It's a weird question. But it's how I know whether or not I can deliver value to that potential employee. At big companies, salary and benefits is usually the main "value" that they provide. So, in essence, they provide the higher comp package necessary to make up for the fact that an employee is not going to learn as much as they would at a smaller company. A small company or an early stage startup is full of opportunities to learn. If your goal is to start your own company someday, I can make sure you're leaning the things that will help you get there. If you want to be a race car driver, I don't have much for you.
Employment is a two-way agreement. It's true that employers have the upper hand because they typically represent 100% of that person's income. The employee, on the other hand, is 1/N of the workforce. Switching costs are also likely higher for the employee.
For many people, I would imagine that a transparent and honest assessment is preferred to a pretend make-believe world where we imagine that an employee will spend their entire career in one place.
I don't think that's true at all. Startups are all about reinventing the same wheels every time so you learn how to quickly bang out the same garbage iOS app skeleton for the 2nd dozen time but it's not like startups have cornered the market on new information. Plenty of big companies do really interesting things that you can learn a lot in
As far as the learning part, I didn't mean to restrict "learning" to only mean coding/programming/developing. At a smaller company, if there's something you want to do, you often have more freedom to take it on. There's very little "not my job" allowed or "not your job" enforced.
I realize there are several counter-examples of sociopathic micro-managing, ultra-secretive founders out there. Avoid those people whether at a big company or a small company.
At any rate, if you prefer larger companies, I think it's awesome that you know that. When I interview candidates, I always try to help them figure out their preference. It's not always easy for that person to know. Sometimes their desire for "a" job or a "new" job makes it hard for them to figure out if they want "this" job.
In any case, sorry for making a blanket statement about lack of learning at larger companies. I unintentionally commented on all large companies based only on my own experiences with large companies.
Your idea about building, then destroying a company is intriguing. But it would really suck to hurt those people. Or my customers who count on the great work those people do.
I like to think I'm not a sociopath. Posting on HN is probably not a great way to be told what you want to hear. :)
I think this is a great question, that's honest about the nature of a skilled employee's relationship to an employer. I don't think it's at all about the employer pretending to care about the employee - it's a straightforward way to find out what the prospective employee wants (other than loads of money, which this employer doesn't have), so that the employer can try to offer it to them. It's classic SPIN selling.
As far as what I want to hear... I don't have some "right" answer in mind. The question also helps me understand the person a little better than a typical interview question might. If I know their long-term goals, I can have a better idea if they'll be happy with us and we'll be happy with them.
But yes, I do encounter some disbelief that I am asking a real question and am hoping for a real answer.
I'm certainly curious what the community thinks is the right way to discuss a candidate's career after this job. We all know there will be a job after this job and an employee after this employee. Transparency... something that seems to be valued by people on this forum... would seem to require that we talk about it.
You don't. It's none of your business.
If I had an interview and was asked that question, I would consider it an enormous red flag, and would either:
* Give you a vague, non-committal answer,
* Give you the answer I suspect you most want to hear (if possible), or
* Walk out.
How could you expect an honest answer to such a loaded question? Fully-loaded machine guns aren't as loaded as your question above.