Broadsight Magazine Interviews Mario Peng Co-Founder & CFO of HotelQuickly.
Article written by Alexander Kagi
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Q: What are the qualities you are looking for during the interview and what do you want to find out?
At HotelQuickly we want to find people with a genuine and fitting set of qualities. It does not necessarily matter how much experience they have and how much they have done before. Much rather I am looking for individuals that are highly energetic and show a drive to perform and think out of the box. It is especially important for me to see that drive in applicants and their desire to bring themselves to the next level. Obviously, I also assess how smart an applicant is and to what extent he or she is able to learn new things quickly.
“How hungry are you to learn something new quickly?”
Lastly, I want to find out how persistent you are. A startup might seem quite unstable and intimidating at times, but the essence is to keep going no matter what.
Q: As a startup, what kind of environment do you offer your prospective employees?
In large corporations you mostly perform a small function of the whole value chain. But at HotelQuickly your scope of tasks is much broader and you are required to learn faster. We often throw you into the cold water, which might cause you to be overwhelmed in the beginning; however, this is actually how you learn the fastest.
Q: What impresses you the most in an interview?
In my interviews I try to ask very open questions, which leaves a lot of room for the applicant to answer it in his distinctive way. Some of the candidates’ answers are highly creative, but still very structured; hence everyone understands their thought. That is what impresses me the most.
“Communicating highly creative ideas in a well-structured way is what impresses me the most”
Q: How important are formalities to you, such as being on time, wearing a proper suit and so on?
I do not care at all about what you are wearing. But being punctual is an absolute basic prerequisite for me. If you are not capable of fulfilling this little task of being on time, I cannot trust you with performing high responsibility bigger tasks. Moreover, being late means you do not respect the time of someone else, and I also believe that bad timekeepers are inefficient.
“Punctuality is a basic prerequisite for trust and respect and shows your capability to take over high-responsibility tasks.”
Q: What qualities do stand out when receiving an application?
Someone who tried many different things stands out. It shows the drive to learn and adapt. However, it is also important to see that these activities had been successfully accomplished. Meaning that the applicant actually shows persistence to follow through and finish activities once started.
Q: How much do you weigh academic achievement, grades and the name of the institution?
If you do not have a lot of work experience yet, I will value your grades, extracurricular achievements and the name of your University more, whereas if you had some substantial work experience already, the nature of tasks and accomplishments in your work life matter more. Therefore, it really depends in which stage you are in: 10 years in the workforce, or right out of University.
I do not look at University rankings, but the good names are commonly known to me. If I see one of these names it is a sign that the candidate could be well performing. Then I accumulate all these signs from the resume and if everything fits I invite them for an interview and later on might hire them.
Q: How important are University rankings and to what extent do you include them in your hiring decision?
When applying for bigger corporations, especially in consulting and banking, the rankings and names of the Universities are much more important than at startups.
At startups there are more important factors that count for me rather than rankings.
For instance, you want someone that is highly driven, creative and innovative. These individuals have a high impact in startups whereas at large companies they might not have the freedom to develop their ideas and follow through.
“It is hard to distinguish whether someone has potential or not. If you have a top grade from a good school or a top grade from a bad school. Who is better? Both individuals might be smart.”
Q: How important is meaningful extracurricular activity?
This goes hand in hand with achievements. The more extracurricular activities with a positive impact or outcome you have engaged in, the more drive and commitment I can sense. They show the persistence to get something done, and therefore extracurricular activities during your studies, especially if you do not have working experience yet, are important.
Q: Does someone who did an internship with a renowned brand name firm have an advantage? How important is it to do an internship in a renowned firm?
At HotelQuickly we do not directly favor anyone who did an internship or has work experience in one of the big corporations. However, it might help the applicant in learning how to think in a structured way. At the interview however, I will expect someone who did an internship in one of the big firms, to give me very structured answers. Personally, I prefer applicants with a diverse set of experiences such as internships in a few startups and maybe a consulting firm. The name of the company however does not matter much, and in the end the performance in the interview will be the decisive factor.
Q: What is the difference between an internship in a startup and an internship in one of the big renowned corporations?
“If you are driven, motivated, very persistent and want to achieve something, you can go much further in a startup.”
In startups the learning curve is traditionally much steeper. Tasks come in a broad variety and quick adaptation is required. Moreover, startups offer a lot of freedom for innovation and creativity, plus there are no ceilings and designated career paths. In a big corporation you might have to work in a position for three years in order to proceed to a higher position and another five years and so on. However, startups offer a much larger flexibility in terms of both, career advancement and task variety.
“In internships of big companies you perform a lot of very defined work — monkey work -, whereas in startups you are thrown into cold water and a rapid learning process through a broad variety of tasks is guaranteed.”
Q: What is your advice to students on how to start a career and internship?
Internships are an excellent way to find out whether the industry, the type of job and the company you apply for fit you, and whether you would like to work in this certain field. It is important to do internships in different fields in order to really find out what you want to do. You should do as many internships as possible and start early, already during your studies, which will save you time after graduation.
For instance, I did various internships in the Finance industry and there I really found out which tasks I liked or disliked and which companies I want to work for or not. I also discussed with many colleagues from business school what they are doing. This interchange of thoughts helped me to narrow down possible career options. If you know what you want to do after graduation, then apply for a full time job right away at the company you like. However, if you do not know what you want to do after graduation, then start with internships, so you do not waste your time being in a full time position performing work that you dislike.
“Internships are here for you to learn a lot, find out what you want and then focus on what you want.”
Published October 1st 2014
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