7 Tips To Nail A Startup Interview
Interviewing at a startup can often be a very different experience to interviewing at an established company. Here’s 7 tips to help you nail your next startup interview.
1. Remember, everything is an interview!
Candidates often think their interview with a company is broken up into a couple of stages, usually a telephone interview followed by one or two face to face meetings. When I’m interviewing, I’m assessing every interaction with the candidate from our first contact through to their first day with the company.
For instance, to schedule a first telephone interview, I send candidates a link to my calendar where they can select a suitable time and automatically book their call. It takes 10 seconds and a few clicks. However, some candidates just struggle with it and if you cant book a call on your own, you’re unlikely to be a good fit for a startup where you have to solve problems with little input from others.
It’s also common for everyone who’s had interaction with the candidate to provide feedback. How did the candidate greet the receptionist, how did they respond when offered a drink by someone in the office, how about when a visitor asked if they knew were the toilets are… all small interactions which most candidates often overlook but all of which provide insight into how they’ll fit with the company.
2. Do your research
I’m amazed when candidates turn up to an interview and genuinely know nothing about the company or the role. At the very worst, I’ve known candidates who didn’t know the company name or anything about the company’s products / services. Thankfully, that’s pretty rare.
Generally, you should be researching the company’s background (funding, when and how they raised, who are their investors, who’s on the founding team, what are the backgrounds of the people who work there, recent press) as well as their products / services (what are they, what do they do, target customers, competitors etc). All this info is a available in a quick Google search so make sure you do your research and come fully prepared.
3. Use the product / service
This is something so many candidates fail to do. During an interview, I’ll often ask a candidate their thoughts on the products / service and they’ll respond – ‘I don’t know, I haven’t used it’. Most startups will offer a free trial of their product / service, whether it’s as simple as downloading their app, or signing up for a free trial. In some situations, it’s impossible for you to try the product but you can research it as much as possible, review any marketing material, press articles, online reviews etc.
4. Bring your suggestions
If you really want to set yourself apart from other candidates, think of suggestions for possible improvements to a company’s product or services. I’ve known one candidate extensively use a startup’s trial product and create an improvement plan which they can action on day one in the role. I’ve also known a candidate create a marketing plan, complete with presentation and handouts, which she could action on day one in the role (which she did). Startups are looking for people who want to go above and beyond and bringing suggestions of what you’d do to improve the product / service / company goes a long way to set you apart from others.
5. Ask questions
By this I mean ask intelligent questions, the kind of questions you can’t simply search and get the info for. Asking ‘are you funded’ when you can search online to get the answer in two seconds isn’t a good question. If you have searched online, couldn’t find anything regarding funding then maybe it is. You’ll want to be asking questions about the company in general, what are their plans for future funding, what are their targets, what’s the expected growth over the next 12 months, what’s the culture like there, best and worst part of working with the company, what will they need from you in the first 30 and 90 days of employment etc? These are questions to show you’re thinking ahead and you’re not just there for a job but to really be part of something.
6. Map out next steps during the interview
This is something you should be doing during every interview but startups tend to have fairly flexible hiring timelines. The best candidates are generally interviewing at a number of companies at any one time and are managing multiple processes. It makes sense they need to ask about hiring timelines, interview stages, when a hiring decision will be made etc. Even if you’re not involved in any other process, it’s a good idea to clarify the hiring timeframe, just so you know when it’s appropriate to follow up.
After you’ve interviewed in person at the company, jump on LinkedIn and send the interviewer a connection request thanking them for their time and that you look forward to hearing from them. You may have been one of many candidates interviewing that day and so having a notification with your name, photo and a short personalised message come up on the interviewers LinkedIn serves as an immediate reminder of you. Plus, it’s something very few candidates will actually do so it really sets you apart. A quick word of warning though, hold off on sending connection requests until after you’ve actually met someone in person and only send requests to people you spend significant time interviewing with. I’ve known candidates jump the gun and send invites before a phone interview or to everyone at the company and that’s when it can do more harm than good!
That’s it – 7 tips to help you nail your startup interview! If you think I’ve missed any, please let me know in the comments below!
At Hired By Startups, we help startups, scaleups and VC backed companies hire amazing talent and build world-class teams. We hire across all business functions (Operations, Sales, Marketing, Finance, Tech & Product) and at every level from Graduate to C-Level.
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About the author
Hi, I’m Tom – Founder & CEO at Hired By Startups. You can connect with me on LinkedIn here.