How to Answer Tough Questions in Startup Interviews

After witnessing so many unfortunate mess-ups and shattered dreams along the winding road of hiring, Randy Frisch, the COO of Uberflip, decided to offer some guidance.

In a blog post on the Uberflip website, Frisch offers some insight for the make or break questions he tends to ask during interviews.

“I often like to ask the candidate the following,” wrote Frisch: “If things don’t work out with this interview what are three other companies in the city that you’ll be applying for/craving to work at?”

A common mistake when interviewing with a startup is the notion that mentioning big names and top tiered companies will win admiration. Frisch noticed that those without much knowledge of startups will automatically fall on their crutches and answer with places such as L’Oreal, P&G, or BMW, of which none can be considered startup companies.

What you are actually saying when you say you want to work at a big established company is that you are either inclined for a position as a lifer with little desire to move up or that you merely want a fancy well-recognized name on your resume or you have no idea what a startup even is and you just need to pay the bills.  

Startups want people who like startups. So if you have any genuine intention of joining the ecosystem, you better do some research. The list of cool startup companies in the community is increasing constantly, so why wouldn’t you want to work with them? Why wouldn’t you want an opportunity to help a rising company succeed? Act like you want to contribute to the bigger picture and not just ride on the coattails of an already accomplished company just to boast your own self worth.

“Many SaaS (software as a service) businesses offer a free trial of their product or service as part of their customer acquisition strategy—we’re in line with that through our 14 day free trial,” wrote Frisch, “So I often ask: what do you think of our product?”

When an opportunity to impress comes knocking, many people are reluctant to open the door. The objective is not just to say everything you rehearsed at the interview, the objective is to prove that you are the most viable candidate for the job and what better way to do that than to familiarize yourself with the product. “If you’re applying for a bizdev role I want to know you’re going to dig into leads,” wrote Frisch, “or if you’re coming onto our marketing team I want to know you’ll find how to actually engage with our customers.”

Use the product if it is offered and present something. For example, Frisch noticed that some people have uploaded a resume or portfolio onto their Flipbook solution and presented it at the interview. That shows dedication and commitment. Not every applicant is blessed with experience, so take advantage of those little chances to make a lasting image.

“We’re a digital content marketing solution so we need people who embrace content and social media,” wrote Frisch. “I often ask people: Are you active on Twitter? Where do you search for content?”

Whatever Twitter might end up being in ten years times that is not important, sure it might be a fad for some, but for over 500 million users it is one of the most effective tool of the present. It is not how much you tweet, but whom you are following and the kinds of conversations you are joining in.

Discuss your interest and hobbies, favorite food and drinks and an event you are planning on attending. Gain some followers and be proactive. But don’t just end on Twitter, it is always an advantage to know more, familiarize yourself with apps like Flipboard, Zite and LinkedIn. Whether it is the techworld or some other planet, understand where you are planning to land. Mentioning influencing organizations related to the company will boast your worth significantly; places like TechCrunch, Mashable, MarketingProfs, and of course Techvibes.

“This one never comes from me—only you and too often,” wrote Frisch. “Please don’t ask: what are your operating hours?”

Just don’t. Simply come to work and impress.

“Truth be told,” he wrote, “I really don’t care how late you work as long as you’re getting shit done with a wow factor attached.”

So there you have it, the secret is revealed. By taking the time to read through blogs such as this and apply what you learned, you are already in demand. 

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