If the telephone interview wasn’t all that, a polite rejection email is sent. Otherwise, both a tech interview and financial negotiation should happen.

(Spring.io blog)

What exactly "all that" in previous paragraph means? It almost seems to me like there is a word missing. What are the rules for using the phrase this way?

  • Yes, normally "all that" would be followed by an adjective. It does exist as a relatively uncommon idiom on its own, but I'm having trouble finding any results for that form of it in google. The closest example I can give is the 1999 teen romance movie She's All That. In the case of the movie title, it means she's really awesome/cool/etc. In the example in your question, it means the interview was not all that good. – Tofystedeth Apr 19 '16 at 16:58
  • 2
    I think this may be a co-opted form of the black vernacular expression "ain't all dat" meaning "it isn't all that {good|big a deal|great|etc}. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Apr 19 '16 at 17:02
  • I also think there is a word missing, unless @TRomano is correct. – Colin Fine Apr 19 '16 at 18:26

The phrase "all that" is a shortened version of the catchphrase "all that and a bag of chips", which was briefly popular in the 1990s. The intent of "all that and a bag of chips" was to mean something that meets and exceeds expectations, like a lunch that includes something extra at no cost. It was shorted to "all that" and became a common part of urban/African-American slang for a while, before it was embraced by mainstream commercial pop culture trying to seem timely and young.

In modern usage, "all that" still means exceptional. Saying something wasn't "all that", therefore, is a way of saying unexceptional, or not impressive. It is no longer a commonly used phrase unless someone is deliberately (or ironically) trying to reference 90's culture, so I would not expect to see this again.


To get a fuller meaning, an implied phrase to indicate the expectation could be added:

If the telephone interview wasn’t all that (it was hoped to be), a polite rejection email would be sent. Otherwise, both a tech interview and financial negotiation should happen.

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    It does work if you parse it that way, but I don't think the author really intended it as short for "all that it was hoped to be". It's probably the slang expression all that, which means something like "that impressive", and is usually used in a negative sense, as in "ain't all that". – stangdon Apr 19 '16 at 18:24

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