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I am in university and have done two previous internships ( I live in Canada), my last two internships were for very large and reputable companies (both with 50k+ employees and likely, much higher pay than the job that I am interviewing for now). But for this Co-op or internship term, I want to stay within my own city which is pretty small and does not really have large companies that deal with software or computer engineering in general.

So I have an interview with a pretty small company (about 50 employees), that I really want just because it is in my field, and I really don't want to leave my city for personal reasons, like my family being here, and I really don't like big cities. My internship adviser has told me to prepare for some questions on "why do you want to work at this small company given you have worked at very large successful companies", unfortunately I haven't been able to contact him since he is busy and my interview is later this evening.

If I get asked this during an interview, is it appropriate to simply tell the truth, that I want to stay in my own city(where I currently study) due to the fact that I have family here, or how exactly should I phrase this (and obviously mention that I think their company has a great future and I would like to be part of it etc..)? Would my past experience at large companies hinder my chances at getting this job? I really would like this job.

  • Oh I just thought at first by saying that, it kinda makes it seem like I just want to work there by default, not really because I'm interested in their company. Thanks for the advice – bill Oct 14 '16 at 17:50
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    @JoeStrazzere It is NOT always appropriate to tell the truth. Example: "I need money and you are literally the only company in a thirty mile radius that hasn't already fired me, and I can't move because my credit is so bad that I can't get any housing whatsoever, I'm on bad terms with my landlord already for not paying rent for three weeks and making the complex smell like weed..." With that said, telling the truth in this context is totally fine, although I would add SOMETHING you like about the company. Do they do outreach or something admirable? – EvSunWoodard Oct 14 '16 at 20:18
  • Definitely always tell the truth. Your reasons are fine for the specific question, however I would strongly recommend you think about a truthful reason you have applied to this small company with you are interviewing (as opposed to all the other companies you could have applied to). – stannius Oct 14 '16 at 21:14
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    @EvSunWoodard Joe Strazzere said "always tell the truth". He didn't say "always tell the whole truth". – alephzero Oct 14 '16 at 21:17
  • Had the interview two hours ago.Turns out they didn't ask anything about my past work experience really. What they did do, was literally look at everything on my github and ask me to explain it. lol thats a first for me. – bill Oct 15 '16 at 0:49
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Tell the truth.

When you're honest, your body language reinforces that. When you are honest, you're able to say things with feeling and with passion and that will increase your chances.

Everyone has tells when they lie, unless they're a practiced sociopath. There are many who can see tells, whether they call it intuition, instinct or perhaps they've even been trained.

If a company doesn't want you because of your honest reasons, do you really want to work for a company like that? It wouldn't be a good fit anyway.

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    "Tell the truth." - the correct answer to 90% of the questions on this site. – Ethan The Brave Oct 14 '16 at 14:27
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    Thanks for your answer! Is it thus appropriate to say that I didn't really like the lifestyle at a large city, and that my family is here? – bill Oct 14 '16 at 14:29
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    @bill it's not only appropriate, it's a good reason. Where you live is a quality of life issue – Chris E Oct 14 '16 at 14:36
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    Just itemize a few unarguable disadvantages of large companies (more bureaucracy, management hierarchies, less visibility of contribution). – TheMathemagician Oct 14 '16 at 16:16
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    I just realized I said in the post I said I had the interview tommorow. I actually just had it two hours ago, and they didn't ask really anything about where I previously worked too much. They seemed interested, and I hope I get the job. I have already turned down two offers from large companies, but my advisers have been telling me I will learn alot more from a small company, heck this could be a good thing. My parents are kind of mad at me, for not going with the big company which pays ALOT of money, but they also kind of understand that I don't want to leave haha. – bill Oct 15 '16 at 0:39
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The question of big company vs small company usually comes up when you are transitioning between the two. At this point in your career, I think that a legitimate answer to the question of why is "My last two internships have been with large companies and I would like to work for a smaller company and see how it compares" Smaller companies can have major benefits like opportunity to work outside of your defined role and the chance to have a bigger impact on the business. Plus like you said, it's local!

Good Luck.

  • Thanks for the response. Is the fact that I have previous work experience here considered an obstacle? Unfortunately I have no work experience with a small company.. – bill Oct 14 '16 at 14:46
  • @bill not at all...... Or at least it shouldn't be. – JasonJ Oct 14 '16 at 15:49
  • I just had the interview two hours ago actually .My parents are mad that I turned down two very huge well paying companies (One paying $35/hr which is really good in Canada for a student), but honestly i'm pretty happy I did. I think I will like it alot more in my hometown. – bill Oct 15 '16 at 0:41
  • That's awesome. There is alot to be said for happy – JasonJ Oct 16 '16 at 2:56
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As Christopher says, honesty is the best policy and will make you less tense at the interview.

That said, there are plenty of benefits to working for smaller companies. It's worth looking into these benefits and seeing if any interest you.

  • You'll likely gain a wider range of skills and experiences as the relative lack of employees forces you to become a "jack of all trades" to one extent or another
  • Similarly, you are more likely to be given be a greater variety of tasks and be less of a "cog in the machine"
  • Your contributions will have more of an impact on the business
  • When you put in extra effort you're more likely to be recognised and appreciated for it
  • Smaller companies often have a more informal work culture and tend to be less "corporate" or bureaucratic
  • There tends to be more of a sense of camaraderie, and employees tend to socialise a little more outside of work hours

These are some of my reasons why I prefer to work for smaller companies.

There is a fair bit of information out there if you google "benefits of working for a smaller company". If you aren't confident in saying your current reasons for wanting to work for them have a look at what other reasons people have for working with smaller companies and see which ones you agree with and would be happy to honestly give in an interview

  • I second this; even better than the honest answer is honestly realising the specific benefits of small companies. I would work the word 'remit' in here somwhere - a wider remit and broader responsibilities give you greater opportunities for professional development, greater autonomy, and the chance to exercise a greater range of skills - some people are naturally a jack of all trades, so that will suit them. – Phil H Oct 14 '16 at 15:12
  • Thanks for the info, I really hope my past experience helps me get the job. Thanks guys – bill Oct 14 '16 at 15:14
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I would also suggest to tell the truth. There is nothing wrong with your reasons and they are perfectly acceptable.

Having said that, I would also urge you to consider following: When you are at the beginning of your career, it is sometimes better to work for the smaller companies. The thing is, when you work for smaller company, you get assigned a number of tasks simply because there is nobody else who has the time to do them. I'm not saying that is the best possible organization, but it is often the fact. So, another good answer would be that you feel that you might get more chances doing different things and perhaps learning different technologies, and that you find that challenging and interesting.

In my opinion, the first couple of years of your career should be focused more on what you can learn, and what experiences you can gain, than solely on financial aspect of employment, but please, skip sharing this thought when negotiating salary.

  • Yes I don't mind my salary either, my family is pretty well off, I just want to be near my friends and family, I don't really like living alone. Will my past experience at a big company hinder my chances at this smaller one? – bill Oct 14 '16 at 14:44
  • I don't see why that would be the case, especially if you give them reasonable explanation (if asked to do so). They can even learn something from your experience, so that is one more positive thing to it. – Hedgehog Oct 14 '16 at 15:00
  • @bill I've worked as a developer for a global car manufacturer and went from there to a small company with less than 10 people and now for a different company, though still fairly small. I've never found a problem from having worked at a large company going into a smaller one. Reasons are what they are, and people may even think you'd be an asset with ideas of processes they can implement to make them more efficient. – gabe3886 Oct 14 '16 at 15:40
  • Thanks guys. Just turned down two big company offers. I had the interview for this two hours ago, and I hope I did well!!! Everyone has been on my case for rejecting a big company (within my family and friends) which pays a heckton of money, but I dont regret it. – bill Oct 15 '16 at 0:45

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