Preparing for Startup Interview

6 min

Nowadays, a startup career has become an attractive option for more and more job seekers. It implies many perspectives for professional development and adventurous experience in fast-growing startups, so it is clear why specialists seek such vacancies. However, when it comes to interviews, the question is what to do to make startups consider hiring you above other applicants. It may sound challenging as expectations for the interviewing process are usually not as clear. Nevertheless, proper preparation will undoubtedly move you closer to the dream job, so the article will show you what you should prepare for.

Startup interview process

All startups have distinct visions, so the startup interview steps may vary. However, there is a standard procedure that many employers prefer to follow for recruiting. It consists of three main stages, which require slightly different approaches for each step.

1. Phone interview

The 20 to 30-minute phone interviews serve as an introduction to the whole process, so typically, you should not go into deep detail on the questions. But the call can provide the startup with essential facts about you to make a quick screen analysis.

Skills and qualities

For this step, interviewers usually check whether the CV information corresponds to your actual competence level. Be ready to talk about your task management style, your vision of implementing ideas in practice, and other questions about this character that portray you as a specialist.

Professional compatibility

Startups usually assess if you have put effort into doing research, so there may be questions to understand why you assume this position is a perfect fit. The typical "why do you want to work at a startup" interview question can appear in different variations.

Salary expectations

Generally, salary questions are being discussed early to eliminate applicants who don't meet the position budget. Instead of trading, provide the desired range you would agree on. Besides, think beforehand of the questions to ask a startup yourself.

2. Hiring director interview

If you succeed in the call, you will receive an invitation to be interviewed by a hiring director (the position title may differ). Therefore, you should be ready to give well-sustained comprehensive answers because this stage is likely to determine the final result. 

Experience in detail. Unlike the phone session, you are expected to dwell on your past duties and highest attainments. Reflecting on your background prior to the interview is a good strategy because it helps develop a structured explanation of the lessons taken from your past jobs.

Knowledge assessment. Startups can ask you to comment on the issues related to their development strategies and day-to-day work. This step will demonstrate your level of expertise.

Test for professional competence. The practical task is a popular way to look at you in the natural work process. The test's purpose depends on the position itself, so we recommend examining the job description for ideas of what the proposed tasks may be.

3. Head manager interview

As startups usually don't have numerous staff, you are very likely to meet a founder, CEO, or other senior leaders as a final stage of the process. They give a decisive opinion on whether you are the right match for the startup, so be ready to provide more in-depth answers.

  • Motivation and goals. Having completed previous stages, you have proved to be skilled and experienced enough for the position. It's time to share what drives you to work together with these people. Describing your long-term goals is also highly appreciated. 
  • You as a person. Founders are the ones who understand the startup culture essence, so they are eager to discover your personality attributes. You may be asked to describe your character features, tell life stories related to the job, etc.
  • Final comparison. Startup heads want to make sure you are a top-notch candidate, so explain your interest in the job and the startup. Showing a willingness to learn more and understand things better usually works perfectly to impress interviewers.

How to answer typical startup interview questions

Be natural

Even if you feel a little nervous, allow yourself to share thoughts and ideas freely. Don't stick to the sample answers; remain honest and show who you are exactly.

Keep selling yourself

In the first place, you want to prove why the startup should pick your application among all the candidates, so refer to the job description and try to answer what makes you a top candidate. Then, emphasize these points to the interviewer during the session. 

Avoid vague answers

Poorly structured responses leave an impression that a candidate is not competent enough or avoids telling the truth. Try to formulate ideas clearly, so you sound more confident and trustworthy.

What questions to ask a startup

  • The future of the startup: what are the mid-term and long-term perspectives; what are the startup's responses to the current market crisis (these are the questions to ask startup founders if you get a chance);
  • The interviewer's experience at the startup: what makes them stay in the startup; what are the opportunities for their professional development.
  • The startup culture: what the teambuilding looks like; how the internal communications function.
  • Things that matter to you: don't hesitate to clarify everything you couldn't find the answer to.

Tip: formulate your questions to be open (e. g. what, how, why) but still specific. The vague questions to ask startup interview typically are not welcomed.

Main tips on how to get ready for a startup interview

Practice beforehand. We highly recommend taking your time to do a mock interview with your friends or by yourself by recording your answers. This prework may feel a little embarrassing, but you'll get a chance to receive feedback and analyze what could be improved.

Tune in to an optimistic mood. Thinking positively about the process and result will make you feel more confident, relaxed, and inspired during the interview.

Reflect after each stage. While analyzing the startup interview questions, try to understand what the startup is looking for. Moreover, your feelings about the overall atmosphere may be hints as well.

Still haven't got an invitation for the interview? Then, visit to find a new perfect job in a startup or a company with a proven track record!

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