Four Tips for Acing the Startup Job Interview

Abby Lyall

Abby Lyall is Director of Partnerships at Quake Capital and a student at NYU’s Stern School of Business studying Finance and Data Science. She is responsible for organizing and moderating the University Investor Series program, as well as building relationships with university entrepreneurship groups and corporate sponsors. Abby brings her entrepreneurial spirit to the team, having previously founded a nonprofit in the EdTech space that secured grants of over $30K and was a finalist in the NYU Berkley Center’s $200K Entrepreneurs Challenge. She has also worked at a Brooklyn-based microlending firm, Morgan Stanley’s wealth management division and the aviation startup BLADE.

As summer rolls around, our team at Quake Capital is ready to hire a new class of interns. As we kick off the interview process, we’d like to give some advice to all students hoping to land a job at a startup. Although there are no official, consulting-style guides to prepping for a startup interview, keeping these tips in mind should have you prepared to make the best impression on your dream company.

1. Be flexible. Your interviewers are guaranteed to have many other responsibilities and will probably be distracted or have their mind on other things. Be patient with unfamiliar environments and last minute changes in schedule—many unexpected things pop up when working at a startup, and showing that you are able to handle uncertainty will make a good impression.

2. Understand the industry. Every startup has an identity outside of just “startup”—they are also a software company or a transportation company or a food company or one of many other kinds of businesses. It’s not enough to just “want to work for a startup”—you also need to care about the company’s area of focus. If you apply to work at a fashion startup but your closet has only jeans and t-shirts, the company will probably not want to hire you no matter how much startup experience you have. Make sure that you’re passionate about the company’s mission before you apply—I guarantee that the founders will be able to tell!

3. Show that you can think for yourself. Most startups are not looking to hire number crunchers—if you work for a startup, you will most likely have a wide variety of tasks that change from day to day. You will also probably be given much more responsibility than you would have at a larger company, so your interviewers will want to know that you can handle the pressure and think on your feet. Most startups will ignore your high GPA and the big names on your resume if they don’t think you’ll be able to come up with creative ideas that will make a difference to their business.

4. Let your personality shine through! This isn’t a banking interview—a smile carries much more weight than a suit. Most startup teams are small and members get very close to one another; culture fit is our most important criteria in hiring interns at Quake. If your interviewers don’t think they would want to get lunch with you, they definitely won’t want to hire you.

Learn about opportunities at Quake Capital here.

Are you an undergraduate or graduate student interested in paid part-time jobs, full-time jobs or internships in the exciting world of Start Ups? Meet employers and explore opportunities at the NYU Spring 2017 Startup Job Expo. MBA candidates also welcome. RSVP on CareerNet to learn more!