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Talent - Job Hunting - Tue Jun 28 2022

9 Questions to Ask a Startup CEO or Founder During an Interview

Going face-to-face with the CEO or founder of the company you hope to work for can be nerve-racking. And yet, it’s the perfect opportunity to get to know the company before potentially receiving a job offer!

As one of the co-founders of Nexton, I’ve seen candidates become overwhelmed by our meeting, when this moment should just be a low-stress sit-down. Here’s how you can take advantage of the CEO or founder interview to ask smart questions and find out whether the company is the right fit for you.

For the last step in the hiring process at Nexton, we ask candidates to meet with one of our founders. I love meeting talent, sharing my insights, and learning how they will contribute to our company’s future as well as understanding how they will fit into our culture and team. Below are a few points to keep in mind before you sign in to the remote interview.

CEO or Founder interviewing a candidate in a remote interview

Take it easy, founders and CEOs are people exploring opportunities too.

The idea of meeting with the CEO or founder can be intimidating, but think of this interview as a conversation. After all, CEOs are people too (I promise! For instance, in my case, I’m a passionate visual artist). The less nervous you are, the smoother the interview will go, and all the more enjoyable it will be for you.

Ask away! (but avoid the obvious)

It’s always a great idea to show that you’re curious and proactive about the company. Preparing a few questions in advance can help drive the conversation, but you should try to avoid obvious ones that you could have googled the answers to. Moreover, avoid questions you could ask in previous interviews, such as specific inquiries about the role you’re interviewing for. Instead, focus on asking things that only the CEO or founder will know the answers to, like where they see the company in 5 years, or what steps the company takes to ensure the work-life balance of their team members.

Keep in mind that questions speak a lot about what you care about, what you already know about the company, what you’re looking for in your next job, and more! So when candidates don’t ask anything, they inadvertently raise a yellow flag to the interviewer. 

Don’t be afraid to get personal.

We founders are curious about you as well, so don’t be afraid to get personal and show who you are. Often sharing a relevant story or interest during this meeting can give us a glimpse into your personality and whether you’re the type of hire we’re looking for.

Get a sense of whether the company is a good fit.

The final-stage interview is also a chance for you to find out whether the company is a good cultural fit. While the interviewer will hope you’re aligned with the company values and culture, you should check in with your gut feeling about if you would feel comfortable working there. 

9 questions to ask a U.S. startup CEO or founder

To help you get the conversation flowing, here are a few top questions that I think are great to ask as a candidate.

Of course, the most important thing is to ask about topics that you care about, so be sure to tailor your list of questions according to your interests. 

  1. What’s the story behind your company?
  1. What does “success” mean to you and the company?
  1. What’s the leadership style like at the company?
  1. Which competitor is doing the best job and why?
  1. Where do you see the company in 5 years?
  1. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
  1. What do you love most about your team?
  1. How exactly does the company develop talent?
  1. How are the company values incorporated into the everyday life and culture of the company?

Candidate having a remote interview with a company CEO or founder

Pro tip: You should also add any questions according to the CEO or founder that you’re meeting with. Perhaps you read that the CEO has a technical background and you want to learn more about how they shifted into leadership. This is a great opportunity to ask!

Ace your next interview with the CEO or founder

As you prepare to meet with the CEO or founder, think carefully about what you still want to know about the company. From there, you can put together smart questions to engage with the interviewer and have a meaningful conversation about the company, the team, the leadership style, and more! 

Ultimately, co-founders like me love sharing our insights and getting an insider’s look into our candidates’ potential, so don’t be afraid to speak up and show who you are! 

Good luck!

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WRITTEN BY
Agustin Di Luciano

Purpose-driven engineer, artist, and entrepreneur. Passionate about systems optimization and achieving massive positive impact. I build great teams and a winning culture. Currently matchmaking for top-tier tech talent at Nexton.

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