Working at a busy startup, you don’t have the time or money to invest in finding the right person to fill a role. However, moving forward with the wrong team is one of the top reasons startups fail, demonstrating that building the right team from the start is absolutely crucial.

Despite this, HR can often take a back seat in the beginning stages of a startup. The first in-house recruiter could be someone who only has experience of being an interviewee. So how can you, as a first-time interviewer, get the most out of this important step in the hiring process and find the right person to join your growing organisation?

What are you Looking for in Your Next Employee?

Before you even invite anyone to an interview, you need to be really clear about what you want from your next hire. Are you only interested in candidates that tick every box for the job requirements? Or are you looking for someone who will complement the company culture and be really passionate about the work you do?

If you are leaning towards the latter, Guv Jassal, of niche IT recruiter, Washington Frank advises that “you should start to think about the kind of qualities you want in your next hire and identify the technical elements that could be learned ‘on the job’”.

Pre-interview Preparation Tips and Techniques

Once you’ve sifted through the job applications, picked your shortlist, and extended an invitation to interview, you need to make sure you stay focused on finding the ideal candidate for your needs. Once you get face to face with someone, it’s easy for your decision making to be swayed by who you like the most. You need to be careful that you don’t weed out the top talent based on who you like.

Before you sit down and talk, Marcus Franck, founder of the London-based startup, Franck Energy, shares his tip for making sure you concentrate on finding the right candidate; ”I always remind myself about the missions of our company, and revisit the responsibility that we have as a group and the values by which we operate”.

You may find it useful to write your questions ahead of time or if you wanted to interview in a more relaxed style, note down the topics you want to touch on and outline a general path to help you steer the conversation without any awkward fumbling.

Interview Questions to Ask Your Next Employee

It could be argued that interviews are the perfect place to assess a candidate’s personality, working style, and cultural fit. You have already read about their work experience and education in their initial application now is the time to dig beyond what limited information can be shared on paper.

An interview is your chance to assess a candidate’s cultural fit, personality, and values. You can use the following questions to make a judgment as to whether someone will complement your team and company culture:

  • What drives you to succeed in your professional life?
  • If you were an animal, what animal would you be and why?
  • How would your last supervisor describe you in three words?

To find out more about functional or technical skills, you could tailor the following questions around the role you are recruiting for:

  • How would you rate your key competencies for this job?
  • Tell me about the most recent project you worked on. What were your responsibilities?
  • What do you do to maintain your technical certifications?

You should be able to ascertain an applicant’s academic qualifications quite easily from their initial application, but you could use this opportunity to ask the following questions that delve deeper into their qualifications for the role:

  • How did your education help prepare you for this job?
  • Why are you the most qualified candidate?
  • What educational experiences do you think most qualify you for this job?

Relaying questions directly back to your company and the role will show if the interviewee has taken the time to research your product, service, company, and industry. It will give you an indication of their level of interest. A few questions to ask:

  • What do you know about us?
  • What appealed to you about this role?
  • What can you contribute to this company?

You should end the question and answer part of the interview by turning the tables and giving the interviewee a chance to ask you any questions. Think about what they asked — have they just enquired about holiday entitlement and work benefits, or have they used the time to delve into the job role and highlight their qualities, skills, and experience?

Look for Nonverbal Cues

Effective nonverbal communication, or body language, can be another factor in your decision making. We’re all naturally able to pick up on nonverbal cues like posture, eye contact, arm gestures, and handshakes. Although, bear in mind that while a lack of eye contact is often highlighted as a sign of dishonesty, it could just be a sign of nerves.

These nonverbal cues can help you make a judgment as to whether the candidate is just saying what they think you want to hear, or if they are offering a genuine view of their personality. They could be saying one thing but communicating the opposite through their body language.

Avoid These 5 Rookie Interviewer Mistakes
  1. Listen – One of the most common interview mistakes, for both parties, is talking too much. A job interview should be a dialogue, not a monologue.
  2. Take your time – Allocate enough time for your interview and remember, it’s ok for you to ask for more information and dig deeper into their answers.
  3. Keep it professional – You want to make interviewees feel comfortable but avoid overly personal questions about the interviewees family, race etc.
  4. Ask open-ended questions – One word answers will not help you to make your decision. Stick to open ended questions that will help keep a dialogue going.
  5. Take notes – It can be easy to forget what’s been said, and when you are interviewing multiple people, you can confuse who said what.

Final Thoughts

The importance of putting together a well-rounded team with unique skills that can help to push a new company forward has been well established. Bringing a new person into any team is a big responsibility, but with startups, it could be argued that it is even more important as an individual can have a greater impact on a small team.

Interviews are the most important stage of the recruitment process so, naturally, they can be a nerve-wracking experience for both parties. As with most things, preparation is key. Take the time to really think about who would fit in with your company culture and be adept at bringing their unique skills to the role. Also, planning your questions can really help you to stay on topic and cover all the subjects you need to.

Don’t feel rushed into making a decision or hiring the first person you interview. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. You may find that the more people you interview, the more skilled you become, and the more you can get out of the process.

Jade is a freelance writer covering everything from career development and talent management to digital marketing and events.

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