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Preparing for a job interview can be exciting and stressful. Many job seekers focus on what questions the company will ask them and often forget to think of questions to ask their interviewer. Interviews are a two-way street. The business wants to learn about you, see if you’re suited for the role and the company culture, and you can find out about their plans and whether they will be the right fit for you.

Start-ups are usually innovative and fast-paced which can be very appealing but is not an environment that everyone thrives in. Before jumping into one, make sure that the company is what you’re looking for. The start-up environment offers flexibility and endless opportunities for growth and learning. You can be a part of something new and make a significant impact. However, it can still be a difficult, high-stress environment in the early days, which is why we have compiled a list of 4 key questions to ask in your start-up interview so that you can really get to grips with the business.

 ask start-ups

What is the company culture like?

The stage and rate of growth can indicate a certain working culture. Early-stage companies are constantly evolving whereas mature start-ups focus on execution and scaling the business. Hypergrowth can mean rapid progression and learning, but you can also expect longer hours, an ever-changing job description and constant problem-solving.

What you want to know about company culture:

The simplest way to know about the culture of the business is by asking directly. How well you fit with a company’s culture is based on intrinsic values. You shouldn’t force a cultural fit. There is also no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ company culture. You need to decide which environment you thrive in and what cultural aspects matter to you, so you can identify what a good or bad response might look like. Elements such as leadership approach, work flexibility, dressing style and office social life are just a few examples. If the interviewer’s answer seems uncertain, then the company culture is probably lacking. If they seem honest and use personal examples, then the company likely has a clear culture that is embedded in all that they do.

What previous success has the leadership team had?

It’s important to join a company with leadership you trust and believe in. A key person is the founder. Successful founders come in all forms. One with a good track record is an indicator of what can be achieved by the company. Although, a founder lacking a track record is not always negative as long as they can articulate their vision clearly. However, it could also show a lack of experience and knowledge which means you could be taking a big risk.

What founder success you should be looking out for:

If it’s found that former co-founders, employees and investors followed the founder to the current start-up, then it can be a great sign as to what type of person they are. Leaving an established position because you believe in someone and their vision is a risk but one that shows signs of a fantastic leader.

Another reliable indicator of future success is the track record of those in other leadership positions. A track record of promotions shows that a person is great at their job and ambitious, which are valuable skills in a start-up environment.

ask start-ups

What is the current runway, and what are the future funding plans?

Understanding the company’s runway says a lot about how viable the business is and the strength of the management team. The longer the runway, the greater your job security and funding plans indicate ambition and growth for the business.

What to look for in company financials

If the runway is less than a year, you should inquire about future funding. Is the firm attempting to raise funds, and if so, how? What investors are the founders pursuing? Joining during such a critical time could help increase your equity stake. If a company fails to raise the funds it needs, the runway indicates how long it can function before financial problems might arise. Cash reserves and funding amounts aren’t the only way to measure financial success though. Ask about profit and revenue for previous years and targets for the coming years. When it comes to money, it’s all about how you ask. Most companies are willing to share this information, but, if they refuse, question why. Their transparency as a firm can be determined by their openness.

What are the equity options?

The more equity you have with a company, the bigger share you have in the business as you effectively own part of it. Startups are keen to offer equity to get buy-in from their employees. It incentivizes employees to grow the company’s valuation in the same way the founders and investors do.

What to look out for in equity talk

Ask what percentage of equity you will be offered, as this determines how much you’ll be paid out in an exit event. Compare the offer to the market rate for your equity compensation and negotiate from there. You also need to find out what type of equity you’re receiving. Most start-ups will offer stock or restricted stock options. Make sure to clarify which you’ll be offered and ask about the specifics of your company’s vesting schedule to know exactly how much you’ll own and when.

Owning stocks can involve financial risk, so you need to know how to negotiate equity and get the best stock package possible. Make sure you get equity options documented formally to hold the company accountable. Knowing as much as you can about your equity offer upfront will help you determine its value and decide whether the risk of joining a start-up is worth the potential reward.

Storm2 are specialist FinTech recruiters dedicated to helping startups and scale-ups hire the best people for their organization. If you’re looking to grow your team, get in touch with our team of expert consultants with your hiring needs.

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