I recently stumbled across a phenomenal small article entitled What Startups Really Mean By “Why Should We Hire You?”. Having been interviewed by smaller companies (though not exactly startups), the questions and subtexts are the same. There’s often a question behind the question that you’re actually trying to answer, and I wish I spotted the nuance earlier in my career.
Let me also make note of one more question/euphemism I’ve come across:
How do you feel about Production Support?
Translation: We’re a fairly small team, and when things break on an evening/weekend/Christmas Day, can we call on you to be there?
I’ve met decidedly few people in my life who truly enjoy the “ops” side of “devops”. They’re incredibly good at taking an impossible problem, pre-existing knowledge of arcane arts, and turning that into a functioning system at the end. And if they all left for lunch, we probably wouldn’t make it out the door before the zombie apocalypse.
Larger organizations (in my experience, 500+ person organizations) have the luxury of hiring people who either enjoy that, or play along nicely enough that our systems keep working.
Small teams have no such luck. If you’re interviewing at a small company, especially as a “data scientist” or other somesuch position, be aware that systems can and do spontaneously combust at the most inopportune moments.
Terrible-but-popular answers include: It’s a part of the job, and I’m happy to contribute.