10 Startup interview questions to ask future hire

You cannot afford to hire an average person for your company. Your first employee will be defining the culture of your business. It’s, therefore, crucial that you find a great person that will be working smart and that is also fun. This will allow you to promote the positive culture you need to be successful in the long-run. A famous Harvard business case says “If you want innovation, you have to invest in people”. Hiring the right person can make the difference between a startup success and a failure. 

To help you out, we’ve prepared 10 Startup interview questions you can ask your future hires. We’ll also explain what to look for when asking these questions.

10) Have you heard about our last ______ (Fill in something relevant such your new product features/ Investment or recent partnerships…)

Interview questions for startup

Has he/she been reading the news about your startup?


9) What do you think about our ______ (fill in the name of  one of your competitors)?

These are preliminary questions, and you use them to check if the interviewee has done his research. Added to this list, you could also ask him anything that you think he should know.

Curiosity is critical for someone that want to work with you. Curiosity is a good reference of  how willing he is to learn and get involved, and how well he will do his future job.

8) Why do you want to work for us?

This is an opportunity to discover his drive.

7) Our company culture is very special, ____ (fill in the blank with your company culture), how do you think you can fit in?

Startup cultures have their advantage of being more laid back. On the other hand, you should be able to adapt yourself to different situations while being creative and low-budget orientated in everything that you do. You have to see that the interviewee expresses this attitude and that you test his reactions to see if he would be a good fit.

7) What would you do with unlimited budget?

Having unlimited budget is not an easy task. Here is an opportunity to see how your interlocutor would prioritize his resources and what would be his goals. Would he get excited by the opportunity or would he get overwhelmed?

6) What can’t you do?

A startup environment is very demanding and you need to adapt lots of different situations. Having a can-do attitude and a willingness to learn is key for success. This is a great questions because it is the opposite of the questions you’d normally expect.  My favorite answer is when people tell the thing’s they cannot do, while showing how eager they are to learn them.

Startup interview questions

5) What can you teach us?

HWith this question, you’ll see how much thought your interviewee has put into what his expertise is and how he can contribute to the company. It’s a great opportunity to give him to shine.

4) What are your hobbies?
3)Where did you go out last friday?

The interview is also an opportunity to build rapport with your future employee. Show that you are a cool person, while learning about their motivations at the same time. You’ll learn a lot about a person by knowing what he wants what his mission in life is. It will also give you an indication of how that person will represent your company when he is not physically in your company.  

2) Can you tell me about a situation in your life when you failed at something? It can be anything you are comfortable sharing with me; personal or professional and how you came around it.

This is one of my favorite classic interview questions. This question will literally separate contenders from pretenders.

Most people learn from their mistakes, but it’s funny how many people have trouble admitting it. In startups, you have to learn to fail fast and often, and learn from those mistakes. Failing is a way to challenge yourself and push your boundaries.

Your goal is to find someone who can objectively look at a situation, and adjust to make it right, in case it is not working right. You don’t want someone who cannot be honest about failing, or who gets paralyzed because they made a mistake.

1) If I were to hire you for this job and I granted you three promises (not wishes) with regard to working in this startup, what would they be?

As Frank E. Rider puts it in his quora thread this question always changes the tone of the conversation. It’s an opportunity to talk about things that they didn’t have an opportunity to talk about and share their worries.

Frank found that people are positively surprised by this question and that no one ever asked a promise about money. It’s a great question to alter how people look at you and your company from the beginning.

What people normally answered was stuff like “Promise you will be open and honest with me” or “promise that you will support me doing my job”.

With this question, the interviewee also moved to frank and revealing conversations.


Franck took the opportunity to make the promise to them. For example:

  • “I promise you that I will always be honest with you, even if it looks like it might get sticky. And if you think I am not being honest with you, come to me and call me on it and we will sort it out”.
  • “I promise that if you are employed here and you are diligent, work hard and ethically and meet the expectations of the job, I will make sure that you get a fair chance at a promotion like everyone else.”

Sometimes there are things you cannot promise, in this case just explain why you cannot make it and find a compromise.

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