So you’ve made it to the interview round for a position at a startup—congrats! Whether you’re a recent graduate or a startup veteran, doing the right prep for an interview is always key for landing the job. Here are 7 interview tips for nailing your startup interview, curated by the Hubble team:
1. Know the product.
Here at Hubble, any new starter—regardless of whether their job is in engineering or marketing—is asked to go through the customer journey on our platform. In putting themselves in the shoes of someone looking for a new office, they can immediately gain a better appreciation for what works with our platform and what could be improved.
A great tip for standing out from your competition is knowing the product like the back of your hand before even walking into an interview; in addition to using it yourself as an imaginary customer, you can also read press coverage, research its competitors and check out product reviews. This means you’ll be able to easily bring up the product’s strengths and weaknesses in the interview—along with a clear strategy for improving on them.
2. Know the interviewers.
Investigate your interviewer like you would a new love interest: go through their LinkedIn profile to gain insight into their background and interests, with the aim of identifying any commonalities with your own that could help build rapport during the interview.
3. Bring your ideas to the table.
Given the fast-paced nature of the startup world, a company will expect you to be able to jump right into your new role. To show that you’re prepared to take it on head-first, walk into the interview with suggestions for how you could improve the product in your role: e.g. ways to improve customer service, new features to develop, how to engage users, etc. Back up these suggestions with concrete examples of how your skills and interests have helped you achieve something similar in the past.
4. Ask questions.
Most interviewers will always turn the tables at the end of an interview and ask if you have any questions for them. This is your opportunity to show that you’re serious about the role, and that you have a genuine interest in the company—rather than simply applying for any startup role that shows up in your LinkedIn feed.
If a founder is interviewing you, you could ask them to talk about the company’s vision, how they define success and how they envision achieving it. Don’t be afraid to inquire about the startup’s business plan, funding situation and potential roadblocks to make sure things are on an upwards path. If the interview is with a future peer, ask about why they like working at the company, some of the challenges they’ve faced and the team’s overall vibe.
Hanna, Hubble’s Head of Marketing, talks about being impressed by candidates in the past:
“I’m always delighted when someone’s done their research on the business and asks question like ‘who led the fundraising round you guys just closed?’, ‘what does your product roadmap look for the next 6 months?’ and ‘why did you decide to work for Hubble?'”
5. Be someone they’d actually want to work with.
Startup teams tend to be small. This means that hiring managers want to hire people they’ll actually want to sit beside every day. Fit is hugely important, so research the company’s culture in order to dress appropriately (e.g. are they more of the “business” or “casual” in “business casual”) and adopt the right kind of tone (e.g. formal or friendly?).
Even in the casual world of tech start-ups, mom’s advice still holds true: sending a thank-you note after your interview can really help make a lasting impression—and shows you have manners.
6. Show passion and vulnerability.
As you probably already know, startups rarely follow a 9-5 work model. They need a team that’s willing to work the occasional evening and weekend out of love for what they do. Even if your career is just starting up or you’ve recently taken it in a new direction, you can still show your passion for your field through extracurricular activities and passion projects. Bringing these up in the interview will let the interviewer know that you’re passionate, curious and enthusiastic—all of which are important traits of a great employee.
Also remember that no one is perfect and that it’s nearly impossible to be 100% qualified for any given role. Be prepared to admit what you don’t know, but also have a strategy in mind for developing those new skills: this shows a willingness to learn that the employer will appreciate.
7. Practice makes perfect.
In the words of Hubble Co-founder and CTO Tom:
“Practice! The more you do it, the less scary it becomes and the more natural you feel. The first time you do it, you’ll worry about what you can and can’t say or that you’ll embarrass yourself. But you won’t—and once you’ve done it a few times it’ll seem easy.
Also, don’t worry too much about the questions the interviewers will ask: often they’ll just be variations of questions you’ve been asked in the past and already have answers for.”