Interviewing at a Small Company

Steven Petryk

Who am I?

Steven Petryk

Full-Stack Developer


Why small companies?

  • Closely-knit team
  • Fast-paced work
  • Know the whole hierarchy
  • Usually little or no hierarchy
  • Easy to contribute

The classic interview

  1. Introductions
  2. General questions
  3. Coding/whiteboard problems
  4. Interviewee questions


  • Ensures candidates can memorize algorithms
  • Really good predictor of CS2 grades


  • Does not determine day-to-day skill
  • Leaves no room for collaboration
  • Determines confidence with a narrow skillset

The Spectrum

Highly "chatty"

No technical assessment

No collab (bro?)

Too specific w/ tech

Ideal Zone™

Interview #goals

  • Determining skill
  • Determining culture
  • Figuring out collaborative talent
  • Identifying potential disqualifiers
  • Provide a learning experience
  • Seeking unanimous approval from the team

Testing dev skills

  • Simulate real development
    • "Build a RESTful API that can be used to create todos and mark them as complete."
  • Highly collaborative
  • Freedom to Google
  • Freedom to ask questions
  • Choice of toolchain
  • (Severe anxiety is expected here)

Culture fit

  • Far more subjective
  • Determining like-mindedness to team
  • Be aware of bias due to:
    • Gender
    • Race
    • Perceived wealth
    • Appearance
    • Anxiety

Collaborative tact

  • Mainly a test of humility
  • Willingness to ask for help
  • Types of questions asked
  • Ability to take respond to advice

Potential disqualifiers

  • Shit-talking former jobs/employers
  • Objectifying women in the office
    • Yes, this really has happened.
  • Externalizing failures
  • Lack of social skills

Note that anxiety is not on this list.

How this applies to you

  • Expect questions about your process
  • Show, don't tell
  • Don't sweat anxiety (but sweating is okay)
  • Be kind and humble to everyone you meet



By Steven Petryk


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