When looking for work as a software engineer, is it a red flag when the hiring company's software team consists of only 1 or 2 people?
Just like everything else in software development, it depends. Question answered, right? ;)
More specifically, it depends on what size of team you like working in and what kind of company you like working for. I think the team size thing is a bit of a red herring, the way the company is run can make just about any size team a great experience or a terrible one.
In a small team, each member would have more responsibility and pressure than they would have in a larger team.
Yep, that's what I like about small teams. I want my contribution to matter.
A smaller company is also more likely to be informal with their employees and may know them better on a personal basis.
Totally true, smaller companies tend to be closer knit. If you prefer a sharp separation between work and the rest of your life, you would likely be unhappy on a small team.
Another potential issue with a smaller company is how financially stable they are. It's not exactly unheard of for startups to abruptly flame out and fold, after all. If you do end up interviewing at a startup, it's totally reasonable to ask how much runway they have. If they get offended by that question, that is a gigantic red flag and you should run away.
I feel like there is great potential for management to abuse a small team by pressuring them to work more hours and micro-managing them.
Micro-management and unreasonable hours are a problem throughout the industry, small teams are not special. When I was interviewing for my current job, I directly asked what they thought about work life balance. At that time the company was very small and they still agreed with me that it was important for everyone to have lives outside of work and time to see their friends and families.
Micro-management can be a harder thing to directly question people about since everybody knows it's uncool to treat your devs like badly behaved children who need constant supervision. I would beat around the bush a little bit and ask things like how your potential manager would handle it if an employee pushed back on a requirement or got an excellent result that made everyone happy but didn't follow the exact process they were given.
In my experience with small teams, they tend to have a much less rigid development process than larger teams because you don't need much process to coordinate just a few developers. That was very weird for me when I started my curent job, and might be completely miserable for people who really like a clear, defined process.
For me personally, it would be a red flag if the dev team was very small in proportion to other departments. I've worked in environments like that before and was unhappy with the quality of the software I worked on because it was seen as a necessary evil that only needed to be just good enough for other people to get their jobs done and no better.
tl;dr it's about the kind of working environment you personally like and how the company operates. I would worry more about the company culture than the specific size of the dev team.