Tough Interview Question - Do you prefer to work for large or small employers?

Do you prefer to work for large or small employers?

Similar interview questions:
What would be your ideal size company?
How has working for a Fortune 500 employer affected your career to date?
What do you think are the advantages of working for a company our size?
Do you see working for a smaller company to be a positive or a negative?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
The interviewer is more interested in the why follow-up to this question. The interviewer already knows you are likely going to customize your answer to who they are as an employer (assuming you have done your homework). But it is the why question that will be the most meaningful. The candidate cannot simply fake his/her way through the “right” answer when drilling into the why details.

The best approach to answering this question:
You need to think in advance about the advantages and disadvantages of both large and small employers. While some of these may be consistent across the general candidate population, some may be very individual to who you are as a candidate. So think it through in advance. There are clearly advantages for each, so focus on the side of the equation which aligns with the specific employer for your answer. You can acknowledge both sides having advantages up front, yet spend your time addressing the employer side of the equation for the remainder of your answer. If you are having difficulty coming up with advantages for one side or the other for yourself personally in advance, you should probably rethink your job search to focus more fully on the other side of the equation.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"I have worked for both large and small employers in my career and there are advantages to each. However, at this point in my career, I am focusing on smaller, more entrepreneurial companies. While the larger, more structured employer benefitted me early in my career, I don’t need that kind of hand holding at this point. I more highly value risk taking and quicker decision making. I want to deliver without the bureaucracy of having each step in the process dissected and requiring multiple approvals before going forward. Which is a big part of why I am here meeting with you today…"

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"I worked with both large and medium employers in my internships. I can see clear advantages to working with a large company such as yours. It would provide me with the structure and support needed to be productive quickly. I don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to solve problems that have already been solved by someone else. I would rather spend my time solving new problems. So if there is someone internally who already has the answers to some of the underlying issues, that will help me in solving the newer problems that come up as part of my job. I would also be looking for guidance and mentoring from others with greater experience than my own and the opportunity to work with others on a team. Those are all important reasons I am attracted to your company…"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"I don’t really care what size the employer is as long as I am left alone and not constantly bugged with filling out forms or completing status reports, that kind of thing. And I’m not much for taking classes or training, they are just distractions from my real job. And I don’t want anyone monitoring my Internet usage like Big Brother. Do you do any of that stuff with your employees?"

Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!

Further review: know the answers to these Standard Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!

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