startup interview vs big company interview

You thought an interview was an interview, right?

We want to increase your awareness, so now imagine this; You received an interview offer from that startup you always wanted to work with. To prepare for this interview, you spend days thinking about the behavioral interview questions and preparing your answers based on your past experiences. You have excellent data and response patterns showing your past outputs and summarizing your achievements. After all, your excellent TED talk is ready.

You start to explain yourself in the interview and the first question that comes up is 'so what can you do for us?'. At that moment, you understand that you are not in an interview with a big corporate company.

To help avoid a similar situation and gain insight into the key contrasts between startups and big companies, let's look at the major differences that can shape your interview experience.

who lead the hiring process: HR or CEO

Dozens of hirings at a large firm need an established and functioning system. The survival of the firm is directly dependent on the flow of recruitment and well-developed HR. Company founders, or top management team cannot have time to make direct decisions about recruitment.

In the meantime, it is unlikely that the startup company has a well-developed human resources infrastructure. Yes, they could have a single recruiter or multiple recruiters at the team. But anyone who has experience working in a startup is aware that, at the most favorable level, they are autocracies rather than merit-based systems.

No matter the amount of human resources knowledge and resource available to recruiters, in the end it is always up to what the CEO decides.

Startup founders typically believe that having the right people on board is their biggest asset. Therefore, they want to be involved in each hiring decision.

structured interviews vs bespoke interviews

The recruitment process at large firms often take on a mechanistic quality.

In order to maintain the most effective and legally sound recruiting process, it is likely that interviews will involve a consistent set of questions for all candidates. This approach has been proven by research to be more efficient and objective than having different assessments tailored towards each individual applicant while also reducing potential discrimination issues.

On the other hand, in the scenario where the CEO assumes this recruitment task, it may be the case that HR's best practices are not very important, and they think that they can make the best decision for the company. Even if they don’t do every interview itself, decisions may have to be made in accordance with this person's expectations.

passive interviewees vs. active interviewees

The outcome of the HR-driven interview and the interviewer's predetermined set of questions and the limited timeframe prevent any chance for the person being interviewed to direct the discussion (we are not arguing that this is true, but this is the situation that is usually encountered). One solution may be to prepare ahead of time for typical questions that may come up for this interview.

In the startup land, with the lack of formal HR responsibility, there is a possibility that more space will be opened up to see the candidates' points of view.

In addition, startups evaluate you by thinking about what you would do if you joined their company today. They have no long orientation and training periods due to their fast pace. For this reason, driving these interviews with your own active ideas will be better.

Now you know the differences you will encounter and their reasons. It's up to you to turn this to your advantage. In the simplest summary, if you are going to make a startup interview, put yourself in the CEO's shoes and imagine what you can expect from your employees.

footer image