8 Startup Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Startup life can be fast paced and high pressure, but for the right person, can provide unmatched opportunities for learning and growth. 

While no two organizations are the same, there are some qualities—adaptability, innovative thinking, resilience—that can indicate a candidate is well suited for a startup. The interview process is a great way to gauge an individual’s hard and soft skills, their understanding of your business, as well as their motivations and longer-term goals. 

To help you find the best fit for your growing company, we’ve compiled a list of top questions to ask candidates who interview with your startup. 

Related: How to Showcase Your Skills During the Startup Interview Process

1 – Why do you want to join a startup?

Working for a startup is different than working for a more established corporation, small business, or nonprofit—and it’s important that prospective hires recognize this, especially if they don’t have any startup experience. A candidate might say they’re excited about getting in on the ground floor of something new, or maybe they’re looking to get away from the rigidity of their corporate job. Regardless of the answer, interviewers should be listening for the candidate’s understanding of what makes the startup environment unique and their appetite for working in that type of setting. 

Related: 3 Interview Questions to Ask Chief Growth Officer (CGO) Candidates

2 – What do you think would be most challenging about working for a startup?

There are many benefits to joining a startup, but the work is not without its challenges. This question can reveal a candidate’s awareness of some of the obstacles they may encounter when working for an up-and-coming organization and, perhaps more importantly, how they might address them.

3 – How have your past experiences prepared you for working in a startup environment?

Narrowing your search to only those who have worked for startups will unnecessarily limit your pool of qualified talent—but diving deeper into candidates’ previous experiences and how they plan to apply this knowledge to their potential new role is a valuable exercise.

4 – How do you approach learning something new?

Even if your candidate is a subject matter expert, taking on a new role with an emerging company will require some learning. Whether they’d be entering a totally new industry or having to acclimate to the processes you have in place, it’s important to know how your next hire takes on the task of learning something new. There are many different types of learners—visual, auditory, verbal, hands-on—and knowing which kind your new hire is will help you better prepare for their arrival and onboarding.

5 – What makes you excited about the future of our company?

If a candidate adequately prepared for the interview, they should at least know the basics about what your organization does. Their answer to this question will shed light on their familiarity with your company and industry and their dedication to your mission.

6 – Can you tell me about a time when you encountered a problem that needed a quick solution?

When startup employees run into an obstacle, they don’t always have the luxury of time and instead need to innovate and strategize on the fly. Asking this question will help you determine a candidate’s problem-solving abilities and how they like to think through and respond to challenges in the workplace.

7- Do you prefer to work independently or to collaborate with a team?

Depending on the specifics of the role and your company culture, you may be looking for a candidate who prefers one workstyle over the other. In a startup, however, they’ll likely need to be self-motivated and able to work independently, but also be comfortable coming together with colleagues as part of a larger team.

8 – How do you work with colleagues in a remote environment?

If your entire staff isn’t in one place, this question is an important one. Someone who is used to going into an office every day may have more trouble adjusting to a workplace where they’re working from home or in a different setting than their coworkers. If they’re already used to operating in an organization where people are in multiple places, you can use this question to learn more about their communication style and how they prefer to collaborate from afar. 

Related: How to Showcase Your Skills During the Startup Interview Process 

This blog was authored by Viaduct’s Director of Recruiting and Business Operations Tom Hausler. 

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