<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1054204612164054&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

9 Tips For Nailing That First Round Interview at a Startup

← Back

June 11, 2021

Click to download

So, you’re going to be interviewing for a role at a startup.

Congratulations! Now comes the hard part—making sure you’re able to make the kind of impression on your employer that gets them to sit up and take notice. You’ll need to be at your absolute best if you want to nail that first round interview. 

In this article, you’ll learn things like:

  • How to exude confidence during the interview (without coming across as arrogant)
  • Why it’s a good idea to openly discuss your weaknesses
  • What the STAR method is and how to use it


Tension causes people to tighten their vocal cords, resulting in a too high pitch and an overly thin voice. Stress can also cause individuals to talk too fast, forget what they wanted to say, and exhibit closed-off body language.

Because this won't convey the executive presence that’ll make a fabulous impression on your future employer, you’ll need to relax beforehand. Meditate, listen to a self-hypnosis tape, do some tai chi, or find another way to chill out just before the interview.

Exude confidence

To make a strong impression, you must look and feel confident without coming across as too cocky or arrogant. Prepare for the interview like you'd prepare for an exam. Exhaustively research the business, its mission, who the founders are and their backgrounds, and any other relevant information.

Read every article you can about the business. Obsessively study the startup’s market and try to cultivate insights about where the company is now and where it should go in the future. Know their clients and the projects on which they’re working.

Be prepared enough that you can talk in-depth about a dizzying array of subjects. This includes perceptive competitor analysis and how you can help the company succeed. Be so well prepared that your interviewer learns something from their conversation with you.

Nobody wants to hire an individual who doesn’t have the slightest idea what the company does. That’s why it’s crucial to look for any information you can find online about the company and study it with a singular focus.

Make mental notes of the organization’s recent achievements, and scrutinize their social media accounts. You want to show that you’ve done your homework and then some.

If you do your research beforehand, you’ll know what you’re talking about. And when you know what you’re talking about, you'll exude confidence.

Also, identify, with exacting specificity, the skills in your professional arsenal that will help you contribute to the organization’s growth. Speak about your core competencies and how they helped boost the performances of previous companies you worked for.

Discuss your weaknesses

In the startup universe, you’re going to wear many hats. So, being a bit of a Renaissance woman (or man) is a definite asset. However, you’ll also need to be open about what you can’t do.

Employers want to hire a team member who’s honest enough to admit they have flaws. So, dig deep into your psyche and dredge up any blemishes or imperfections you might have. Speak about them without the slightest bit of hesitation.

Talk about the shortcomings that caused you problems during previous jobs you’ve held. One thing hiring managers want to know is how you triumphed over self-inflicted adversity at work.

One exercise you might want to try is making a list of your weaknesses. Look at past performance appraisals and supervisory notes about areas for improvement for ideas.

Right before the interview, go over the job description one last time, and rank how confident you feel about each of the job responsibilities. During the interview, feel free to mention the one you're least comfortable doing if you’re rock solid in most of the other areas.

Roleplay the answers to questions


Roleplay is an excellent way to instill the confidence you need to have a fantastic interview. Ask someone to volunteer to play the role of the hiring manager and practice your responses to questions such as:

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • How do you deal with adversity?
  • What makes you unique?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What are you passionate about?

Record yourself either on audio or video (video is better), so you can deconstruct your performance. Strive to be as concise as possible while still giving the interviewer everything they asked for. Relay only the essential facts and eliminate superfluous words and phrases.

Interview the interviewer

An interview should be a two-way street. The company wants to learn about you, but this is also an opportunity to learn about the company. This will show that you’re passionate enough about the business that you want to know everything you can about it.

Asking questions is a terrific way to learn more about the company culture, which is crucial to your long-term success. You can also uncover more about the day-to-day job responsibilities, so your first day will be less of a surprise.

You can ask questions of a technical nature, such as their favorite project management tool. You can even ask questions about the interviewers themselves, like how long they've worked at the company or when they first heard about it.

Master the art of small talk

The business ecosphere isn’t just about talent—it's also about relationships. Mastering the fine art of small talk can powerfully demonstrate that you’re easy to get along with. This could give you a competitive edge over other candidates.

Small talk could be exchanging lighthearted banter with your interviewer before diving into the crucial questions. It could also be an attempt to fill in any awkward silences. Whatever it is, be ready to engage in small talk should the opportunity arise.

Interviews can be anxiety-producing, so starting off with a bit of small talk beforehand can help you relax. A pleasant warm-up conversation can even set the tone for the rest of the interview.

Use the STAR method

Hiring managers love to ask behavioral questions during an interview. By using the STAR method, you’ll ensure you’re fully addressing the interviewer’s question.

The STAR method can help you highlight your career successes. S stands for situation, or the professional challenge you faced. T is for the task you had to accomplish. A is for the action you took, and R is for the result.

Remembering this little acronym can help you showcase your competencies and how you used them to achieve professional success.


In most cases, it’s best to describe work situations. If you haven’t had much relevant work experience, talk about academic projects or volunteer work. Make sure you talk about a specific instance rather than a generic or hypothetical event.

Don’t spend too much time on this part because interviewers are much more concerned with the action you took and the result you got.


Describe the task you were asked to complete. Spend a little more time on this part.


Talk about the specific actions you took to overcome the challenge. This part of the procedure demands the most in-depth description as it will determine whether you're suitable for the job. Discuss the steps you took to successfully triumph over the challenge.


Go into detail about the outcome you achieved because of your actions. Provide real-world examples of the effects of your efforts. Also, discuss what you learned, how you grew, and why you're a more vital team member because of the experience.

Remember to follow up

Even if you think your interview was horrible, it’s still a good idea to follow it up with a quick message the next day. A simple thank you for their time could make a world of difference. Acknowledging that you appreciated the opportunity could help your chances.

Learn everything you can about the product

In the startup ecosystem, the product reigns supreme. If you’re hired, your mission will be to improve it. This means that you'll need to take the product for a test drive before your interview starts.

The best way to approach this is to think beyond being a mere user and be more like a consultant. Act like you're already a valued member of the team and not just a prospective hire. Talk about the product’s strengths and weaknesses and what improvements you think the company should make to turn it into a truly superior product.

Tips for online interviews

Online interviews are becoming more common these days, so here are a few tips to help you with them:

  •  MAKE SURE THE ENVIRONMENT IS RIGHT: You’ll need to make sure your space is well lit, with no loud external noises and a good Internet connection. It should also be clean and tidy.
  • TEST YOUR TECH SETUP: Practice by calling a friend or a relative. Ensure that your microphone works fine.
  • LOOK AT THE WEBCAM: If you want to make it look like you’re having a face-to-face conversation, you’re going to need to look right into the webcam and not the interviewer’s image on your monitor.
  • PREPARE FOR THE UNEXPECTED: Like every other situation in life, Murphy’s Law will raise its ugly head at the most inopportune times. Your cat could walk in front of the camera, your child might knock at the door, or your neighbor might think it’s time for an impromptu drumming session. If any of these things happen, apologize and get on with the rest of the interview.

The best way to get that startup job

Hunt Club isn’t just for employers looking to find top-tier talent—it's also for job seekers who want to discover their next opportunity and do it in a way that maximizes their chances for success.

If this describes you, give us a call today!

Let's Connect

Morgan Lichtenstein avatarMorgan Lichtenstein