Here are some of the best questions that I use while interviewing potential employees to help find the best talent.
You’ve launched your startup, you’ve probably pinned down some investors, and all signs point to a “real” business. However, you are just getting started. Every time you add someone new to the team, they’re a new “moving part” and can either make the environment better or worse–though in many cases it’s a little of both.
Mosts startups like mine are on a tight budget and can’t afford to hire the wrong person. Others, particularly with founders who consider their business their baby, want to make sure the person they hire is a right “fit” for the company. After all, if you’re going to be working with a person closely for most of your waking hours, you want to like them and make sure you’re on the same page. I’m in the middle of the two!
Here are a few must-ask questions for a business owner hiring a new team member. These answers will tell you if the person complements you business, if they’re in it for the long haul, or if they’ll just say yes to the first outside offer they get.
- Tell me about your dream job. Some people are desperate for a job (any job!) and you can’t blame them. If they start talking about wanting to work for a major corporation, a clear way to climb up the ladder or otherwise suggest the job they’re interviewing for will never be their dream job, it’s time to cut the interview short. You won’t be doing anyone any favors by moving forward with this candidate as they won’t be working for you long.
- Why do you want to work here? This is a must-ask question for any job candidate, and it shows you both where their passions are and/or if they did their research about your company. I like founders that do their research. Startups are fueled by passion, and if a candidate doesn’t even seem clear on what your venture does or why they want to work for you, that says a lot about how their work ethic will pan out. I like to hire people that know a bit about me and my company. I typically tell them to “pitch me” my company as if they are talking to a customer interested in my company. If they do well, it’s a good sign they will be good. Every company needs sales people in every position.
- Tell me about a challenging project you managed. Even if you’re not hiring for a management role, you want someone who can take initiative–after all, this is a startup environment. It also shows you how they deal with challenges and conflicts. You want a fighter, not a “flighter” in your venture. Don’t be hard on them if they haven’t had a lot of managerial experience as sometimes these can be amazing. You want to see how they would and have worked in the past.
- Explain how you go the extra mile? Everyone wears a lot of hats in a startup, and it’s nearly guaranteed that anyone you hire will have to step outside of their job description from time to time. This is about flexibility, which is a must-have with a startup. I’m not looking for someone that just does their job. I’m looking for someone that goes above and beyond. One way I like to phrase this is asking them which is better: to finish a task on-time or have it be late and something everyone loves. I love hearing their responses.
- Do you think you’d like to start a startup one day? This might be seen as a “trick” question by the candidate, but it shouldn’t. Entrepreneurs are drawn to the startup environment, even if they’re not ready to do it themselves yet. They can learn a lot from your company, and vice versa. Plus, if they do have an idea and it complements your startup, you might even be able to work on it together. I like startup people (even though it’s risky having them work for you). They can bring some of the best ideas ever to your business. You might even want to set aside budget for them to build out part of their dream within your business.
End each interview by asking what the candidate likes to do outside of work. You both love to kiteboard on the weekends? That might tell you a lot more about company culture fit than any other question.
Most importantly, actually follow-up on references and trust your gut. It rarely leads you astray.