7 Things You Should Not Say During A Job Interview With A Start-up

Job search by kate hiscock

29 Apr 7 Things You Should Not Say During A Job Interview With A Start-up

We were interviewing numerous job candidates in the past two weeks. As amateur bosses, we had to learn how to ask the right questions to figure out as much as possible about each candidate. A lot of insights can be drawn from these conversations and it definitely felt different sitting on the hirer side. In this article I share my thoughts about the wrong mindset to have during an interview. This is not an article to bash our interviewees. We do not do that. We publish this article for the purpose of helping interviewees to improve themselves for future interviews. Also, we are a startup which means what we look for may be different from the bigger corporations.

#1 – I want to learn

“…ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country” ~ John F. Kennedy

We met a few candidates who told us their motivations to look for another job. They said that they saw no growth in their current jobs and wanted to look for new areas where they could learn. Usually the job they seemed was a different field and hence they would have no experience nor knowledge in what we were looking for. It is okay Without the experience but it is not okay to say ‘I want to learn’ as the ONLY response. Think about it, which boss would pay someone just to teach the person? The employer-employee relationship should be a win-win situation. Employer can provide challenges for employee to learn and grow, but the employee must also be able to contribute to the company. If this relationship is one-sided it will never work out. Ask not what the company can do for you, ask what you can do for your company. The company doesn’t exist because of you. The company exists to provide value to the society and needs you to help her achieve that. You should be remunerated fairly if the company does well. The sequence is important.

#2 – Complain about your previous employer

It can be true that your previous employer is not the perfect one and you do not like the working environment or you might not have been treated fairly. It is okay to recount your experience but do not talk bad about the employer. If you complain, it shows a lack of professionalism and it appears you hold grudges easily. It also mean you have not gotten over the issue. We do not like to hire people with such baggages and would bring negative energy to the workplace. Seeing a glass half-full rather than a glass half-empty would be better.

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#3 – Say nothing

It is normal to have some time to think about a question before answering but do not take an eternity to respond. If you do not have an answer just say so. Trying too hard and keeping the room in pin-drop silence is not going to help you. Just be honest and admit that you do not know at this point in time.

#4 – Talk too much

It is nice to converse in a relaxed manner but do not get too comfortable and start blabbering. Employers do not like to see you engage in frivolous talk because we wonder if you would spend more time talking than working if you are hired. And do not be cheeky.

#5 – Play down your career aspirations

We believe the company must be able to offer a path that is aligned with the employee’s career aspirations in order to have a healthy long term partnership. Hence, we always ask ‘where do you see yourself in twenty years time’. At times, we know that certain career aspirations cannot be fulfilled by our company because it isn’t the direction that we are going or it is too uncertain to promise anything for career progression. More often than not, we hear candidates eager to ‘force’ themselves back into the picture by saying they do not mind working in the company even though their aspirations may not be aligned at the moment. We know this employment would not be a long-lived one. If the clothes do not fit, wearing it will make you uncomfortable or look ugly. Find another piece that fits better.

#6 – Do not like to experiment

In a small enterprising start up, there are no established processes and a lot of things have to be tested. The marketplace is very dynamic and the business must be able to adapt quickly. This often means that working for a new company is very different from working in an established one. The former will require you to be creative and eager to think outside the box and try new things. There is no guaranteed way to success and many things we try would fail. It means you must not be discouraged. If you are someone who require a fixed set of rules to follow, joining a start up is not for you.

#7 – State the wrong purpose of the company

Every candidate should take an effort to read and understand what the company stands for. It would be rather unforgiving if you skim through the background and jump into the wrong conclusions about the company. We want our potential hire to know what we do and what we stand for, and we also want to see the candidate to share the same belief and cause. Not taking the effort to check the company’s background is bad. Saying incorrect things about the company is even worse.


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