Ah, the world of startups… The ever-evolving, exciting, fast and young blood of a company to work. Sounds exciting, right? Well, before you jump right into one, we prepared some questions for you to ask. Although startup jobs may be exciting, they may not be the ones you’re actually looking for. Therefore, just like interview preparation, we believe that you should also get ready for the job before talking to the startup recruiter or sending the job application email. There are many opportunities in a startup environment compared to a long-established company, like wearing many hats, endless possibilities for growth and learning. You get the chance to be on the ground floor of something new and see your contribution has an immediate and lasting impact on the business. Much more is what makes working at a startup attractive. Although it might sound exciting, working in startups can be challenging and might not always be the best fit for you. That’s why we have gathered 10 questions to ask before joining a startup.
1. Is the Startup Right Fit for Me?
The environment is everything when it comes to choosing a job. The happier you are to be surrounded by your colleagues, the more fruitful you will be. Maybe you heard some of your friends say that they stay around even after the working hours because they love the culture, environment and people so much.
What are their core values? What kind of person doesn’t work in your structure? What is the company’s approach to workplace diversity? Which role does the startup company play in the life of its community? How does the company help professional growth? How would they describe work-life balance? How are the company’s social events? And lastly, you might want to ask about their remote working policy; since with the Covid pandemic, many startups and companies integrated this method into their structure as well.
Remember, all these questions are for YOU to assess if you would like to be a part of an organisation with this culture.
2. Is What They’re Selling any Good to the Market? Will People or Companies Want It?
The best way to find the answer to this is tyring it out yourself -if you can, of course. If not, maybe you can start your field search by telling your close friends about this startup and what they are providing to see what their reactions would be and if they would see it fit for their own companies. This field search will also give you insight into the product/service that the startup is about and create more in-depth questions to ask the recruiter. Remember that this method might not be the best way if the startup is new or if their product/service isn’t market-ready yet.
3. How Long Do They Have? Cash-wise
Generally, startup founders start the road with their capital and build their economy on the way. The appropriate way to ask this is to use the word “runway.” A runway of a business means how long do they have before they run out of cash. They could talk about their plans about investment and their current state —maybe not wholly. Your metrics for risk and how much you value this job determines a good answer. There is also a way for you to calculate the runway yourself. If there is any news on the web about their last investment round, you can see how the company will do in the next 18 to 24 months with the employee metrics etc.
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4. Are You on the Same Page?
Before applying for a job in a startup, it is a must to research the founders. Understanding their backgrounds and personalities is crucial. Is this their first startup? Are they new to the industry? How do they approach innovation? What is their vision for the company? Watching videos, listening to podcasts and reading their interviews will contribute to your decision. You have to trust these people and believe in their vision because you will likely spend more time with them than your friends and family in the next stage of your career. If there is no material for you to consume before the interview, don’t be shy to ask these questions. You will invest in them with your experience and time.
5. How Long Is the Average Employment Rate? Is There High or Low Turnover?
The best way to guess if the startup is telling the truth about its happy environment and satisfied employees is to ask when the oldest members started working. Also, how many of them are there. It may feel awkward to ask, but it can help you get the gist of any recurring issues in the startup. It can also help you gauge the startup culture and the skills or traits the founders look for in employees. If they have a significant turnover, what is the reason? Is the company culture they are bragging about, or is it due to economic issues? Another way to drive the conversation to this question is to ask about the last person in your position. Why did they leave? Were there any problems that they were facing, is this the reason, or did they only get a better offer?
6. How Is the Reward System? What Do They Consider as Success?
It could also be a follow-up question regarding your role and responsibilities. It is also an important question to determine how the founders celebrate the success of a particular person or a department. Don’t forget that you’re hired for a particular reason, and for you to feel good about yourself when making plans and executing the workflow, you should know what success is for the startup. Will you be evaluated against the overall objective or smaller, predetermined milestones that are specific to your project or department? Also, who’s responsible for determining your “success?” Is it your manager, the founders, or the company’s board of directors? It should also be clear because you want to ensure your goals and values align with the appropriate decision-makers.
7. What Is the Biggest Risk for Startup?
Now, this might be an uncomfortable subject, but the reality is harsh. Every sector has its ups and downs, and a smart startup is the one that evaluates all the risks and downfalls they might encounter. Also, it should not be taboo to talk about as you are a team to achieve a common goal. Another good question to ask could be about a project or time they went downhill. How did they overcome this struggle? What happened within the company? Were there employee fall outs or did they unite even stronger? Which assets did they use to overcome the hurdle? Remember, these questions are also for you to prepare yourself for anything and calculate the risks.
8. How Will the Startup Contribute to Your Personal Growth?
Startups are very well aware of the hardships their employees face in their personal and professional lives. Staying motivated, always being eager to learn, and taking what you do a step further can be a burden sometimes. The startup you work for has a crucial role in keeping you motivated and healthy —physically and mentally. Are they a pet-friendly Office? Do you have flexible working hours? Will they support you financially if you want to take a course regarding a project you’re working on? Do they have perks for their employees? All these side benefits will make the employee lifetime value higher and create a strong relationship between the startup and the employees.
9. What Are Their Plans and Achievement Schedule for the Future?
Most startups get in the game aggressively, but that is not always a sustainable plan. You should ask them if they have plans to go international. Maybe they already have another office outside the UK? How was that office established, and is there an opportunity to work in another country? What do they plan on achieving in the next 3, 5, 10 years? What is their plan, and how have they come this far? Are they happy with their pace, or do they need improvement? Remember, the action plan of the startup is also an action plan you will integrate into your life flow. Are you OK with an aggressive achievement schedule, and do you think giving too much is going to be worth it for you?
10. What Is the Current Team Structure?
Startups are fast evolving structures that are sometimes grey in means of teams, departments and roles responsibilities. Because they act like a small family of hard-working people, some tasks might be unspoken but expected. It could be good for personal growth, learning to be flexible, working with other departments and getting to know their line of work, and training yourself in taking fast actions. However, it could also be a stressful thing to keep up. To keep yourself from floating around with tasks hanging in the air and maybe not finishing them at the end of the day, you should ask beforehand how the team structure is. Are there departments? Are there leaders? How is the employee structure?