5 Tips for Interviewing for a Position in a Start-up

I never thought I would have a career in Human Resources – in fact, I specifically did not want one. However, I ended up in an HR role during a placement and it changed my outlook entirely. Not only do you get to spend the majority of your time with people, but you make the decisions that determine what direction the business is going to go it. Human Capital is the single most important aspect of a business (at least in my eyes!) and to be the one to determine who the company invests in is incredibly rewarding.

I have only been deeply involved with the hiring process at one startup, but I have sat through so many interviews in this time – both for internships and full time positions – that I have come to develop a short list of things I look for in each candidate that comes through. These are five broad areas that, if a candidate can tick off all, make someone stand out in my eyes. I recommend having a look and trying your best to follow the below model in your next interview (especially if it is a start up).

Passion/enthusiasm about the concept

Startups need fresh minds to bring in cutting edge ideas. They also need their employees to believe in the business. When a company is just starting, the founders and employees are the best salespeople because a) they’re the first to know about it and b) they are the best, if not only, salespeople. Be familiar with the product/service, be prepared to engage in a conversation about it (do not be afraid to ask questions if you are confused about an aspect or genuinely want to know more!), and if it something you are really interested in, be sure to show that. If your interest is genuine, don’t hold back in fear of sounding too eager.

Be yourself

Most small companies are all about the people – the team culture makes all of the difference. If you are 100% your genuine self in an interview, it will help you no matter what. Either a) the company feels that you would be a great fit which could put you at an advantage over other candidates; or b) the company (or you) do not see it as a match made in heaven which will be beneficial to your long term happiness. It may be upsetting to “not fit in” but you also do not want to spend 80% of your time with people you do not feel comfortable with.

Demonstrate your flexibility

Like in any company, change can come at any time. With small companies in particular, it could be hard to find someone to step up implement that change. If you demonstrate your flexibility from day one, be it regarding which department you work in, what tasks you do, or even your availability outside of your scheduled work hours, your interviewer will see you as someone they can put on any task.

Be as open as possible about exactly what you want to do

Most start-up job descriptions are very inaccurate. Being a part of a growing, changing business means that things come up and everybody needs to be ready to adapt. If you are open about what you want to do, it could open up an opportunity for the company (maybe they’ve always outsourced their web design, but you are a practicing coder in your free time) but could also result in a position you are much happier and confident doing on a daily basis. After all, there is no rule saying all technical stuff had to happen in the IT department.

Say yes!

This ties into both enthusiasm and flexibility, but is probably the most important point in my eyes. If you see the opportunity to say “Yes!” in interview, it’s a good idea to do so – unless you feel uncomfortable or would be lying!

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