6 Questions to Ask During a Startup Job Interview

3 min read · 7 years ago


After hiring for my own startups, I’ve learned a lot about what hiring managers look for in a startup setting. These six questions will help you stand out from other candidates. Bonus: they’ll also help you decide if the startup is the right fit for you, which is equally important.

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

Everyone thinks they know what a fast workflow is like — until they work at a startup. Priorities change by the day. The whole direction of the company could shift in a week. Force your interviewer to think about the job and talk about details 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 exec 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, and you also want to put them in a position where they see you as a natural fit. In a worse 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 own 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’ve heard it before — in interviews, get the interviewee talking about herself. 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.

Brendan Mangus is a online and offline marketing expert who has worked with brands like Dow Chemical, Zippo, Bayer and Saint-Gobain to launch products, build engagement and awareness and drive leads and sales. He is principal consultant at Colorwheel Media Consulting, where he provides business and marketing counsel to small and mid-sized startups in Boston and New York.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.