Top 14 questions to up your startup interview game.

Rachel Grewal

Head of Talent

July 15, 2022

There are many interview techniques, from strengths to value-based, each of which has its own pros and cons. There are countless question banks and posts out there with example questions based on the approach you decide to take.

The aim of this article is to equip you with questions that you’re unlikely to find in the countless resources out there. The right questions can add huge value to start-ups when scaling in a fast-paced and sometimes unstructured environment. 

When using these types of questions, it’s important to remember the following:

  1. They’re not aimed to catch candidates out, as ultimately you want to give interviewees the opportunity to put their best foot forward during the interview process. 
  2. These questions are intended to help you tease out examples of situations that candidates have demonstrable experience of that is directly related to the role and culture in question.

Why do such questions add value? 

  1. They give you an insight into how self-aware and reflective the candidate is.
  2. They differentiate the interview process for the candidate. Standing out in this market when candidates have multiple interviews at a time is challenging.

Asking questions that give candidates a need to pause and reflect will make interviewing with you a more memorable and significant experience.

Here are our top 14 killer interview questions which you can easily implement within your existing interview template:

Self reflection.

1. What piece of feedback have you been given that you still hold onto and value today?

This question can demonstrate self-awareness around continuous improvement

2.Name a time you made a big mistake and what you learned from it.

This is a great way of finding people who have a growth mindset.

3. What is a tough lesson you learnt in life or at work that has shaped your approach in your role?

This can demonstrate when someone is able to recognise where they have gone wrong and what they’ve learnt from it

4. What have you learned about yourself in the last five years?

This shows personal growth and introspection. It can also be quite revealing!

5. How has Covid impacted your work or leadership style?

This can reveal someone’s ability to learn, grow and adapt to their environment

Going over and above.

6. Have you ever initiated anything beyond the scope of your position? Like a new process, a new technology or a new working method?

This helps to identify candidates who are ‘doers’, and that find ways to be productive creatively

7. Give an example of a situation where you solved a problem in a creative way.

The interviewer is trying to understand how the candidate thinks and tackles problems. Does the candidate have a methodical approach or are they more lateral and abstract thinkers?

Resilience.

8. Can you tell me about an achievement or accomplishment in your life that to begin with you thought might be impossible? And how did you achieve or accomplish it?

This can help you ascertain how the candidate has overcome big obstacles and how far they have pushed themselves to grow.

Authenticity.

9. Can you tell me something about yourself that differentiates you from others?

This is a great way for you to see the candidate in a very authentic way as they share insight about themselves. It could be an unusual hobby, or a passion — anything really. Their ability to disclose this demonstrates that they will bring their full selves to work daily.

10. What is one misconception people have about you?

Learn whether the candidate is self-aware.

11. Were you expecting me to ask a question that I didn’t end up asking? If so, what would have been your answer?

This surprises candidates but will allow you to see how they think and assess your business.

Can you support them to be successful?

12. Who at your previous place of work gave you the most energy and why?

Can your team environment and culture give them what they need to be successful

Team ethos.

13. What have you done to help someone else succeed?

This will give you a glimpse into how they work with others. Are they a team-player? Do they care about the big picture and helping their colleagues, whether or not they get 'credit' for it?

Organisation.

Describe how you prepared for this interview?

This will give you an idea of how they go about preparing for a task and will be a question they are unlikely to have been asked.


Even if you use just one or two from the list above in the next interview you’re conducting, it may increase the deeper insights you gain into the candidates character and improve the candidates perception of you as a potential line-manager.  

Give it a try - what did you find out that you wouldn’t have otherwise?

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Rachel Grewal

Head of Talent

July 15, 2022

As a highly experienced Talent and People Leader, Rachel's background is in scaling businesses strategically in multiple geographies and coaching teams of recruiters to be their best.

During her career Rachel has worked for scale-ups with a focus on tech talent, taking a startup tech consultancy from 60 to 600 people over 4 years, and she has worked to bring about strategic change in larger organisations such as the Financial Times.

Her influence extends to proactively impacting culture and talent development, retention and DE&I practices, influencing senior leadership teams and challenging the way an organisation is developing.