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So You’re a Startup: How to Interview

This blog marks the second post in our So You’re A Startup series. Every week, we’ll be talking to people in the startup community, collecting some of the best startup tips, and answering some frequently asked startup questions. Last week, we helped you with your pitch. This week, we’re giving you some insight into how to interview.

As a startup, you have many options. You can go at it alone, you can look for investment and mentors, you can move to Silicon Valley, you can join an accelerator…

Accelerators help startups get off the ground – they “accelerate” their growth. Many of them offer funding, mentorship, events with networking opportunities, workspace – and on top of all that – a great deal of connections in the startup world. After going through an accelerator like Y Combinator, many startups leave with angel investments or venture capitalist funding – which lets you know you’re doing it right and gives you a bit of social proof, potentially leading to some huge opportunities.

Accelerators sound pretty great, right? Maybe you’re thinking of applying to one, or maybe you’ve already decided to.

So now you need to know what accelerators are looking for – once you get your foot in the door with an interview, what do you say? How do you act? How do you convince these experienced entrepreneurs that you deserve what they’re offering?

Here’s what we’ve got:

1. Reduce your idea into a single sentence.

You’ve got these important people willing to listen to you – make good use of their time! Being able to say what you do in one sentence will always be a huge asset to you. Prepare this sentence before the interview and run it by a few people to make sure it makes sense.

2. Show them you can hustle.

Show customers or adopters you already have customers via your payment gateway or mail-lists. These are the hard metrics that show you can convince people to buy into your idea.

3. Showcase your technical jibs.

If you’re applying with a new idea that you haven’t started developing (from a technical or customer perspective), you’d better have an amazing story (or amazing contributions to awesome open source projects). People like good stories.

4. Know the answers to the questions you don’t want to ask yourself.

These are the questions that you avoid because of their possibly unideal answers.
“How will you get customers?”
“How big is your market?”
“Who are your competitors?”
Get over it and learn how to answer them – the hardest questions are often the most important to know the answers to. They’re also probably the ones that are going to get asked. Be able to answer these questions as succinctly as possible – one sentence!

5. Be concise!

You should know what you’re talking about backwards and forwards. If you’re sitting there on the spot and making things up as you go along, the people you’re talking to will know! Show them you care about the interview and your idea by being fully prepared – the more prepared you are, the more concise you can be.

Getting into an accelerator really comes down to your likeability and what you’ve already achieved – that’s the most important thing, over your product and traction.

Big thanks to @michaellitt from Vidyard for sharing his experience gained from applying to Y Combinator.

Have any good tips for startups interviewing at accelerators? Leave us a comment & share your insight!