Interviewing with Small vs. Large Companies

Interviewing for a position with a small company (under 100 employees) may be different from interviewing with a large company (over 100 employees). With small companies, some points to keep in mind are:

  • In many cases, you will be interviewed by the founder(s). He or she may not be a trained recruiter and may be taking time from other pressing concerns in order to talk with you.
  • Interviewing with a founder is like talking to a parent about his child. The company represents a substantial personal and financial investment for him or her. Founders look for employees that share their passion for the company and its future.
  • Everyone in the organization may want to get in on the hiring decision, so you may have to talk to many different people.
  • The vast majority of small companies do not have training programs for new employees. You must convince the interviewer that you know (or can learn) something about the business and can work without direct supervision.
  • You may be performing various roles in a small company. Flexibility and a willingness to perform any task can be important.
  • Employees in a small company are typically involved with a lot of decision making and planning. Emphasize your leadership and teamwork skills.
  • Do not express uncertainty or fear of risk because of the company’s size (but be sure to research the company’s stability).
  • You may have to negotiate your salary at a small company. Research what you are worth on the job market.

If you find yourself interviewing with a large company, you will probably notice a much more formal atmosphere in terms of the hiring practices. Some things to keep in mind are:

  • Most likely your first meeting will be with someone from the Human Resources Department or Personnel Department.
  • Typically you will be asked very standardized, straightforward questions during your first interview. The interviewer might even mention the range in which this position pays and some of the benefits.
  • If it is a technical or skilled job, you may be asked to take a test to prove those skills. Examples might be computer keying, math, or proofreading tests. Personality tests are being used more frequently by large companies as a method to help determine if applicants may have problems getting along with others or difficulty handling stress and unusual situations.
  • In addition, you may be asked to take a drug test as a condition of your employment. Recent statistics indicate that nearly half of the Fortune 500 companies administer some sort of drug-testing program either to screen potential employees or as a form of random testing of those already hired.
  • You may be asked to fill out a formal application. Answer all the questions, copying the information as it appears on your resume. Never write “See resume,” as this portrays you as lazy. It may seem a bother, but demonstrating that you can follow directions without making waves may pay off later.

Interview Agenda

Prepare an agenda for the interview. Some topics you will want to discuss will include:

  • Type of industry
  • Responsibilities
  • Size of the organization
  • Salary and benefits
  • Ideal employer’s management style
  • Geographic location
  • Commute time
  • Travel opportunities
  • Company values (e.g., environmental or political)
  • Work climate
  • Possibilities for promotion
  • Co-workers

There are usually five to ten areas in the job description indicating what the employer is seeking. It’s a good idea to see how you match up. List the company needs in column A. In column B, list the qualifications that match those needs. You may wish to use a separate worksheet, and only use this form for the key words.

Click for Interview Worksheet


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