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As a small business owner, you might have anywhere from 1-3 people working for you. Sometimes, it's just yourself. When someone comes into the office for an interview, it's usually just the business owner and the candidate.

Towards the end of the interview, the interviewer sometimes get the question, "How many people work here?"

Now, I realize they might be asking just to know. Or, they might be asking to get an idea if the company can afford them. Perhaps, they are just trying to assess the size of the company. My impression is that some just candidates want to work for a big company.

How would you answer this question in a way that builds credibility for the company?

Note: When you tell them that you have 2 employees, many candidates (especially millennials) look disenchanted and uninterested. I'm looking for ways to articulate to them that shows legitimacy and opportunity. Obviously, you should be honest and tell the truth.

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    Why do you think the trivial answer of "the truth" would be wrong. – nvoigt Oct 15 '18 at 19:13
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    You should probably mention this before the interview. That way, if they’re not interested in working for a small company, you won’t waste your time or their’s. – AffableAmbler Oct 15 '18 at 19:26
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    When somebody asks “How many people work here?” I always answer, “About half of them.” – user1683793 Oct 15 '18 at 21:23
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    "If you have a friend we can hire, then it's three"... – gnasher729 Oct 15 '18 at 21:37
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    Are you always this judgemental towards millennials? If so, their reaction may be explained by your attitude over the amount of people. – Cyonis Oct 16 '18 at 8:24
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How would you answer this question in a way that builds credibility for the company?

The truth always builds credibility.

Simply state the current number of employees. If you are in an expansion phase, you might also indicate the size being projected along with the timeframe.

If you are curious, you could always ask the candidate why they are asking. Then you can reply to any concerns in a productive way.

I can't think of any positives that could come out of being less than honest. If some candidates look disenchanted when you tell them the truth, then that's a signal you wouldn't want to hire them anyway.

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    I like the idea of explaining growth objectives along with your current company size. Would be a good way to articulate how a candidate's position really matters to the company. Thanks for the useful answer. – DomainsFeatured Oct 15 '18 at 19:29
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Answer honestly, if its a startup with only 3 people tell them that. If you have 30 employees tell them that too. Don't use any tricks or white lies. If you hire the candidate they will find out very soon how large your company is anyway. Yes, its disappointing if someone turns down your offer but it will be much worse if you hire someone and they immediately quit, or are disgruntled you lied and work poorly or make trouble.

This is one of those cases its best just to plainly and honestly state the truth.

Edit for updated question: Judging future opportunity is something only the candidate can decide. You cannot truly prove if your small business is a good opportunity or not. However adding any information that would suggest your company is growing, or other openings you plan to fill soon might help. But do not lie about this. If you are a 3 man shop for the foreseeable future say so. Some candidates desperately need a stable job to provide for dependents, and will not be convinced to work for a small business ever. Some might just want to know if there is a promotion track for them. You can't guess why they are asking so give them as much truthful information as you can so you can both make a good and fair decision as to if your business and the candidate are a good fit.

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I would say the same thing to interviewers as I would to interviewees. The truth is the right answer. Misleading answers from either side just become problems later.

You expect them to be truthful with you in the interview and would be upset if they misled you. Give them the same respect and answer honestly. That can become the basis for a more in depth discussion of where you see the company going. And that is what you are really trying to sell.

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You should give the honest and correct answer. If you are a small company someone might take the job because they assume they will have sole responsibility for a variety of tasks, and someone else will not take the job for the exact same reason. If you don't say the truth, you may either miss out on an excellent candidate, or hire someone who leaves a week later because they figured out you lied to them. (Record time of people I know was someone starting at 9:00 am and leaving at 9:10 am because it took ten minutes to figure out he was lied to in the interview).

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Just be honest with the candidate. There is a night and day difference between working for a large, fortune 5 company and a small start up. Any experienced candidate will likely know this and have developed a preference for what size of a company they like working for. If you're getting asked this question it then it's probably part of their process for deciding if they think you're a good fit for them.

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I think everyone can agree honesty is the best policy.

However, there are different ways to present the same answer that can increase your perceived credibility.

The earlier you present your answer, the more "in control" you might seem to candidates. As a millennial, I find that I respect people, and as a result businesses, that at least appear to know what they're doing, and have a clear path forward.

Little things can reinforce this credibility, you won't be able to convey it by answering one question.

Suggestions:

  • include company background in position description.
  • include "ideal candidate" in position description.

You must be utterly truthful when describing your ideal candidate. Solely based on the size of your business, I would infer that you are looking for someone who's passionate, motivated, innovative, willing to learn, and willing to take on any role's responsibilities.

I could certainly be wrong, and you might be looking for more of a worker bee, who can take any task you give them, without question, and complete it quickly without much guesswork. Obviously you'd need to mentor/train them to get them to that milestone.

My point being that, everyone has different expectations of their workplace, and you need to find someone who's expectations match closest to yours. The only way you can do this effectively is to tell them straight up what your expectations are. Being a straight shooter can be perceived as having more credibility.

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Originally posted as a comment, given that there were alreay a few answers. Now posted as an answer, as requested by teh OP.

From peronsal experience:

"When you tell them that you have 2 employees, many candidates (especially millennials) look disenchanted and uninterested" ... then describe your company as a start-up.

When I had a small company in S.E Asia, it was sometimes difficult to get potential clients to “risk” giving us work.

So I told them we had three full time staff, plus a team of consultants whom we could call on on a per-project basis. Maybe you could find someway to phrase that to a potential employee, as opposed to a client? Perhaps say, “we have been as many as X, when projects demanded it.

Otherwise, push the idea of a start-up, find out what their interests are, what they would really like to do work-wise, and if you think that you can offer them it, then there should be no problem.

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The problem is not answering the question. I would start the interview by giving the candidate an overview of the company, including the background and the current status, which includes the employment statistics.

Giving that information shows what have been/are you working on and who has been/is working. It is up to the candidate to evaluate the strength of your business within your field of action based on how you present yourself, your team (if there is any) and your company.

For example, I worked for 6 years in a start-up where the employee count were sometimes 2, sometimes 10, and I was part of some interviews as well.

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