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5 Tips for making a Big Splash in your Startup Interview

So you’re interviewing with an early stage startup. Congratulations! Job hunts are exciting, but in the technology space there is a very delicate balance between being ambitious and being overwhelmed.

Finding a new opportunity in the tech industry can be just plain unpredictable. Technical screens and whiteboarding exercises vary from company to company. Each startup has its own interview and hiring process, so it’s almost impossible to know what to expect. This 6 step guide will help you prepare for the roller coaster ride of finding your new niche.

1. Know your audience

Who calls the shots at the startups where you’re interviewing? Knowing who they are and how they got to their current role can be powerful information. Take a look at the LinkedIn profiles of some of the leaders of the company before meeting with them. Knowing what shaped them into the CTO or VP of Engineering at their startup will give you a talking point or two during the interview. You might even find something in common, like an Alma mater or a mutual connection. Mentioning these will make you more memorable!

Doing the research on who you’re meeting with will also help you feel more prepared and confident entering the interview. Browse the company’s webpage or download their App in advance, too. You might not be able to tell, but the more interested you are in the product, the more enthusiastic you’ll be as a candidate.

 2. Get ready to improvise

Think of your interviewer as Sandy Koufax - famous for curve balls. You’ll probably be asked a few questions you won’t have a prepared answer for, but that’s an opportunity to show off how you think on your feet. These questions often determine culture or team fit (which will matter as much to you as it will to the company)! The Muse has a great article about how to answer the 31 most common interview questions. Be creative and specific with your answers. 

Remember - no one can pitch curve balls for the entire game! You’ll get a chance to rely on the skills you feel most confident about. Be honest about your abilities and training. Have you worked on some side/open source projects that utilize hot new technologies? Try and drop a humble hint at these throughout the interview, and include them in your resume. 

 3. Listen

Interrupting the interviewer is a huge no-no, but when we’re nervous we may not even notice you’re doing it. Allow the person you’re meeting with a chance to finish their questions before you start answering. Once you do begin delivering your answers, pause to hear the interviewer’s reactions and follow-up questions before changing the subject. 

Furthermore, if you don’t understand a question ask for clarification. Incorrectly answering a question because you didn’t quite understand what the interviewer asked can have far larger consequences than asking them to simply rephrase. 

 4. Trust your recruiter

Technical Recruiters deal with engineers who are actively interviewing on a daily basis, so it’s fair to say we have a lot of experience dealing with matchmaking. Here at Expanxion, we like to go a step further than most and really get to know both the candidates and companies we work with. We know what questions to ask to get to the root of what someone is looking for, and we do our best to only connect them with companies that will offer those things. 

Expanxion’s recruiters are always on your side during your job search. We will always do our best to find a place for you to flourish, but this takes some trust. If your recruiter is encouraging you to go through with another interview, or give the coding challenge a shot, it’s probably because we see something you might not. The next interviewer might have lots in common with you, or you might learn about the specific product you’ll be working on in the next round. 

 5. Relax and have fun! 

Every interview is an experiment and an opportunity to learn something new. The vast majority of people don’t regret a practice interview, because in the worst case scenario it gives them an opportunity to learn something or meet someone new in the industry. On the flip side, the best case scenario is joining a company that you build your career around. 

Chances are you’ll gain something each time you interview at a small startup, whether it’s a bigger network of industry connections, or a dream job at a company you never even knew existed! 

Good luck out there!