Which Questions to Ask a Startup Before Joining

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For many people, getting a job at a startup is a dream position. But if you don’t perform due diligence on your future employer, this dream position could turn into a nightmare (or at least a mild disappointment).

As much as the founders are looking to build a winning startup team, you should be looking for a company that fits your career goals and expectations. But what goes into the process of vetting a startup? In this article, we’ll offer some of the most important questions to ask when interviewing for a startup.

What are questions to ask a startup?

Below are some suggested questions to ask a startup in an interview. The answers to these questions will go a long way in helping you assess whether joining a startup is the right move for you.

1. Job responsibilities

Your job interview is the time for locking down the requirements of the position. Questions to ask include:

  • What will be my job title, role, and responsibilities?
  • What is the 30-60-90 day plan for this job, i.e. what initial goals and expectations will you have?
  • What is the company structure and hierarchy?
  • Who would be my closest coworkers?
  • Will I need to wear multiple hats to cover any hiring gaps?
  • What kind of growth opportunities does the company offer?

2. Job salary, compensation, and benefits

Before accepting a job at a startup company, it’s absolutely essential to know what they’re offering you for the position. Questions to ask include:

  • What is the expected salary range for this job?
  • How do you determine salary raises or bonuses?
  • What stock options or equity do you offer to new hires?
  • What are the company’s policies on health insurance, retirement accounts, vacation time, sick days, and leave?

3. Company culture

Last but not least, you need to assess whether this startup will be a good cultural fit for you. Questions to ask include:

  • What is the work environment like?
  • What is the company’s policy on remote or flexible work?
  • What other perks, benefits, or social events does the company offer?
  • How much job security do employees have?
  • What is the attrition rate of employees?

What questions would you ask a founder?

The questions above can be posed to hiring managers and potential coworkers. However, some other questions may be more suitable for the company’s founders (if you have the chance to meet them).

On one hand, startup founders want to build a great startup team. On the other hand, new hires want to pursue their own career vision. Below are some suggested interview questions to ask a startup CEO to make sure that you’re on the same page.

Company mission

Many people work at a startup because they’re passionate about a certain goal or ideal. It’s important to get a sense of the company’s founding mission and principles during the startup interview. Questions to ask include:

  • What are the company’s most important values?
  • What does the success of this company look like for you?
  • What do you see as the company’s greatest risk right now?
  • What is your long-term exit strategy?

Company finances

Talking about the company’s financial health can be initially uncomfortable or uncertain, especially for early-stage startups. However, it’s important to know that you’re not signing up for a sinking ship. Questions to ask include:

  • What are the company’s current and future funding plans?
  • How much venture capital has the company raised?
  • What is the minimum exit price for which you would sell the company?
  • What is the company’s burn rate (i.e. the rate at which it’s spending capital from investors)?

How do you interview at a startup?

You may have dozens of questions to ask before joining a startup. But to work at a startup in the first place, you first have to pass through the interview process.

Because startups are so small, the impact of a single bad hire will be much more harmful than at a larger company. Interviewing with a startup will probably involve a rigorous skills test, such as a case study or a coding assessment, to make sure that you can do the job.

Here are a few quick tips and best practices when preparing for a startup interview:

  • Use the product: Startups rise and fall based on the strength of their products and services. Familiarizing yourself with the product before your interview is a must.
  • Come with ideas: Many startups are in the growth phase and have a flat, egalitarian organizational structure. This means that they’re generally more open to new ideas and feedback. If you have ideas for new product features or ways to improve conversion rates, don’t be afraid to voice them.
  • Be professional: Even if you find that a certain startup isn’t the right fit, don’t burn any bridges. The startup community is small and word gets around, so you don’t want to jeopardize your chances at the next interview.
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