startup interview questions to ask

Here are four questions every startup interviewee should ask.
  • What Does Success Look Like for the Company? …
  • What is the Biggest Risk to the Company? …
  • What’s the Current Runway, and What Are Future Funding Plans? …
  • What is Current Growth Like?

So, you want to work at a startup, eh? Getting a coveted interview is just the first step, but it’s a biggie. To get that far, you’ve likely gone up against hundreds of other candidates, all of you battling your way through email inboxes or recruiting software. Getting noticed is just the first hurdle. Once you’ve gotten (jammed) your foot through the door, you’ve got to impress—and be impressed.

Something like a mere 2 percent of all candidates get interviews. And if you’re looking to get in at a well-funded, well-branded startup, like Headspace or The Wing, the barriers are even higher. Those companies are no longer startups but early stage tech companies, well on their way to success and stability.

On the other hand, working at an unknown startup, barely out of the ideation gates, that’s another story. You’ll notice those startups tend to have little or no funding, little or no brand recognition and probably little or no office space (see the pattern here?). In other words, those folks may be more likely to knock on your door and fight harder for you to work for them, and you’ll notice compensation packages are mostly in sweat equity.

Startups tend to have small teams. In this sense, hiring is more critical than ever, and it’s not just because the help is needed.

Every hire means something. Every hire is a risk. And that risk flows both ways, as companies want to get the best talent for their money and well, employees don’t want to get screwed.

The Best Question to Ask a StartUp in a Job Interview

What is a startup company?

A startup company is a business started by an entrepreneur or entrepreneurial group. Most startups begin with limited capital and intend to create a specific product or solution within a large and quickly growing market. You can often find startups in the tech industry, as this field frequently prioritizes innovation.

Startup companies are generally staffed by passionate employees, committed to working together to fulfill a mission outlined by their visionary leader. Work at a startup company is often not bound by conventional business hours or reporting structures. These companies may also employ a smaller, but consistently expanding, staff.

Some startups may offer employees stakes in future earnings to compensate for lower salaries or fewer benefits. Oftentimes, the company founders predetermine the lifecycle of the startups business plan to include an eventual sale or acquisition, or they may decide to go public.

Compensation and benefits usually depend on which part of the lifecycle the startup is in when you work thereIn some cases, a startup may be very new when it offers you a role. Perform some thorough research regarding the company’s compensation package to ensure it meets your needs.

Read more: What is a Startup? Everything You Need to Know About Startups

Questions to ask a startup company before beginning a role

Since a startup company may offer a different culture, compensation and work structure than an established company, be diligent in your research of the company and the role offered.

Some startups are too new to have much public information available about them, so you need to gather as many details as you can directly from the interviewer. Ask these questions to help decide if the role youve been offered at a startup company is the right fit for you:

Questions about the current culture of the startup company

The innovative nature of startups can often mean that these companies have unique employee cultures. Questions about culture can help you determine what it might be like to work at a company outside of your regular daily tasks. Ask questions like these to help you determine if the startup companys culture is appealing to you:

  • How many people were initially hired when this company was founded?
  • How many of the original hires still work here?
  • What are employees most excited about?
  • What do employees dislike the most?
  • What kind of person doesnt work in your structure?
  • How would you describe this companys “perfect” employee?
  • How would you describe work-life balance for people working here?
  • What are company social events like?
  • Are the company social events mandatory?
  • What is the companys policy on remote work?
  • What is the companys vacation policy?
  • Did the company founders take vacations this year?
  • What non-compensation perks does the startup provide?
  • What does workplace diversity mean to the company?
  • What role does the start company play in the life of its community?
  • What does the company offer employees to help them with professional development?
  • Questions to Ask Before Joining a Startup

    Before you’re seated across from the CEO, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself to ensure you’re making the right decision.

    Here are four questions you should ask yourself before joining a startup:

    Compensation and Benefits Questions

    Before joining a startup, you will want to have a clear understanding of compensation, bonus, and benefits for the job, so consider the following questions as relevant to you:

  • What is the base salary?
  • What signing bonus may be available?
  • What performance bonus/commissions/additional compensation is available in addition to the base salary?
  • What kind of stock option or equity incentive plan does the company have?
  • How many options will I be granted? And what percentage of the outstanding capitalization of the company does that represent?
  • What is the vesting schedule for any stock options?
  • Will there be accelerated vesting of stock options in case the company is sold or there is a termination of employment by the company without good cause (senior executives often negotiate this, but it’s harder to get for lower-level employees)
  • What health/medical benefits are available for employees?
  • What other benefit plans does the company have? (For example, does it offer a 401(k) program or provide employees with equipment such as cellphones and laptops?)
  • Capitalization and Financial Questions

    You will want to understand the company’s financial situation, so consider the following questions. A company with a great culture can still fail if it has financial viability issues.

  • How much in venture capital, angel, or other financing has the company raised?
  • How much of that funding does the company still have?
  • How long will the remaining funding last before the company has to seek another round of financing? (This is in essence asking what the company’s “burn rate” is—the amount the company is losing each month, taking into account its revenues and expenses)
  • Who are the major investors in the company? (prominent individuals or venture funds certainly will help)
  • Will I be able to see the company’s latest investor pitch deck describing the company?
  • What is the company’s revenue-growth rate?
  • What was the valuation of the company at the last round of financing?
  • How big is the market opportunity for the company?
  • What key traction has the company gotten? (Traction could include increasing revenues, marquee customers, strategic alliances, venture financing rounds, PR, etc.)
  • FAQ

    What questions should I ask in an interview with a startup?

    What are the company’s plans for growth? What are the key milestones for the company to meet in the next year? What is your favorite part of working for the company? What are the biggest opportunities for the company?

    How do you prepare for a startup interview?

    How to prep for an interview with a startup
    1. Know the product.
    2. Seriously, do your research.
    3. Don’t be surprised if a robot shows up to ask you questions.
    4. Take your time, but don’t waste their time.
    5. Not all questions are created equal.
    6. Follow up.
    7. So, you got the job — it doesn’t mean you have to take it.

    What are the top 5 questions to ask an interviewer about the company?

    Best Questions to Ask the Interviewer
    • How would you describe the responsibilities of the position?
    • What are you looking for in a candidate?
    • What are the biggest challenges of this job?
    • How would you describe a typical day in this position?
    • What is the typical work week?
    • Is overtime expected?

    What should I say in a startup interview?

    If you’re interviewing with a founder, ask about his or her vision for the company, how the company defines success, and how it plans to get there. Don’t be afraid to ask about the company’s business plan, funding situation, and potential roadblocks as well.

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