Small, Medium, Large

What I learned interviewing with companies of all sizes in one week

Aren Carpenter


This will be a more personal blog than some of my previous technical articles. The reason is there in the title! I had several interviews this week at companies of very different sizes and I wanted to share my experience. This is, of course, only my subjective opinion.

Image Courtesy of Dylan Gillis on Unsplash


My first interview was with a small health-tech startup with fewer than 50 employees. While the role was technical, few of the questions (at this point at least) were technical, instead there was a much heavier emphasis on company culture, teamwork and collaboration, and authentic buy-in for the product and mission. When you’re operating at startup size, it’s very important that you’re hiring people who are deeply committed to the ideas and mission of the company. This is obviously important for all companies, but startups often ask much more of their fewer employees than large companies! For better or worse, how many startup employees do you know that work a strict 9–5?

So make sure you have deeply researched the companies major products/services and their culture, and don’t be afraid to ask about it in the interview itself. Try to relate their core values or products to your own projects. “I see that X is quite important to you, I actually used X in a recent (personal or professional) project of mine examining Y.” As always, be specific and have key metrics handy to demonstrate your impact. Startups are in a unique position because they don’t often have the resources to train inexperienced workers, but if you can show them that you have the skillset, learn quickly, and are a culture carrier they may just take a chance on you.


My next interview was with a medium sized company of some 2,000 plus employees. At this size, you can start to differentiate company culture from team culture. Once a company has become more established, the singular focus and mission of a startup matures into more varied team cultures that must be navigated. You might ask a cultural question only to be met with “well actually on our team we do it like this”. This is fine, be ready to roll with the punches. Perhaps the company culture is all about collaboration, but within a specific team the…