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Yay or Nay – Start-up Tailored Interview Questions You Need to Ask

Posted on 23/09/2015 by


Part of my daily job as a consultant is to help Clients and Candidates prepare for the interview process. For this blog, I reached out to a number of Clients to find out what questions Candidates have asked, that have impressed them as well as ones they believe all candidates should ask. The aim of this is to help prepare Interviewees when they are faced with Business Owners and decision makers alike.

There are of course standard questions a candidate will ask, however given 90% of the companies I work with are start-ups, the important questions will largely differ from those you would ask to a larger company. These questions are explored below;

1.What is your vision for the company?

○This is extremely important to ask when speaking with a Founder/CEO because it mostly helps paint a picture of what your role and duties will be in the foreseeable future.

○A start-up will most likely be in a different position within 12 months’ time. Your role may change, your duties may differ over certain periods and you may have your eyes opened to a situation down the line that you feel you can embrace in all its glory, or for some, be completely put off by.

○An answer from a Business Owner will also reveal how passionately they speak about the company which will ultimately grow your belief in what they are trying to achieve and how important your position is within their plans

2.What can I expect within the first 3 months of joining?

○Okay, so if you have worked in a start-up before, you can expect answers to be similar to your expectations. However, should you be a start-up first timer or looking for a first job, this can be an eye opener.

○A start-up isn’t for everyone and this is where you can figure if you want to pursue. I have heard many stories about people joining start-ups and not realising the core hours they need to put in. Working through to late evenings, working weekends and being expected to be at the end of a phone/email at short notice. ( without being paid overtime!)

○ This isn’t always the case though, so best you find out as an Owner will answer honestly as the last scenario they want is you leaving a month in and having to start their hiring from scratch.

3.Who do you perceive to be your competition?

○An answer from a CEO/Owner here will help you decide if the company is the next Napster or Spotify in making. Your interviewer will hopefully answer you honestly however be aware should they come across cagey, you should see this as a BIG RED FLAG

4.How will you measure success of the company?

○A very open ended question but common answers range from:

○“We will work for two years and then be acquired” to

○“We want to build a lasting product/service that dominates the market”.

○With this information, you can ask follow up questions as to why they want to go down this route and help you realise if this is a company you want to be part of now or later down the line.

These are just a few  questions I received from a variety of titles (CEO’s, Founders, CTOs and HR Managers)  Some other questions covered Growth, Team Culture (do they encourage after work drinks/activities, or do most people just head home), “What risk is there to the company” and so on?

I am interested to find out questions you have asked have you found to be the most insightful and what answers have you received have all but helped you make your decision, for better or for worse?