Developer Interviews @ Startups

Developer Interviews @ Startups

Over the last year I”ve found myself in an exciting new situation. I”m interviewing candidates to be the developers & designers of a team that”s looking to turn online dating upside down. As with many first-time Lead Developers, at first I wasn”t completely sure what to look for in a new hire. But, after sitting in on 20 or so interviews, some good, most bad, I have a reasonable idea of what separates the great from the “Oh my God, how did this guy get past security?” ones.

In my experience, a lot of young developers don”t seem to do a lot of research on the company they”re interviewing with. And, they also don”t understand or haven”t fully contemplated the differences between their current corporate job and the startup environment that they want to work in.

Inspired by Brad Feld, who recently wrote a post called Preparing For a First Meeting With Me, I thought I”d lay out some of the things that are most common interviewee patterns I look for. Luckily, a few of these patterns correlate nicely with success on our team, even more than a candidate”s resume, or technological know-how.

Here we go:

Be a self-starter. Though the term ”self-starter” may be an overused buzzword, actually being a self-starter is the #1 leading indicator of success for a prospective team member, in my opinion. If you”re excited about work, and like working hard in order to better yourself, your skill set, and your company”s product, you”re going to find a way to do a great job. In contrast, there”s no bigger turn-off than a team member who calculates how little they can do and still get by.

Don”t make outrageous compensation demands. Like many things, working for a startup is all about balance. We”re an early stage shop, work is challenging, but it”s a lot of fun for us, and we aren”t made of money. If you want a 6-figure salary, you”ll probably be better off interviewing at one of the banks down on Wall st. EDIT: I should note that, while we don”t pay a base salary that”s comparable to a late stage, well-established company, we do offer generous stock options, which are designed to be very profitable when you help the company grow.

Do a little homework on us. Our team is kind-of like an open book, if you know how to use Google, Twitter, or Facebook. Spend a little time checking out our site, our about page, team page, blog, and magazine. It”ll give you an idea of what working with us will be like. Plus, it”ll give you something to talk about with the interviewer. If you can figure out what my biggest problem is, and position yourself to be the solution to it, then let”s just say.. you”re in great shape, to say the least.

Be sharp. Just because we don”t have a dress code doesn”t mean we tolerate sloppy thinking. Give thoughtful, honest, and engaging answers, and please please pleeaseee have a few questions for your interviewer.

Have a track record. The old adage, ”actions speak louder than words”, speaks very true to me. If you are coming from a corporate IT job, have no record of entrepreneurship, and want a job with a startup, then you”ll probably do better to a) evaluate why you want to make the switch, b) whether you have the energy, and c) if so, why haven”t you tried something on your own? It”s never been easier to start a web shop out of your apartment than it is today. And even if you try and fail, you”ll at least have shown that you”ve tried.

Establish that you”re trustworthy Eye contact, strong references, and a balanced demeanor are all good ways to start.

Be yourself. We”re a startup, not the borg (yes, I saw the new Star Trek movie). Don”t be an automaton. There must be something interesting about you. If you have a drop of personality in your body, don”t be afraid to show it, it will help us get to know you, and may even help your chances of getting the job.

Welp, that”s my shortlist. How about you? Entrepreneurs, what indicators of success do you look for when selecting new teammates? Job hunters, what strategies do you use to convince interviewers that you”d make a good fit on their team?


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