Getting Started

How to nail your job interview at a startup

Written by Guest Contributor

Interviewing is a challenge for any job seeker. But interviewing for a position at a startup? That’s a horse of a different color. It might seem even more intimidating being that most startups are building from the ground up, hoping you can hit the ground running. Preparing for a job interview by simply researching the position, company, and employees might help you, but you won’t stand out from the crowd. There are, however, a few extra steps you can take to gain an advantage on the competition.

Stand out among other job candidates when interviewing at a startup with these 4 tips:

Show an understanding of the product

Most startups launch their businesses because they feel they have something unique to bring to the marketplace. To effectively interview with a startup company, you must demonstrate an understanding of and genuine interest in the unique value of its products or services. Researching and testing the company and its product can give you an edge over other candidates.

Most job candidates will conduct some company and product research, but to really stand out try doing the following:

  • Use the product: Try out the product or service for yourself, so you can learn about it firsthand and share your experience during the interview.
  • Understand what problems the product solves: Savvy startups understand why consumers buy their products and how those products benefit the customer. Learning the “pain points” that drive customers to buy their products helps you understand the company’s priorities and communication style.
  • Read reviews and case studies: Reviews show you what customers love most about the company, and case studies demonstrate the impact its product or service has on customers.

By showing an understanding of the startup’s product, you prove that you will be an engaged and passionate part of the team and that you’re a cut above the rest.

Ask questions

Startups want to employ someone willing to learn and able to think creatively. Exercise your ability to analyze information and form intelligent questions to demonstrate a “growth mindset” that startups look for in candidates.

During your interview, ask thoughtful, informed, and timely questions related to:

  • Company culture
  • Company mission and plans for growth
  • The position you’re applying for

Asking additional questions related to business strategy, current challenges, and team members can show that you’re genuinely interested in the company. Demonstrating your ability to listen and respond with intelligent questions during your interview proves you can be attentive, engaged, and curious.

Effectively communicate your expertise and experience

Communicating your past accomplishments and your capabilities is essential when interviewing at startups. You can improve your communication skills by practicing your presentation until you can explain your skills and experience in a way that’s comfortable, clear, and concise.

Consider including the following key points in your presentation:

  • Teams you’ve managed
  • Projects you’ve worked on
  • Business processes you’ve developed
  • Results you’ve achieved

Interviewers generally read your resume before meeting with you, so use your in-person time to bring your experiences to life with compelling and persuasive details.

Prepare for a quick hiring process

Startups thrive on quick decision-making and fast-paced environments, and you can expect the same approach with their recruiting and hiring practices. The average company takes about 24 days to hire an applicant, but startups move through the hiring process more quickly. Recent research by Clutch found that most recent hires (55%) say their job offers from startup companies came through within two weeks of the initial application process.

Moving quickly into the interview stage means you must prepare for all aspects of the interview and hiring process before you apply for a position. For example:

  • Know how to communicate your skills and expertise
  • Brush up on the skills and abilities listed on your resume
  • Research companies and their products before applying for a position

By preparing for all aspects of an interview, you will be more likely to land the job.

Gain an edge

To gain an edge with a startup company, understand its products, ask intelligent questions during the interview, clearly communicate your expertise and experience, and prepare for a quick hiring process. If you follow these steps, you will mark yourself as a more competitive candidate and land the startup job you hoped for.

About the Author:
Seamus Roddy is Clutch’s HR and recruiting research lead. He provides insights that help companies review and make informed decisions about the best recruiting firms for their hiring needs. 

About the author

Guest Contributor