4 Questions To Ask When Hunting For A Startup Job—Or Any Job

Ready to join the exciting startup world? Before your starry eyes lead you astray, ask these questions of your future employers.

Working for a startup can provide a fast-paced, fulfilling experience and opportunity that you are unlikely to find at larger companies.

The stories you might have heard about the perceived startup atmosphere and culture—think beer kegs in the office, company paintball outings, and office pets—paint a picture that is hard to resist, but these surface draws are not true indicators of a startup’s culture.

At the same time, startups come with their own set of challenges that you should explore and consider if you’re giving serious thought to making a startup a stop on your career journey. Due to ambitious goals and demanding timeframes, startups are often aggressive in attracting their top talent.

Before you jump into a new job at a fast-growing company, you need to ensure the opportunity will challenge and reward your abilities and that the organization is ready for your contributions.

During the interview process, ask questions that confirm the company’s values align with your own, and seek to understand the degree of corporate transparency and whether there will be frequent feedback from the management team. If not, your new startup job may fail to meet your expectations and become an environment of frustration instead of the incubator for growth you are seeking.

The following four questions will help you find your perfect job:

1. Is the company’s mission clearly defined and is it mentioned consistently throughout the interview process?

Like everything in life, the path to achievement begins with defining your goals. For companies that are growing fast and rapidly adding new employees, the ability for everyone to align behind a singular purpose is extremely critical.

Don’t expect anyone to say the company’s mission is to get bought, go public, or for everyone to become rich. What market need is the company addressing? What drives people at the business to make a difference? Do you agree and believe in the vision? Are you excited to tell your friends and family about the business based on what you learn?

If these questions can’t be answered or are answered differently by different people, you may find yourself on a ship without a rudder.

2. How has the company recently performed, and what are the key performance indicators?

Most private companies will not share specifics in terms of revenue growth or total clients. However, this doesn’t mean they can’t discuss recent challenges and wins.

In a polite way, ask whomever you meet with to discuss how performance is measured for his role and within his department. You can also learn a lot by asking people about recent big wins for the company and how they were celebrated. If the answers are lackluster, it may be a sign that management is not structured to develop individuals’ growth or that wins are not celebrated.

3. How frequently does the company get together for all-hands updates?

If a company has a forum for internal updates or holds meetings for the entire staff on a regular basis—say monthly or quarterly—it may point to its openness and transparency. This shows management wants employees to be updated on the company’s progress and goals, while also opening up the floor for employees to ask any questions they have about activities or plans for the future.

For instance, at Trustpilot, we hold all-hands meetings at least once per month. During the meeting, each department shares a recap for the previous month and an overview for the current month. We also use this as an opportunity to highlight strong individual performances. Lastly, we’ll often put a question box out prior to the meeting and invite team members to submit questions (anonymously if they choose).

4. Does the company encourage candor?

Jack Welch famously said that candor is a vital aspect of company culture and management effectiveness. Unfortunately, understanding whether candor exists in an organization is tough; who wants to admit they don’t communicate directly and frankly?

Asking how conflict is resolved between coworkers, managers and reports, or departments is a great way to learn about the company’s views on candor. Another good question is simply, “do you have any reservations about my ability to succeed in this role?” You’ll learn a lot about how the company communicates based upon the directness and sincerity of the answers.

Do you have other advice to share about finding the perfect job? Share in the comments or tweet us @TrustpilotUS.

JP Barnych is the vice president of sales, North America, at Trustpilot, a review-driven community for online shoppers. Prior to joining Trustpilot, he held sales management positions at iAcquire, Conductor, Inc., and Yahoo.

[Image: Flickr user Marlon E]

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1 Comments

  • Waweru Kirumba

    Great article.

    I'm a gap year student looking to start an internship soon and I wish this article had come out a few months ago. I'm really strongly focused on what an internship this year could add to my profile and these are great points to gauge that on. Props