I’ve interviewed hundreds of job candidates. Occasionally, I’m blown away but, more often than not, I immediately regret that we’re going to spend the next 30 minutes wasting each other’s time.
Below are seven lessons every person should keep in mind before his or her next job interview at a startup.
Serial entrepreneur turned VC Mark Suster wrote a solid post a few years ago about why startups should only hire people who want to punch above their weight class. This is true for the startup world, and beyond. Superstars don’t become superstars because they’re naturally gifted. Superstars are exceptionally ambitious. They are confident they can learn or do almost anything. This means that you should absolutely apply for jobs that you don’t technically qualify for on paper. Once you get the interview, prove why you’re going to kill it anyway.
World-class people are acutely self aware. They can acknowledge that they’re terrible at many things. Employers want to hear from your mouth, with zero hesitation, what your biggest flaws are, and how you plan to offset those weaknesses, so that your presence is a net positive to the company.
You will be hired for the one thing that you can do better than anyone in the company, despite your many flaws. Find a way to demonstrate this skill in the first interview.
Research the backgrounds of the company’s core staff, especially those who will be interviewing you. Devour every major article ever written about the company. Digest every detail. Most importantly, obsessively study the company’s market and develop original thoughts on what’s next. Be ready to talk in-depth on a variety of subjects. The interviewer should learn something from you in the process.
It’s hard to prove what you can do in a first discussion. If you can competently turn around a difficult project in an insanely short period of time, you’ll prove you’re either a domain expert or that you have the appetite and capacity to learn quickly. Either way, this alone will likely get you a job.
When you take a job at a startup, your employer expects you to do the best work of your life, the most work of your life and to help others accomplish the same. As such, if you’re not obsessed with the company and the opportunity, save yourself the time and don’t apply. Show up with a clear understanding of where this company fits within your overall goals. Demonstrate that you will do anything it takes to prove how hungry you are.
It sounds ridiculously obvious, but you’d be amazed how many candidates lie in interviews. Be honest about your background. We’ll pick up the phone and verify your credentials when you leave. Be honest about your skills, too. We’ll find out the minute we give you a project if you have them or not.
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