How to Smash the Interview at the Startup of Your Dreams

About the author: Katarina Jones is the Associate Director of Startup Institute London, an eight-week programme that equips individuals with the skills, mindset, and networks they need to get jobs and thrive in new startup careers.

No one who has worked in a startup before can deny that it is an entirely different animal than a corporate. In startups you�re striving to disrupt industries and do something that�s never been done before. You�ll be faced with an immense learning curve and you�ll have to work collaboratively in a relatively flat company structure. And, yes, you�ll most likely be pulling some long hours.

So, finding a company whose culture fits you is critical to your happiness and success. You�ve got to find the right team so you can truly make magic.

But once you�ve found that dream gig, how do you land it?

Interviews can wreak havoc on nerves, and you might walk away from that magical culture fit with a �We�ll call you� that implies �never.� We asked some of London�s hottest startups what they look for in new hires. Here are some of the highlights, and how you can show you�ve got what it takes:

Demonstrate your passion for the mission

This is your dream job, right? Don�t be afraid to show it! Each founder wants to see that you�re as excited as they are to go on this journey. In the words of Adrian Lloyd, Partner at Venture Capital firm Episode1, �Working in a startup is stressful. The employee has to be doing it for more than the money for obvious reasons. They have to really believe in the mission of the company and vision of the CEO.�

Don�t underestimate the power of a �can-do� attitude

Many startups believe it�s more important to show you are capable of doing something and excited to do it, over previous experience. Show your willingness to learn, try new things and wear multiple hats, and it will take you a long way. Brendan Gill, CEO of OpenSignal said it better than we can: �We primarily look for aptitude over specific experience. We're uncovering a lot of untrodden ground and experience is only useful when coupled with the right attitude and ability�

Understand the challenges the company likely faces and come up with some suggestions

Lotta Holmberg of Toothpick states �The most valuable team members are those who intelligently evaluate and question what we're doing as a company, how we're doing it and why�.

In the interview, show you�ve done your homework by considering the challenges your dream company is dealing with. Bonus points if you can do this for the job you�re applying for. Then, dazzle them with your thoughtful suggestions on how you would address these problems in the role. This shows that you are someone who focuses on solutions, rather than on roadblocks.

Provide examples of great teamwork you�ve done in the past

Startups are a lot about teamwork. You spend all day, and often all night with these people, so you better know how to work well together. In a startup you�ll be expected to communicate effectively with people of all backgrounds, so be ready to provide examples of when you�ve done this successfully in the past.

Sofia Quintero, Head of Growth at Geckoboard, explains the importance of teamwork in a high-growth tech company: �Those who normally make it to the second stage of the interview process are those who can demonstrate the ability to collaborate with other team members in order to get the job done. This means a combination of great communication skills, flexibility and drive.� Equally important is the ability to ask your team for help when it�s needed: �[...] We�re always learning. There�s no room for arrogance.�

Finally, a few words to the wise about interviewing from the team at Startup Institute: know your own value proposition and how to tell your story. If you walk in to an interview prepped with these tips, we dare you not to knock their socks off.