Interviewing with a Startup
Updated: Nov 23, 2020
Research the company thoroughly
Some startups have small teams who work very closely together side by side, generally in a shared or small office space. As a result, the founders will more than likely be the one to interview you; and showing up to the interview with little knowledge of the company mission will not do you any favours. It is essential to understand how much the company has grown so far and have identified with the efforts which led to its achievements so far.
Show that you have familiarized yourself with the company, but also show your interest to keep learning more. Ask questions about their story. They want to hire someone who is not just looking for the next job offer, but someone who believes in what they are trying to achieve - essentially a partner to join the journey.
Share your ideas
Innovation is crucial in startup environments, and sharing new ideas is a must. Startups want to hire people who are ready to strive for business success, who constantly search for new ways to grow the company.
Expect questions in your interview related to growth ideas, inspiring you to think about future plans.
Show enthusiasm and motivation
If you are hesitant about the idea of joining a startup, the founder will be able to tell. Commitment to the company might not be the number one priority for the deciding factor in securing a role in a corporate job - as you will be more replaceable if you resign in 12 months. In a startup environment, you will dive into the business goals and take on several responsibilities; fully immersing yourself in the company mission as if you were a founder yourself. The founder is putting a lot of trust in you, hoping that you will propel the business. You must believe in the product and idea.
Be honest about weaknesses
Successful people are very self-aware, and can confidently speak about their weaknesses. If you are asked about something you have yet to figure out, be honest and admit that you have more to learn about that topic, but you are excited to learn and can compensate for it with other skills that will be beneficial.
Less formality - be prepared to ask a lot of questions and expect less cliché interview questions
In corporate environments with strong HR teams, the interview is usually well structured with a set-list of questions. The questions usually consist of formal questions, with the idea that you can carry out a specific ‘set in stone’ corporate role. The interview must be carried out within an exact timeframe, leaving little or no time for you to take over the conversation and try to understand the company more.
In the startup world, you will likely interview with the founder who is more interested in what you can bring to the table in terms of ideas, creativity and willingness to learn. You may ask just as many questions as they ask you. Be prepared to ask a lot of questions and show your interest in the business journey. They are less interested in the list of academic qualifications and previous experience, and more eager to see if you will come to work full of enthusiasm and be willing to run the show in the “department” that you work in. In other words, can you find a way to manage a whole area which requires a team of people in a corporation? Can you find ways to compromise, and try to make it work for the time being?
Be prepared to manage yourself, your work, and your time
There may be no chain of managers watching over you, well-planned out lists of responsibilities given to you, and specific deadlines. Startup founders want your help in finding out what works. They want you to join the company and trust you to take care of your own work and get it done. You will have a lot of independence – and if you want to achieve results, you will need to self-motivate by creating your own work and deadlines.
You must be versatile
You might be interviewing for a specific role, but be required to help out in other departments taking on tasks and responsibilities which do not match your job description. As a small team in a new business that is trying to get on its feet, being open-minded and versatile are imperative to business success. Having a desire to learn new skills and a hunger for curiosity will ensure that you blend into the startup environment.
The transitional nature of startups means that tasks may change on a daily basis.