Startup founders may have it harder than traditional executives, and there’s no need to look far to see why. Startups are high-risk environments in need of people who can cope with the challenges. Traditional workers are hardly a good match for them.
Because of that, many hiring interview questions that have been established as traditional may just not be the right choice for the occasion. Questions like “Why do you think you are a good fit for this business” do not really help the interviewer determine whether the prospective hire is the right person.
So, which would be the right questions to ask?
1. How Can the Company Be Successful?
Startups are fast-paced environments. They need people capable of coping with the changing circumstances, who don’t get discouraged when risks don’t pay off. It’s crucial to understand that, in order for a startup to be successful, employees need to be engaged, communicate and function as a family.
Everyone should be equally thrilled with every new accomplishment and share in the overall company’s success. In order for that to happen, employees should have a shared vision. Therefore, the question “what does success look like for this company, in your opinion?” is the right one to ask prospective hires.
2. What Is the Biggest Opportunity and the Biggest Risk for the Company at the Moment?
It’s a no-brainer that talented people think outside the box. That means they may give unexpected answers to common questions and see solutions in a different light. And that’s exactly what you should be aiming at when hiring new people for your startup.
Obviously, you can see the risks for yourself, but how does the prospective hire define them? Usually, the main issues are risks and funding, so it’s natural to follow up with a question about potential opportunities.
How would the prospective hire turn the situation to their advantage? What would they do if the risks didn’t pay off?
3. Describe Your Last Project in Detail
To assess prospective hires, it is crucial to understand how they cope with challenges. Even if they come from traditional backgrounds and companies doing business the old-school way, they will have had great ideas, even if they didn’t come to flourish.
Ask specific questions to be able to assess how the prospective hire dealt with specific situations.
4. What Ideas Would You Bring Forward if Hired?
This to-the-point question may be cliché, but it remains essential nonetheless. Startups are all about ideas, or rather – a multitude of ideas and testing the right combinations.
If the prospective hire doesn’t show creativity and inventiveness, they will hardly be a good fit for a startup. Plainly put, startups need innovators, not people doing things the traditional way. What makes innovators what they are are their exceptional ideas and ways to implement them.
Simply put, you’re asking prospective hires to tell you what they can do for your startup. Aim for specific ideas and see if and how they can help you scale and innovate.
5. Tell Me One Thing About Yourself
This tricky question has served to tell employers a bit more about prospective hires’ personality. Do they like to boast? Are they shy? Do they underline the qualities they think you’re looking for?
Startups are families comprising different skillsets and psychology and it is, therefore, crucial to understand just exactly what each employee can contribute to the business.
As selfish as it may seem, startups care more about what employees can do to help them grow than what they can do for the employees. Because creative people will enjoy shaping and implementing non-traditional ideas, this question is just the right one.
Note that this question is different from the usual “describe yourself in one word”. Albeit, it may be a useful insight, it is much more useful to ask people how they actually see themselves and see if that fits with your company vision.
6. What Is Your Next Plan if You Don’t Get This Position?
It is always a good idea to ask a “trick question” to see how prospective hires will react and how fast they will come up with an answer.
Employers may actually come up with a slew of unexpected and unpleasant questions to assess a person’s psychology. “What will you do if you don’t get this position?” is one of the best questions in that regard.
As Louise Woodcroft-Letham, Human Resources Advisor at Amadeus IT Pacific puts it:
“If a candidate can show me that they have thought about alternate next steps, and have an idea of other developmental activities or strategies to reach their desired goal (…), then it is more likely they will adopt similar approaches in a workplace.”
7. Do You Have Any Questions About This Position?
This is the usual question employers ask, whether it’s a traditional company or a startup, but it is no less important for all that.
If you don’t know the candidate’s expectations, there might be misunderstandings. And the latter is the one single thing startups don’t need – ever!
If the prospective hire doesn’t have any questions, it’s no good. No matter how detailed your description of the position, innovators will always be interested in additional information.
This question is also a good sign that you are actually interested in their input.
Instead of a Conclusion
Startups are tough and call for loads of hard work. It is only by the joint efforts of everyone involved that great ideas turn into profits and future prospects.
Handpicking just the finest of candidates with desirable mindsets and personal skills is the key to making it big. Because of that, you should think deeply about the questions you want to ask during the hiring interview.
These are some of our suggestions, but ultimately, it is your call. Whatever makes it easier for you to unravel the mind of a genius will do nicely. Look for innovators and prospective leaders, rather than for rank chasers! That’s really all there is to it.
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