Conducting an interview is a two-way road: making sure you want the candidate to join your team and making sure the candidate wants to join you.
Taking a few steps back from how we led the 1,000+ hiring interviews we conducted since January 2015, we noticed we generally started the interviews by asking the candidate if we can take 45min and followed the agenda below:
1. Candidate’s track record (Assessing the candidate professional track record — see below the POKETR method designed by Kerala)
2. Candidate’s vision (Enquiring the candidate about his/her professional and personal future)
3. Pitch / Q&A (Pitching the startup and the opportunity to make sure the candidate wants to join us and answering his/her questions about the company and the role)
4. Deal terms (Talking about his/her timing, the process and the package he/she expects)
We have two objectives here:
- bring consistency among all candidates in the way we interview them to ensure we make an educated decision;
- evaluate as soon as possible how strong we think the candidate’s track record fit the role so we can adapt the interview structuration.
➡ In case of a likely bad fit, we try to shorten the interview and stick to a 45-min duration. Otherwise, we spend as much time as needed on the steps 2, 3 and 4.
1. Assessing the candidate’s track record
Interviews after interviews, to make sure we don’t miss any structural part of the candidate’s background, we’ve progressively converged towards a method we named POKETR.
We focus on the candidate’s main experiences and assess:
- Perimeter: “What were you responsible for?”
- Organization: “Who were you reporting to? Who were you managing?”
- KPIs: “What KPIs were used to assess your performance?”
- Evaluation: “How did those KPIs evolve while your were there?”
- Transitions: “How did you end up joining this company? Why did you leave?”
- References: “Who was your line manager? How will you rank you on a 10-point scale?”
The goal here is to fill the Score Card we have designed for the role (see Part 3: Drafting a Rock-Solid Score Card)
2. Enquiring the candidate about his/her professional and personal future
This part is a little bit like discovering the needs of a prospect. We like to ask open-ended questions about his/her professional and personal vision to make sure we understand what is important for him/her.
We try to get answers as accurate as possible. The more we understand what drives a candidate, the more likely it is to close him/her in case of several offers. Examples of questions that we usually ask:
- What is an ideal day-to-day job for you in the next coming years? Why?
- What company’s stage are you most interested in? Why?
- 3–5 years from now, what would you like to do?
- Why do you think this job is going to get you closer to that?
- What did you particularly like in your past experience?
- What would you have changed in your work environment and in your mission?
It is very useful to go through this step to really engage with the candidate and to highlight you care about what they are gonna do. The candidate is not just another random dude you meet for the role. As an example, we’ve already announced to candidates that we thought the job we were talking about was not a good fit for them and explained why.
3. Pitching the startup and the opportunity
When we pitch a startup to a candidate, we usually do it in a manner very similar to when we pitch a VC, a typical structure can be:
- Vision: we try to explain how inevitable the topic is and the sense behind it
- Problem: we try to explain how strong the pain is since it is usually correlated with customers’ price sensibility → awesome if you’re talking to a Sales or Marketing candidate
- Solution / Product: we try to highlight how defensible the business is
- Business Model: we try to highlight how [cash /capital] efficient the model is
- Market: we try to show how big this kind of company can be
Note that we usually don’t dive into the competition in a first interview because candidates often need to gain maturity on the business and the market before understanding the differentiation levers.
Then, we focus on more concrete things :
- Achievements of the company so far: we are 100% transparent about the KPIs, the traction, the actual financials and the cash situation. Other companies usually don’t do that therefore we create a strong trustworthy relationship with the candidates by doing so.
- Context of the role: we try to explain how the company ended up opening this position.
- Objectives for the coming months and year: we try to highlight how ambitious and feasible the objectives are.
- Equity story, last post-money valuation and next likely funding round: we try to explain what kind of upside there is and how much can the candidate take benefit from stocks.
4. Talking about the package he/she expects, his/her timing and the process
We like to conclude the interview by enquiring the salary package he/she expects, his/her patrimonial ambition, his/her current other recruitment processes and the inherent timing.
Asking about the patrimonial ambition is particularly important to design an equity-based package that has a better chance to fit the candidate patrimonial ambition (more info about that in the part 7: Closing The Candidate You Want).
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