What Not to Do in Startup Job Interviews – Part 2


The headline here is pretty self-explanatory (and I’ll link to part one at the end of this), so let’s get goin’, shall we?

“As far as don'ts go for the interviewee, my main one is to emphasize that egos, showing off, chips on shoulders [are] very bad,” explains Joshua Weiss, the founder and CEO of TeliApp. “I’ve turned down well-qualified candidates because I didn't like their attitude or the sense that they thought they were ‘better.’”

This is so, so, so true. I’ve been in that seat myself, and nobody likes someone who acts smug and superior. It might be posturing or a defense mechanism against insecurity, but it doesn’t really matter: Part of the job interview is to suss out who you are as an individual and imagine what you’d be like day-in, day-out working on a team with the interviewer and their colleagues.

Regarding don’ts — inevitably you’ll be asked why you left your most recent position. Lindsay Witcher, a practice development manager at RiseSmart, says:

There's a big difference between, "I got laid off" and "The company reorganized and cut 1,200 of its staff. Unfortunately my position was one of the ones eliminated, but I'm actually excited about the opportunity this has afforded me as I was ready for a new challenge. Your industry has fascinated me for quite a while, so I think this is a great chance to be able to offer value to your company."

I don’t know if you should literally say “offer value to your company.” I believe that’s one of those things you have to demonstrate with what you say about your past accomplishments. They have to imagine where the value comes in, not just from a vague promise made in a job interview.

Again, regarding gaps in employment, particularly extended ones, Witcher says:

You'll want to display proactive and growth-focused activities you've been involved in that further solidify your qualifications for the role at hand. "Job searching" or "taking a break" is not an appropriate answer these days. You want to discuss related volunteer work, consulting or contract experience and/or education that you've been doing while you job search in order to stand out as a go-getter. Explain this activities in a way that will resonate with the employer and reinforce you have what it takes to excel in the role being discussed.

For part one of this series, do some readin’ here.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as IFC’s comedy, film, and TV blogger, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City and an adjunct professor in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media. (He also co-runs a blog behind the DePaul class, DIY Game Dev.) He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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