Interviewing for a startup is mostly about making sure you want to work there rather than making them to want you on board.
After hiring for my own startups, I’ve learned a lot about what hiring managers look for in a startup setting. The following six questions will help you stand out from other candidates. Also, they’ll help you decide if the startup is the right fit for you, which is equally important.
What are the first projects that I will need to complete in the first three months on the job?
Everyone thinks they know what a fast workflow is like — until they work at a startup. Priorities change by the day. The whole direction of the company could shift in a week. Force your interviewer to think about the job and talk about details as if you’re already in the role. This question forces your interviewer to talk about the job as if you’re already in it, which gives you an opportunity to ask smart follow-up questions about the work you would likely be doing on the first day.
What performance metrics would I need to meet and exceed, for me to score an A+ on my first evaluation?
You’ve already placed yourself in the role. Now assume you’re a Pro Bowl hire. Asking about your performance review shows that you have the confidence not only to think you’ll get the job, but also to do whatever is expected to be a high achiever. Also, this is a practical question to ask. The way a startup executive judges success, may differ from your previous employer. Get insights into expectations and learn about the priorities of your future boss all at same time.
Do you see any areas in my experience or skill sets that would prevent you from hiring me for this position right now?
It’s a bold question, but also one that, if asked with finesse, can add some levity to the interview. You want your interviewer to see your ambition and confidence, and you also want to put them in a position where they see you as a natural fit. In a worst case scenario, they sum up what you’re lacking and at the very least, you have the opportunity to counter their negatives with positives.
What companies are our biggest competitors? What are our strengths, both corporately and culturally, compared to these competitors? What are our weaknesses?
The preceding questions are focused on the work and about your skill sets, but this question lets the interviewer know that you’re already thinking about the position as if you owned it. This question also shows that you think like a leader — someone who knows how to put the company first. In the startup, world leaders are forged in fire. Demonstrate that you’re ready for the challenge from day one.
How would you describe your leadership style?
You’ve heard it before — in interviews, about getting the interviewee to talk about herself. People always like to discuss their accomplishments, and by asking about a specific leadership style, you’re teeing it up for the interviewer to hit a home run to pat themselves on the back all the way around the bases.
What do you like the most about working for Company X?
The last big question you should never forget to ask on an interview pertains to the actual quality of life at the company where you’re seeking employment. What does your interviewer like about working there? How are the hours? Does it fulfill a life mission to work in X field? Why should you want to work there as well?
Remember, interviews are two-way conversations. At this point in the interview, your interviewer should want to convince you to work for them as much as you’re trying to secure the job.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
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