Questions to ask in a startup interview

Having worked in a company that was one of the best and had even been voted as one of the “Best Places to Work”, it wasn’t really an easy decision to quit and start on my own. Before I decided to take off on my own, I had a word with some investors and had numerous exchanges with a handful of CEOs too. And then came the scariest part – HIRING the right team.

Armed with my own experiences and know-how, here are some nuggets of wisdom to all of you who wish to join a startup. Ask and you shall receive the answers! Here are some questions you should consider asking your employer:

What do you expect me to complete in the first quarter?
Almost everyone thinks they have come from a high pressure, fast turnaround environment, till they actually start working for a startup! Here priorities change by the day. The whole direction could be steered in an all new way in just a week. Make your interviewer give this question a thought and delve into details. This will also give you an opportunity to ask smart follow-up questions about the work you would likely be doing the day you step in.

What KPIs are earmarked for me and how would I be evaluated?
Enquiring about your performance review shows that you have the confidence and the ability 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 executive looks at success may be very varied from your previous employer. Get to know what the employer expects from you and also learn about the priorities of your future seniors all at the same time.

Do you see my skill sets as suitable for this position or is it vice versa?
Now this one’s actually loud and bold! But when addressed with panache and élan, would go on to showcase how you have a sense of humor and add some levity to the interview. You want your interviewer to see your drive, determination and confidence and you also want to put them in a position where they see you as a natural fit and hire you on the spot.

Who are our biggest competitors?
This question makes the interviewer think as tough you’ve been hired and are accepting the organization as your own. This also goes on to showcase your thinking prowess as a leader. That you are someone who knows how to put the company first. In the startup world, this comes as prerequisite as leaders are forged in fire. Demonstrate that you’re ready to take on the world from day one.

What is your leadership style?
Get your interviewer to talk about herself/himself. There’s no one who doesn’t enjoy speaking about themselves! People always like to discuss their accomplishments and by asking about a specific leadership style you’re readying the interviewer to hit a home run, patting themselves on the back all the way around the bases.
There are other questions you can ask, but it is equally important to listen closely. What is more important is to pay attention to their responses and how each individual answers the questions. From their responses, you can identify if the company and you are a fit for each other.
If you are going to join a startup, you should not only be totally sure that you are passionate about the company’s vision and product, you should also be 200% excited to work with the founders, investors and potential colleagues. Your time is valuable. It is the one asset you cannot make back, so it’s critical to be protective of your time and spend that time with the people you’re not only excited to learn from but grow with.