Startup Interviews, Be Ready For Anything

Posted by Jeff Pelliccio on Dec 9, 2014 8:26:00 AM

In Interview Tips

If you’re looking for a job at a startup or small business, you need to know that job interviews at startups are often much different than those at larger companies. At a growing business or startup the job interview is going to be much more nimble and innovative when it comes to interview questions than a multinational with a large HR department.

Owners and managers tend to be younger than those at established companies, and your job interview at a startup firm is likely to move quickly and may even catch you off guard if you’re not ready for it. Preparation is key in any job interview, but when it comes to interviewing at a startup or growing company, you need to be ready for anything. Here are some tips to help you prepare for your entrepreneurial job interview.

  • Be ready for a different kind of vibe. In a traditional job interview, you’ll probably be introduced to your potential manager, and will maybe meet some possible co-workers. At growing companies, most of the employees wear multiple hats, and the interview is likely to be more of a round-table than a hierarchical series of meetings. Questions can come at you from all sides, so don’t feel like you’re under fire if everyone starts talking at once.
  • Speaking of questions, you’ll probably get some wacky ones. At least, they may seem wacky at first: If you were to organize a circus, where would you start? How many tennis balls could you fit in your car? Some of these questions are meant to see how you think: With the circus questions, do you look at the big picture by deciding it should be an animal circus instead of a tumbling circus, or do you look at details by figuring out how to organize the tent? Other questions are meant to gauge your reaction to absurdity and nonsense: Do you put up with it? Are you irritated? Do you counter with a bizarre answer, or do you take it seriously?
  • Match the culture. By the time they get to the weird questions, you’ve probably got a pretty good idea about what the company culture is like. Entrepreneurs tend to be a little more casual and open-minded than corporate types, so you should have a good idea on what kind of answer your interviewer is looking for. If you’re working with a recruiter, ask what the dress code is like at the company before the interview; showing up in an expensive suit when everyone else is in shorts and sandals won’t necessarily make you look good. Entrepreneurial managers generally look for innovative, independent and quick-thinking people, so being ready for that kind of an interview will put you at an advantage.
  • Prepare for action. Instead of giving you a hypothetical problem to solve, some interviewers may even draw you into a challenge the startup is facing. Again, they are trying to find out how you think, how you work with others and how quickly you might get up to speed with the company. This kind of interview question doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s an excellent chance for you to shine.

Knowing what entrepreneurs want will put you ahead of the game in your job search. Keeping these tips in mind can help you land the job you’re looking for.