A startup is always an exciting proposition for young professionals to work with. You will not only get to witness the beginnings of a great success story but you will also be a part of it – a chance of a lifetime for many. However, the journey of a startup is not an easy one – it is fraught with risks right from the beginning, with most of them winding up their businesses within months of starting up.
10 questions to ask interviewer before joining a startup
Here’s a checklist of questions to help you decide whether you should take up a job with a startup or not:
What is your one single goal?
You should ask the interviewer what is that one thing that the startup must accomplish to succeed. This way, you’ll know if it has a clear and focused vision and whether you will be able align your job with that goal. Also, ask them what do they want to gain from the venture. Does the startup want to create a world-famous product, take the company public or make as much money as possible? Although you may not necessarily get a right answer, you should look for some consistency among the employers. The founders must wholeheartedly believe in the idea that they are selling to invest yourself in the future of the startup.
What is the problem that you’re solving?
You should ask the interviewer what the company is solving. The answer should excite you and you should feel passionate about being a part of it. Basically, the answer will tell you what the company’s product or service does.
Have you built a business before?
This is extremely important, as records show 85 per cent of startups don’t get to taste success. Not everyone is Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page (they hadn’t built businesses before). If the founders have built and sold a business before, then the odds of failure go down a bit.
What companies are your biggest competition? Your strengths and weaknesses?
Asking this question will let the employer know that you’re already thinking about the company as if you own it. This question also shows that you think like a leader – someone who knows how to put the company first. You should show that you’re ready to take the plunge right from day one.
Do you have good funding?
The startup that you plan to join should be adequately funded, and its burn rate (the rate at which the company uses its cash over time) is key to survival. Does it have enough money to last a year? Anything less than six months – the startup is already said to be out of business. So why take the risk when you have plenty of other job options to choose from?
What’s your current runway?
What is the current financial status of the startup? You should know if the company has a couple of years of cash in the bank or is nearing the end of its funding and needs to raise additional funding to continue its operations. Startups are often on the verge of running out of cash. Most of them are dependent on their next round of funding or their next big client. You should know how many months of runway (the amount of money the company has on hand divided by its run rate) they have left. This is an important figure, as the first move of a startup with dwindling balances is usually to lay people off.
What’s your exit strategy?
Ask the company what their long-term goals are and what their exit strategy is, and make sure you’re on board. The startup may be brought to IPO or bought by a large player in the industry. You should ask your employers if it is their target to sell in the next few years, as this may affect your current standing within the company. There is nothing wrong with an exit strategy but you should be kept in the loop with the company’s timeline.
What will be my focus for the next three months?
Ask your employers what your role is going to be. This will give you an idea of what you’re signing up for. Startups often have fluid job roles and priorities change by the day. The whole direction of a startup could shift in a month. But asking this question, even if you get a vague idea of what to expect, will only help you in your decision-making process.
What is the work environment like?
It is extremely important to know the work environment of the company as it will impact both the employer and the employee. Each startup has its own culture fit, and the work environments can range from being stuffy to wacky. Startups often have small teams and long working works. Also, try to see your boss’ relationship with the other people in the company. So, before you start working, it is wise to know if the company will fit you as much as you fit the company.
What will I get to learn?
If all else fails and you failed to judge the startup before accepting the job offer, at least ensure that you get to learn something fairly quickly so that it adds to your skill set and you can move on to get a better job.