Preparing For The Interview: How To Research A Startup

Research-a-startupYou’ve heard it a million times before, at the end of your interview when you the recruiter asks you: “Do you have any questions?”, you need to be prepared. If you sit there and have nothing to say it’s going to look, well… bad. But what if the company you are interviewing with is a startup? How do you research a startup? They probably don’t have much press coverage (if any) and they may still be in beta.  What then?  Here are some straightforward hacks to find out more about that startup you really want to work for.

Understand the Product

Let’s face it, it’s all about the product. You want to impress a startup during your interview?  Be sure you understand their product and their value proposition. Use their product.  Is it not available to the public yet? Ask to demo it and offer to provide feedback.  Pure gold? Finding a bug or suggesting a valuable improvement to their user experience.  Show your stuff in a live setting – they will appreciate you digging in and your being able to speak their product’s language. This is singlehandedly the most important piece of research you can do. Speak their product’s language.

Personnel Recon 

This is really important – who are you interviewing WITH?  Write their names down.  Now look at the company’s About Us page and figure out who works with or for who.  Write those names down too. Next, what can you find out about them?  If it’s on the internet and they have an opinion on something you are entitled to know about it.

How to do it?

Twitter:

  • Go to Twitter and check out the recruiter’s profile description.  Often people will include a link to the personal blogs or their personal webpage there.  
  • Be sure to read their twitter feeds to see what’s been on their mind and read any links they’ve deemed retweetable. 
  • BONUS: Check who they are following on Twitter, there may be additional people from the company in their followers.

Quora:

  • Look to see if they’ve contributed to Quora and what topics they are following.
  • Check for mentions of the company on Quora by others.

LinkedIn:

  • Scope the recruiter out on LinkedIn.
  • Check for any common connections on LinkedIn. You never know how you might be connected.  If you get farther along in the interview process a personal note from a mutual acquaintance could make all the difference. Also, if they’ve recently joined the company it can help you paint a picture of their background and you can ask what attracted them to the company.
  • Who else works for the company?  Which names are in the department that you would be working with? Write all those names down.

 

Remember, it’s not stalking it’s research*. 

*Side note on that: you can totally search for them on Facebook and see if they have a public profile there. I just highly recommend that you don’t bring up how delicious their Aunt Milly’s barbecue looked last weekend because that’s just awkward. 

Blog Search  

OK, this one may seem obvious, read the company’s blog.  That is of course, if they have one up and running.  But when companies are in startup mode and are ‘heads down’ and focused on getting the product going and they may not be spending much time on documenting their efforts or latest feature releases on a company blog. (Remember, the product is THE most important thing.)  Don’t fear, you can still sneak a peak behind the curtain.  Look to see if any of their employees are commenting on other blogs. 

How to do it? 

  • Do a Google search, but not just a regular Google search.  Use the Google Blog Search function.  Search for the company’s name and also use the names from your personnel recon above.  Most often you will see non-mainstream mentions of the people and the company and you will sometimes get comments left by them on other companies’ blogs.  

Check the Obvious: Read the Company Profile and Website

If you are reading this post then you are already aware that companies that are looking to hire college students maintain profiles on Readyforce.  But don’t overlook the obvious… companies will often update the photos, videos and links to their company profile to attract your attention. Be sure to take the time to read what they’ve posted there including their brief summary. It’s often not the same old stodgy description you’ll find elsewhere because they are trying to talk to you, the college student.

to Preparing For The Interview: How To Research A Startup

  1. Kai says:

    Great advice for anyone looking to work at a start-up.

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