A startup job interview

When you are going for a startup job, make sure you know how different it is from normal operations.

What are the first projects that I will need to complete in the first three months on the job?

What is a startup work environment like?

  • Priorities change by the day.
  • The whole direction of the company could shift in a week.
  • Manage your interview as if you’re already in the role.

This question forces your interviewer to talk about the job as if you’re already in it — and gives you an opportunity to ask smart follow-up questions about the work you would likely be doing on day one.

What performance metrics would I need to meet and exceed for me to score an A+ on my first evaluation?

  • You’ve already placed yourself in the role.
  • Now assume you’re a Pro Bowl hire.

Asking about your performance review shows that you have the confidence not only to think you’ll get the job, but also to do whatever is expected to be a high achiever.

Also, this is a practical question to ask. The way a startup executive judges success may differ from your previous employer.

Get insights into expectations and learn about the priorities of your future boss all at one time.


Do you see any areas in my experience or skill sets that would prevent you from hiring me for this position right now?


  • This is a bold question, but also one that, if asked with finesse, can add some levity to the interview.
  • You want your interviewer to see your ambition and confidence.
  • You also want to put them in a position where they see you as a natural fit.
  • In a worst case scenario, they sum up what you’re lacking and at the very least you have the opportunity to counter their negatives with positives.

What companies are our biggest competition?

What are our strengths both corporately and culturally compared to these competitors? Weaknesses?

The preceding questions are focused on the work and about your skill sets, but this question lets the interviewer know you’re already thinking about the position as if you’re in it.

This question also shows that you think like a leader — someone who knows how to put the company first. In the startup world leaders are forged in fire. Demonstrate that you’re ready for the challenge from day one.

How would you describe your leadership style?

You might have gone through it before — in interviews, get the interviewee talking about herself/himself.

People always like to discuss their accomplishments and by asking about a specific leadership style you’re teeing it up for the interviewer to hit a home run, patting themselves on the back all the way around the bases.

What do you like the most about working for Company X?

The last big question you should never forget to ask on an interview pertains to the actual quality of life at the company where you’re seeking employment.

  • What does your interviewer like about working there?
  • How are the hours?
  • Does it fulfill a life mission to work in X field?
  • Why should you want to work there as well?

Remember, interviews are two-way conversations.

At this point in the interview, your interviewer should want to convince you to come work for them as much as you’re trying to secure the job.

Suresh Shah, Pathfinders Enterprise

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