younger at that time, and worried more about impressing them than asking fit questions. I also just ASSUMED they wouldn’t lie about what the job would look like from day to day. The first mistake was a company that completely misrepresented the role. The second mistake was a small company, complete with family and church connections. Guess who gets laid off when things go bad? The outsiders. There were other serious issues before that as well. Go back and have that nice long chat with those folks. And talk to the recruiter too.

  8. Billybob*


    It’s not necessarily a bad thing, though I wish I knew all the advice/sample questions AAM proposes in her advice. Junior year of college, the school’s career office set me up with an interview for an internship at a small local company (~25 employees). The person who interviewed was the manager, but instead of interviewing me, he spent the entire time describing the company and what they do, and like your experience, ended with asking me if I had any questions (I had only very few minor ones, if any at all…) Despite no chance to say anything to sell myself, he picked me, and my internship went perfectly well. Down-to-earth, helpful people who were drama-free (except for a mysterious blow up and firing of someone in the cube next to me), smart technical people who were willing to help and forgive when I crashed the server, etc. My manager eventually left because he was a technical person forced to become a manager based on need/seniority, and he wanted to go back to hands-on work. The owner of the company sometimes chatted with me while I waited for a ride at the end of the day, and told me that they don’t hire anyone the secretary doesn’t approve first (a nice old lady who chatted with me in the bathroom). Apparently, I passed! He also would occasionally take the whole company out to the racetrack and give us all $20 to make bets.

    I didn’t know to ask about culture or work expectations, but somehow I just lucked out with a fairly decent place. The only awkwardness was that I was the only female programmer; all the other females in the company were in sales/customer support. So when the company went out for an outing, I was forced to choose to either sit at the table with all guys (my coworkers) or the table with all girls. In retrospect, I’m a bit frustrated with myself for picking the side with girls, because I had nothing in common with them.

    1. fposte*

      I think internships are sometimes like student jobs, in that they’re drawing from a particular pool and they’re term-limited so the employer doesn’t feel the need to go as deeply as they would for another kind of job interview. Our interviews for my student positions run between 30-60 minutes, and that’s plenty of time for us; the program admissions are more rigorous than any phone screen would be.

    2. T3k*

      Heh, your last paragraph basically sums up family gatherings. I’m female, but I’ve never cared for stereotypical female topics (all my female relatives love talking about kids and babies, and I’m all “nope”) so every time we gather, I always end up drifting towards the male family members and talking to them about jobs and computers.

  9. Lou*

    I’m wary of working with people who are family in the same departments. I’ve worked in small shops, part of business chains where the manager and one or two subordinates were related and I was always out of favour with the rota. They were treated as ‘no one works as hard as her relatives do’ by her so they got rewards, were allowed to do whatever they liked, and I was alway put to work weekends, every sunday I could never have it off because ‘brother wont work Sundays or bike to work, bc my dad would have to drive him too, I can’t make my dad do that’.

    So be careful.

  10. Small town reporter*

    My interview for my job now was probably only 30 or 45 minutes long, and it was by phone, because I was so far away from here. But in fairness, reporter jobs can be pretty similar (yes, there’s variations, but I’ve worked at weeklies with 1,000-2,000 circulation, dailies with 90,000 circulation and a few in between, so I’ve see a lot of those differences). Before I accepted, though, I emailed my now-boss many questions, emailed with someone in my position at another of the company’s papers, talked on the phone with the ad rep I now work with and emailed with the IT person, who had done the same sort of move (big paper to smaller company) that I was looking to make.

    So like AAM said, ask lots of questions, trust your instincts and then make a decision. Good luck!

  11. JGray*

    To me the question of the 30 min interview being weird is really an issue of quality over quantity. I have had long interviews that weren’t very good but short ones that were excellent and vice versa. For the job I currently have the interview was only 30 minutes. I struggle more with coming up with questions to ask the company!

  12. J-nonymous*

    I’d be wary of accepting a role here, if it’s offered. The time allotted to the interview is one thing- but Alison makes an excellent point that smaller, particularly newer companies often haven’t learned the lessons yet that make them beef up hiring processes.

    What worries me more is that the interviewer did most of the talking. That raises a lot of red flags in my book.

  13. Erin*

    I have had similar interview experiences. In my case, I was applying for receptionist/admin positions and I think they could see I was overqualified – their attitude was kind of like, okay obviously you can do this job, but do you even want to work here? And that’s why they did all the talking about the job and the company so I could make that decision.

    As others alluded to, I did NOT ask enough questions. One time, I really, really wanted the job and I did not get an offer, I’m sure because of my lack of questions signified to them I wasn’t interested. Oh, the pre-AAM days.

    For you – I don’t think this is necessarily a red flag. In addition to the fact that they’re likely just inexperienced at hiring, they have no web presence – I’m sure they are aware of that, and that you couldn’t really research them beforehand, which explains why they did a lot of the talking about themselves.

    To answer your specific questions – I don’t think you need to be super concerned (maybe just a tad), I would proceed with caution, and do ask the type of questions Alison suggested if you get that offer. It’s perfectly reasonable to acquire more information before accepting a job, and if they’re reasonable people who are good to work for, they’ll be happy to answer your questions.

  14. Jake*

    Went from a 60000 employee company to a 60 person company. Culture shock doesn’t begin to describe it.

    1. Tammy*

      I’ve done both – went from a company of 1,000+ to a company of 30 to self-employed and back to a 1,000+ person company now. The culture shifts are challenging in both directions. I was actually grateful that the executive with whom I did my second interview put that right out on the table — he said something like “after 12 years of you being self-employed, I’m worried how you’ll adapt to the structure of a larger corporate environment with more defined roles. Convince me I don’t need to worry about that.” — and we had a chance to talk about it.

      We had a good conversation, I allayed his fears (and in the process thought through how I’d navigate that shift), and was ultimately hired. I’ve been here 3 years, have moved up from individual contributor to team lead to manager, and love my job and the place I work. But I might not have had that experience if we hadn’t both been up-front about all the pros and cons of the role.

  15. adonday veeah*

    “their first hire outside of family and personal connections…”

    Ooooohhhh… Yeah, think this through. This could be heaven or hell, depending on the emotional and professional maturity of the family members.

  16. Meg Murry*

    My question is: would OP be working for the company, or would they be a temp employee, employed through the recruiter? I ask because one company I worked with pretty much handled all employees through the temp service this way – only a brief cursory interview with people who generally met the requirements on paper, and then used the first few days/weeks/months as on the job training/extended interview. Basically, since it was easy for them to bring people in, and easy for them to let the person go again (they wouldn’t even do it themselves, they would have the temp service be the ones to call the employee and say “employer doesn’t want you to come back tomorrow”), they didn’t really worry about doing much due diligence up front, and just figured if it didn’t work out, eh, they’d just have the recruiter send them the next person on the list that seemed good enough and see if that stuck.

    I think a huge factor for OP is whether s/he is currently employed and would have to quit a job over this. If currently unemployed, or a recent grad looking for a first job in the field, I think taking this job wouldn’t be so bad (although I agree with asking the questions Alison mentions), but if OP would have to quit a current job to go to this one, OP definitely needs to do more homework.

    Other questions not mentioned:
    -Who was handling IT before this? Was it a contract through another company? Was one of the current employees handling it? Or was it a personal recommendation that didn’t work out?
    -Are you 100% certain whether this is a W-2 employee position or if they plan to treat it as a 1099 contractor?
    -Does this job offer benefits? Health insurance, sick leave, vacation time, etc?
    -Since the job is IT, did they get into specifics about the system/hardware you would be working with? Would you be expected to work miracles with an ancient system?
    -Can you go in to the office and meet everyone and see the space you would be working in? For all you know, one of the people you would be working with is a certified nut job that you could tell from 5 minutes of meeting them, or you might be asked to share an office with someone with the world’s worst BO, or other nightmare scenarios. Not that it couldn’t happen to you at any other job, but it’s at least good to make sure there aren’t any obvious deal breakers before going to start there.

    1. SquirrelInMT*

      Just to clarify–if the employee is working as a temp, then the temp agency is normally the real employer. Benefits, comp, etc. would be the agency’s responsibility to handle. But it is definitely true that temps can probably expect more cursory interviews, because they’re already signed with the company contracting with whoever is putting out the temp gig.

  17. "Who's On First?"*

    It’s sort of funny that people have become so used to convoluted hiring processes where everybody frets about CYA for months and nobody seems to definitively know how to assess a candidate, that when a candidate actually participates in a straightforward interview, the first reaction is surprise and fear — “Wait- you mean we’re not going to have 5 rounds of interviews over the next 9 months and then have the position ‘discontinued’ only for me to immediately be hired on as a contractor for more money and less benefits?”

    1. Charityb*

      How is this an interview? The interviewer never asked the candidate any questions; they basically described their company and then asked if she had any questions for them. This interview could have been done by playing a prerecorded video. They didn’t learn anything about the candidate that they didn’t already know.

      I don’t like convoluted hiring processes either but the opposite extreme is just as silly; if you’re not going to ask the interviewee any questions then why bother making them come to your office? It seems like it might be just as effective to choose some resumes that look good and call those people to ask them when they can start.

      1. Rater Z*

        They might not have been asking the applicant any questions but there is a good chance that they were watching body language and liked what they saw.

        The first time I ever held job interviews was when we opened a new office and needed four people in a situation where we would be open 24/7 Sunday evening thru Friday midnight with me coming back in 8-noon Saturdays. One of the applicants was a Black woman over 40 with a Spanish surname and, need I add, the industry was going thru a period where there was a stress on minority hiring. The day shift and midnight shift were such there would only be one person working alone. I asked the woman if she could work by herself and she said yes but made a face at the same time. My personnel manager was doing this with me and he spotted it as well. We didn’t hire her but she kept calling to find out when she would be starting. It was a small town, 2000 people, in a basically resort area but it was a trucking office. I lost two of the new people in the first three months so I was told to hire her. It took a couple weeks to determine she couldn’t work alone but could with someone with her. She lasted about six weeks and became the first and only person I have ever fired — agonizing for me, but that look of relief on her face when I told her she was done told me everything I needed to know. I wound up hir9ing a Spanish kid from Chicago (who was born in the U.S.) He had just graduated from high school and starting his freshman year in college. He was great and actually learned how to do my job by watching me from across the room. I learned as lot in being a team leader from interacting with him.

  18. Shan*

    Most of the interviews I’ve gone through have been pretty short. Like Alison said, they’re pretty common for small companies. To me, a short interview becomes a red flag when 1) the company is large, or 2) the interviewer doesn’t ask any questions. When either (or both) have those have happened, it’s turned out badly because I didn’t know the company and they didn’t know me either (or misled me about the role).

    At my current job, a small non-profit, my 30-minute interview was a productive conversation that included a tour of the office and an invitation to one of their events so I could see what the day was like for someone in my role. The interview was short, but I got more information from that than some companies I spent two hours interviewing with.

    I think a big part of this to consider is the family and personal connections atmosphere. I’ve worked at a few small offices/companies (like, 5 or fewer employees). I love it, but even without the employees being family, sometimes I still feel like an outsider because I’m the only one that hasn’t been there for 10 years. I will always be “the new one.” Just something to consider!

  19. OP*

    Hi all,

    OP here. Thanks for your comments!

    In the end, I never heard back from this company, so my original question is moot. (Sorry to have such a non-dramatic follow-up to report…)

    I think though, that if I ever do heard back, I won’t accept this position. As interesting as the IT work sounded, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that working for such a small organization in a new role would *not* be a good fit for my personality.

    From the interview, both people I met seemed very nice, had reasonable expectations for the role, and were open to letting the person in this role take initiative in their work– all good things. That said, I could tell that they didn’t have any plan to how they were going to assign me work, give me deadlines, etc., and the position was going to be 100% remote. Personally, I need a bit more structure!

    So, in retrospect, I guess the interview was useful– it did give me a picture of the company & what it would be like to work there– it just took me off guard because I was expecting details (information about the specific projects they wanted done, an idea of the timeline for such projects, information about how feedback & evaluation would be given for the role, etc.) that didn’t actually exist.

    As I continue my search, it was helpful to hear from Alison & several of you about how common this is for smaller businesses– that the shortness of the interview wasn’t **in itself** a deal-breaker. And thanks, Meg Murry, for your list of “critical questions”– that’s a good resource.

    1. NickelandDime*

      But leaving people hanging after an interview is a deal breaker to me…This alone says maybe some of the comments weren’t too far off?

  20. SquirrelInMT*

    It does sound like a small company with minimal hiring experience. Sometimes, though. pressing for a more in-depth process all around is a cultural battle with hiring managers who just want it to be over as fast as possible. At a small company, that means most of the vetting falls on HR, not the interviewers. I spend a lot of time sorting through applications and talking to promising candidates before they get to the in-person interview stage of the process, and the in-person meetings usually come after a phone call with one or more supervisors. Interviews with hiring managers tend to be brief–they hate spending a lot of time on it, and they’ve already got a very short list and a good idea of what they want the candidate to be able to do. The interview is mostly just a confirmation step at that point.

    Whether or not a brief interview process is a red flag depends a lot on your total communication with the company and on the nature of the job (I would be less concerned for entry-level than for advanced roles). If there is no designated HR staffer and your sum contact with anyone there is really that 30 minutes of mostly listening, then yes, I would definitely recommend talking with them more extensively before accepting any offers.

  21. Jill*

    This is SO how my family’s business operated. If you seemed like a “nice gal” or a “good fellow” you were in. OP, you will definitely need to conduct a “second interview” before you accept the offer. I bet you’ll see an “Oh gee, we didn’t really think of THAT” look on their face when you start asking the questions of them that they should have asked of you. Some starters I’d suggest:

    “I have had X years of experience with A and B…do you see a lot of that coming to play in this role?”
    “I really enjoy a work area that is X type of environment. Can you tell me about the environment in this office.”
    “I need a supervisor that operates like THIS. What is the management style of the person I’ll be reporting to.”
    “In prior jobs I was able to limit working hours to 40-45 a week….do you anticipate long hours or weekend work in this role?”
    Just some things I’d ask in your shoes…Best of luck!

  22. Alexa*

    I would respond much more strongly negatively to this. Every time I’ve heard about an interview like this (multiple interviewees at a time, presentation format with very little back and forth), no matter what the purported field, the actual role turns out to be sales, and often MLM. Even if that is not what is described in the interview.

  23. selablad*

    The interview for my last job was very short (30-45 min). The company had about 5 employees including family. The interview was very casual, mostly consisted of them talking about their products and a couple of very easy questions about my background. It ended with an on-the-spot job offer.

    I quite desperately needed a job, and felt a smaller place might be somewhere I could have more influence, so I took it, but in hindsight it was a giant red flag. The boss had the same casual attitude to employment law (and a host of others) as he did to hiring practices, and the whole environment was just invasive and boundary-pushing. I left after 6 months.

    Short interviews might be okay, but in my case it was just one of many examples of standard workplace practices being completely foreign to them. Ask as many questions as possible. Also remember that at that level of small there might not be separate HR person, or finance/bookkeeping team, and if the boss is focusing on the main business there might not be anyone to keep up to date with that sort of stuff.

    When I took my current job, the longish (multiple interviews/tests, but in a short timeframe) interview process, including meeting with HR, was absolutely a factor in my feeling comfortable about taking the job.

  24. IT_guy*

    I had a similar incident. I had a 45 minute interview with a really nice HR person on the phone who called me the next day and told me that I had the job. Knowing this was really weird, I asked if I could come in and talk with the other folks on the team that I would be working directly with. I know that personality is over 50% of whether a job candidate is going to work out well. I went in and met with the team and they all had really weird looks on their faces like they weren’t sure what I was doing there.

    The next day she called me and told me they had rescinded the offer. What had happened: She told the IT team that I was a good candidate and they said: “Great, bring him in”. What she hear was: “Great, make him an offer!”. I then went back for a real interview and really impressed them and had a very good interview. Then, the position got put on hold. 2 months later after I was working at another position, I heard from this company and they wanted to hire me.

    I said: “No, thank you”

  25. _ism_*

    My new boss interviewed one person (that I know of) for an open position. I don’t know anything about the interviewee, but as soon as my boss came out of the meeting room, she came back into the office and announced to the three of us (two of us new hires within the last month mind you) that the person she just met with will be starting with the company.

    OK. I can’t say it’s industry specific. This has been my experience at most service industry jobs – the 30 (actually usually 20) minute interview, and then a job offer (or not). End of story. Followups are looked down upon. I’m talking cash registers and call centers here.

    I was really surprised, with my last job, to find that a 30 minute interview also sufficed for the hiring manager of a manufacturing plant, hoping to find someone to “take her place when she retires.” 30 minutes, 2 days, job offer, boom.

    Now my new job is the same. New boss spent 30 minutes on an interview, she may or may not have had other interviews, but 12 hours after my interview I had a job offer. WTF?

    1. _ism_*

      I should add that until recently, most of my “interviews” consisted of 3 questions

      1. Are you on drugs
      2. Are you a criminal
      3. Do you have a car

      More recently things have been more professional and I’m not quite selling myself short as I used to, but the short interview + quick job offer + later learning that they only interviewed a couple of people, is still weird to me.

  26. sam Conklin*

    I work for a large company, and most of our specialists are hired from within. Last year, I needed 30 people, and only had a 30 minute interview for each of the 75 people who applied. It was for a production position, and all the applicants were wanting to get off the phone…

    Because it was an internal position, I did have access to their current managers, which helped with the process. A year later, by the way, I only had two of the 30 that couldn’t cut, so over all, it was a success.

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