What Not to Do in Startup Job Interviews – Part 1

Maybe it’s just my circle of friends and acquaintances, but it seems like everyone is talking about switching jobs. Be it from one startup to another startup, from one startup to a “normal” job or any other permutation therein. So, I put the call out to the Chicago startup community and am going to pass along these tips to you, the Inc. Well community. I hope these help, and of course I’ll offer my insights along the way with these as well, too.

Bear in mind these will apply for interviewer and interviewee. Both, of course, are in a challenging position.

This first one comes from Adam McElhinney, the head of business analytics at local online lender Enova.

“Don't arrive at the interview unprepared to ask meaningful questions. It is actually a red flag with the interviewer if you don't want to know about the job, the culture, the co-workers and the opportunity ahead. It's okay to ask the same questions of different people too to hear their unique perspective.”

This is so, so, so incredibly true. Startup job interviews can be pretty informal, and I think some people mistake that for an invitation to just “wing it.” It may be somewhat casual, and you may not need to be dressed up, but you should still be informed, bright and inquisitive.

McElhinney also adds that you shouldn’t try to impress the interviewer “by asking overly technical question, like whether an interviewer prefers on really specific analytics modeling technique over another... it’s a missed opportunity to ask a more meaningful question.”

Kevin Marasco, CMO of HireVue, offered this:

“Keep an open mind about location, salary, benefits and perks. Open yourself to the idea of working remotely, and remember, compensation is more than just what is on your paycheck. This is especially true when interviewing with startups, who might be able to offer some flexibility and quality of life incentives.”

Marasco also offers another really good point: “Don’t ‘um’ the interviewer to death.”

I think, overall, the lesson here is: Be prepared, be flexible and be open-minded but project and don’t ramble.

Sounds totally doable, yeah? 

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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