Interviews with start up tech companies. Best questions to ask?

best-practices

#1

I have only worked at small companies and this would be my first interview at a start up company. What kind of questions should I ask? I have done some research into the company, the problem they want to solve, and their tech stack.


#2

At any interview I always ask what a typical day is like for one of their developers, how collaborative the environment is, as well as some version of the work-life balance question. Of course at the few startups I’ve interviewed at that last one tanked the interview pretty quick so be careful.


#3

Don’t be afraid to questions about things that matter to you, like work-life balance. If you don’t ask the questions that matter to you and then you get hired into a bad fit, everyone loses. Don’t pretend to be what you aren’t or you will probably be worse off.


#4

There are a few categories of questions that you might want to consider asking, but it very much depends on who you’re able to talk to, and what your own priorities are. Here are examples of some questions that I typically ask or expect people to ask when I’m interviewing them:

Work & Environment

  1. What are the biggest challenges that the team has right now?
  2. Do you think communication is good? How much do people know about what’s going on outside their individual team?
  3. What time do people usually get to work and take off? (trying to learn about balance/burnout)
  4. What’s the best thing about working at the company?
  5. What’s the most difficult thing about working at the company?
  6. What’s the growth opportunity for people at the company? (should be large at a startup)
  7. What traits do the best people here have? (can tell you something about what the company values, both good and bad)

Company

  1. Is the company profitable yet?
  2. What’s the revenue been over the past year?
  3. Given current revenue and burn rate, and the money raised so far, how long will it last?
  4. Is there an expectation of raising another round of funding in the near future?
  5. How much is the company expected to grow headcount in the next year?
  6. Who are the company’s closest competitors, and what’s the company’s advantage?

People

  1. How long have you been at the company?
  2. What brought you to the company, and what convinced you to join?
  3. What keeps you excited to be at the company?
  4. What do you think of the plans the company’s leaders have put in place?
  5. What’s the manager like to work for? (asked of potential teammates)
  6. What would be the number one thing to help me be successful in this role?

The idea is to get a sense of what sorts of people do well at the company, the work environment you might be stepping into, and whether the company itself is on track. Assuming you’re looking at early-stage startups (series seed/A), they should be open about things like funding, revenue, profitability. If they’re not, that’s a pretty negative sign.

Hope that’s helpful, and good luck! I’ve worked at mostly early-stage startups for 25 years, and while like anything you have to be careful, it can be a lot of fun and an opportunity for tons of growth and learning.


#5

I love this collection of questions: https://github.com/amandaleee/developer-interview-questions


#6

Julia Evans has a pretty good set of questions: https://jvns.ca/blog/2013/12/30/questions-im-asking-in-interviews/


#7

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