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Startup Interview Questions

Startup interview questions can be hard to answer. Our Head of Ops, Dimity shares her favorite startup interview questions she would personally ask, including preparation tips for the recruitment and selection process.

17 Jan 2022 by Annie Symonds

Since joining Coassemble and the SaaS startup industry in 2017, Dimity has seen it all! Luckily for you, she shares her excellent tips to help you ask the best interview questions to secure the perfect candidate!

With the Great Resignation taking full swing and a struggle to find top talent in the SaaS startup world right now, what can you do to secure fantastic new employees who will flourish and grow alongside the business?

In this guide, Dimity shares everything you need to know about the best interview questions to ask, but also how to be prepare before you start the Recruitment & Selection Process.

As the talent pool is becoming smaller and smaller, you need to make sure your start up is seen amongst the best in the world. Yes, it can be done!

Use our Recruitment Template as inspiration to customize and put your content into one place below. This will help you keep all of your documents in one place before you start interviewing candidates!

You know, startup Saas company Cliniko had over 5,118 applications while looking to hire four new roles. These roles weren't anything unusual in the job world, so what did they do to make them so desirable?

The key was a combination of job perks, and they almost kept the job spec vague by opening it up to anyone who is interested in learning about PPC, for example. Ultimately they wanted to find someone who had the right attitude they could train up and fit in culturally within the company.

In this guide, we're going to talk about the initial process before you start interviewing potential new employees so you get it right from the beginning as well as nailing those important interview questions.

Let's get a few things straight

Before we dive into Dimity's favorite questions she asks in the interview process, let's help you find the best candidates first, so you're not wasting anyone's time. You also might like to check out our popular guide on the Best Ideas To Improve The Recruitment & Selection Process.

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Understand why you're hiring

One of the main things you need to understand is why you are hiring before going down the recruitment and selection process. As a startup, there will be a million reasons you need to hire staff because resources will always be smaller for a while before the company becomes a success.

As a hiring manager, you'll need to map out why you need to hire and what the role looks like.

Dimity told us that sometimes they might find an absolute superstar they've hired who doesn't fit into the role they were looking for. Instead, they've ended up hiring that person and found a role for them which has turned out to be a great success.

Think about job perks

In these challenging times, your start up will need to stand out in the market, but what will cut through? A fruit basket on a Monday morning is a sign of the times, and with the majority of SaaS companies working from home, you'll need to come up with something a bit more desirable.

When we spoke to Dimity, she told us that she carefully figured out the brand new Coassemble perks program. Understanding that her cohort of colleagues mainly ranges between the ages of 25-45 years old, she knew that travel would be a popular choice for most co-workers.

It was a no-brainer for her to offer a new perks program with an extended two weeks off a year for 'Me Time'. That's right. Two weeks off so the Coassemble team can travel or do whatever they like as a thank you for the hard work. This is of course, on top of the four weeks off a year the team already has off.

With offices based in Australia in the USA, our team now has 6 weeks paid holiday leave off a year. Standard time off is around 9 days annually for the US team, so this is a huge perk for many.

Let's not forget to throw in the exercise subscription and food allowance so our team can work from home with the perks of staying fit and healthy.

With these perks to go by, Coassemble has already become a desirable place to work without having to come up with a spectacular job description. Of course, we're across how we market each role.

How to write an epic job description

As a startup business, you'll need to go above and beyond by leveling up the job description. No one wants to read a long list of must-haves. Instead, you might like to focus on the culture and what strengths you're looking for to find the best candidates.

So, what qualifies as a good job advertisement?

You might like to set your job descriptions template out by using some of the following ideas:

  1. Summarise what the company is about - this could be the company tag line or pitch.
  2. Mention where the job is located and let the candidate know straight away if you're open to a remote role.
  3. Top three highlights of the company - this could be three things the company has achieved or three best reasons to work there which could relate to culture, perks etc. Remember, you have to sell this role to find the best job seekers.
  4. Talk about the role. Who will the candidate report to, and summarise who they will be working with and what the position requires?
  5. Must Haves! You'll want to list the requirements and skills to win this role (but don't go on and on).
  6. The negotiables! It would help if you had some leeway regarding the recruitment process. List any skills that will be a bonus but not technically necessary to score the role.
  7. Role responsibilities! In more detail, talk about the duties of the role and what a typical day might look like.
  8. Job Perks! Sell the perks of the role to attract candidates. You want to make sure they know they will be valued before they even speak to you in person.
  9. Introduce their reporting manager. Put in a quote from the prospective candidate's manager introducing themselves and what they love doing in their spare time. It's important to know that the manager and new employee will get on.
  10. Talk about the company culture. Does the company actively supports diversity? What are the current employees like as people?
  11. And lastly, mention who are the directors of the company. What is their background, and where have they previously worked? If you're a start up, this will help shape what people are leading the company, primarily if they have worked for some well-known brands in the past.

By using these job description tips, you'll be able to carve out a fantastic hiring process with plenty of excellent job candidates!

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Post it to relevant job sites

In that Cliniko example I mentioned earlier, they stayed away from the popular job sites because they weren't looking for generic candidates. By aligning who they are as a company, they matched the relevant job sites with their brand and looked on sites such as We Work Remotely and Flex Jobs because they wanted to find the best talent worldwide, rather than focus on focusing on one area.

When posting to job sites, Dimity told us that she always makes sure the discrimination boxes are unticked to find talent no matter their ethnicity or gender. If you do this, you'll open up a bigger talent pool and because it's morally right, of course.

Use a recruiter

Working at a start-up requires a small team's time and energy. This means that sometimes you need to move fast with the recruitment and selection process, which can be time-consuming. A way to get around this is to hire a recruiter who can find you the best candidates because sometimes they can be found when the job seeker is in fact, not seeking a job at the time.

Once you've got your recruitment process ready, put it into our Recruitment Template so you can keep all of your documents in one place before you start interviewing candidates!

Start up interview questions we would personally ask

Now you've nailed the Recruitment Process; it's time to get your start up interview questions ready. As we said, Dimity has seen it all in interviews and can tell within the first 15 minutes whether the interview will be a success.

Her interview process starts by hearing the job seeker's story, their problem-solving skills, before ending on whether they are a good culture fit.

Here are some of her favorite startup interview questions she likes to ask to get to know if she's found the best potential employees.

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1. Tell us your story

Might sound like an obvious question in which candidates usually talk about their story in the same way. Most job seekers answer this question in the same format; starting with talking about their current job, then previous job, which Dimity can obviously read in their resume.

But, what she is looking for is their actual story. What brought them to live in a specific town, what is it that made them work for their previous employers that they are now here in this interview wanting to work for Coassemble? This story intrigues her more than someone reciting their resume.

2. How would you explain the business to your Mom?

How would you explain the business to your Mom is a question that throws many people off. Dimity doesn't want to hear that the candidate managed to remember certain buzz words from the website. Instead, she's intrigued to see if they really understand what the business is and why they actually want to work there.

For a candidate, this might be overwhelming and pressure to sell them the company pitch, but it really is clarifying that you have a basic understanding of what we do at Coassemble.

3. Don't ask them what's your biggest weakness question

Every job seeker rolls their eyes at the question of the 'what is your biggest weakness(?)' question. It feels way overdone and a little behind the times regarding the best interview questions to ask. Usually, a candidate will answer with a negative and turn it into a positive... ie "I used to have a messy desk, now I keep it organized so I can keep my head clear and focussed".

Instead, Dimity likes to spin this question on its head and ask about the candidate's negative experiences at work. This is tricky for anyone to answer, but what she's getting at is an understanding that someone can fail with grace and learn to overcome it. Because, when working at a startup, it's clear that it's going to happen to everyone. When you fail, you can only learn more and grow, which is the type of people Coassemble is always looking to hire.

4. What's your favorite app and why?

As a SaaS start up company, Dimity loves to ask about the candidate's favorite app, which can put them off track. At the same time, some job seekers might feel like it's a trick question and needs to answer with an inspiring app choice. The truth is, the more accurate you can be about who you are, the better. She recalled one candidate who said:

My favorite app is Tinder. The swipe right and swipe left was a genius invention.

If you've got something technically good to mention about why you like the app, it shows that you're thinking more about it than through a content perspective and can identify what is good about it.

5.What do you like to do on the weekend?

It's rare not to throw in a question that might not be prepared for some candidates. At Coassemble, it's essential to get the right culture fit and while there's no judgment about what you like to do on the weekend, the question is more designed to learn more about who you are as a person.

Dimity said:

We hire smart, enthusiastic people who want to come on the journey with us as we grow as a company.

6. What can you offer the company?

Every candidate prepares for the following question: 'What can you offer the company?'

This is the question every employer should ask because you want to know what they have in mind to do for you. What are their goals, and what do they want to achieve?

But you know what, the answer doesn't need to be complex. Dimity said:

We have one team member who said they'd make good coffee for the team, and here he is three years on still making damn good coffee for everyone (and much more!).

The truth is, as long as a candidate doesn't come across as egotistical and is a genuine human being who wants to help people succeed while growing alongside the start-up business, these are the qualities that should be recognized when interviewing candidates.

One hiring tip you should consider

Dimity also mentioned one hiring tip you need to consider is always to have two people interviewing, whether the hiring manager or someone from the Human Resources department. Make sure you can follow up after the interview to discuss how you felt about the candidate.

Your gut will always tell you when someone feels right for the role, you should jump on them, even if they don't have all of the skills you are looking for. It's easier to train up new hires, especially when you get the onboarding process right, rather than to waste time searching for longer.

Use our recruitment template to get your process ready

Now we've given you our secrets in what an interview looks like at Coassemble; we're here to help you get organized and streamline your processes in the best way possible. If you're the hiring manager or a member of the HR team, you'll likely be hiring more than this one time due to being a start up. The best thing you can do is use our Recruitment template and drop your hiring process into it so you can adjust it as and when you need to for each role.

Jump into our 7 Day Free Trial, so you can access the template straight away! This will give you a fantastic starting point so you can add or delete any of the content we've included.

Coassemble is built by instructional designers who are changing the way employees learn. With fun lesson screens to customize, you'll be able to turn your content into a fun and interactive course that anyone will find engaging! Chat to our US-based team on our Live Chat and ask as many questions as you like so we can help you build out your onboarding checklist in no time!

You can add screens, move screens and customize your content to build your onboarding checklist you'll be proud of. Or, if you prefer, start a new course from scratch and add the screens as you go.

Over 30 screen layout templates

30+ lesson screens to choose from

With 30+ lesson screens to choose from, you'll be able to bring your content to life by using them to create an interactive presentation. For example, our popular wheel lesson screen helps you distribute your content into bite-sized interactive pieces. You also might like to use our timeline screen to add to your recruitment process.

Add in a quiz (find out more about our quiz screen here) to break the content up, and make learning fun so that your managers training new team members know exactly what they are doing.

There are plenty of ways to bring your content to life; you'll love using our lesson screens to help you see how easy it is to make it happen.

We're more than a recruitment template

Coassemble offers much more than training templates to help make your life easier!

Our US-based training experts will help you build a training experience that will instantly make sense to everyone who needs to be involved in it. Drop our team a message in our Live Chat feature on this site, and they'll be able to answer any questions you might have about getting started with your training.

  • You'll discover how to build a genuinely awesome training course that will knock the socks off your team and other stakeholders.
  • You'll learn how to send your training program pro-actively so it doesn't get lost in a sea of spam.
  • You'll also gain access to understanding how your team engaged with your training through our excellent analytics tool.
  • You can ask for feedback from your team about how they found your training so you can continually improve and update it when needed.

Try Coassemble for FREE today!

Turn training into a fun online course.

No credit card required

Try Coassemble for FREE today!

Try out 7-day free trial here so you can see if Coassemble is what you've been looking for (we know it is!).

Test out our awesome lesson screens and have fun discovering how much you can get out of using our system to keep your training together.

Send our team a message on Live Chat so we can answer any questions you might have about getting started, and you'll realize that within 7 days, we'll turn you into the workplace hero who will be hiring superstars in the making!

Build an engaging course for FREE!

Try Coassemble and transform your online training today.

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