Job interviews are stressful enough as it is: there are questions you should ask, questions you shouldn’t, telltale signs you nailed it, and mistakes you need to avoid. (Oh, and make sure to always accept that glass of water if it’s offered.)
But if you’re trying your hand at landing a job at a fast-moving start-up, there are different things you’ll need to prepare for and certain skills you’ll want to show off.
According to tech unicorn Canva, a job interview with a startup will see you get a bit more up-close and personal as founders and start-up leaders will be looking out for an employee’s personal values and their ability to wear many hats.
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Here are three things that might make your job interview at a high-powered start-up different to ‘traditional’ companies, according to Canva’s Liz McKenzie:
1. The hiring process involves delving into your personal values
“While finding talent with adaptable and transferable skills and capabilities is important, our startup culture is built on a team of people with shared attitudes, and values,” McKenzie said.
“With our people and culture at the centre of our business growth strategy, our interview process involves meeting the team and a discussion around personal motivation.”
For instance, Canva is less concerned about how many years’ experience a candidate has, and more concerned about whether they can problem-solve and get a job done.
2. We ask how we can help you thrive, not the other way around
Canva finds out what motivates their talent to perform at their best, and then works to create that environment.
“Whether it's flexi-hours, remuneration, having consistent career progression, or various in-house experiences, we are happy to do what it takes to make them happy and productive in the long-run,” said McKenzie.
3. Your role may not stay the same as the one you’re interviewing for
At a ‘normal’ company, the role you’re interviewing for will be for a set role, with a designated set of skills and experience requirements you’ll need to lock in an interview, let alone get a job.
But this whole structure gets thrown out the window at a start-up, McKenzie indicated.
“Given our startup moves at such a rapid pace, roles are always adapting,” she said. At Canva, staff have moved from SEO to product management, or from finance to operations, for instance.
“If you are open to and enjoy this kind of change, a startup is the place for you.”
6 skills you’ll need to get a job at a start-up
So that’s the interview process itself – but what are the skills that start-ups are looking for in you?
Unsurprisingly, start-ups want individuals that are proactive self-starters that are open to feedback and able to adapt quickly, said McKenzie.
These are the attributes that a start-up is looking for in potential employees:
Initiative: At startups, coming up with solutions often creates new problems. “The best people in my view identify these issues, and proactively come up with thoughtful solutions to solve them, and then respectfully work with others and teams to action and implement them.”
Adaptability: Can you keep up with changes in your role, the product, or the company structure? “Being adaptable and flexible in these situations is imperative to enjoying a role at a startup,” said McKenzie.
Patience and persistence: Results won’t show themselves immediately, so it’s important to keep a mindset of patience and persistence, she said. “This doesn’t mean to take it easy whilst numbers are down or stagnating, but constantly work on solutions and know that outcomes might take months or years to materialise into results.”
Openness to feedback: While this is valuable everywhere, it’s particularly important in a start-up where things move fast, said McKenzie. “Being fixed in one’s own mindset or viewpoint can be dangerous in a work setting that favours speed and agility. We regularly invite feedback from peers and being open to taking on reasonable feedback allows us to perform better with our team.”
Passion and ambition: The real nature of working at a start-up is that it’ll be a “highly tumultuous time” – so be prepared. “To enjoy these environments, you need to care deeply about what you do (passion) and set the bar as high as you can (ambition), otherwise you won’t enjoy your time nor be successful.”
Take on the ‘impostor syndrome’ and win: According to McKenzie, Canva sets “crazy big goals”. “If you join us, you will not only be setting those ambitious goals, but also leading a team to deliver them,” she said. These responsibilities can come earlier than you anticipated, and you might doubt your capabilities as a result. “We look for people who understand that people who succeeded in similar contexts before them weren’t born with the answers to all the problems they encountered on the way. If you have the attitude and motivation to get started and trust yourself, you will be on the path to success.”
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