Startup Hiring

Startup Hiring 101: A Founder’s Guide. Part 13 - How to interview

Steve Bartel

Steve Bartel

CEO and Co-Founder

Posted on

April 2, 2024

Now that you’re generating a healthy pipeline of great candidates at the top of the funnel, converting them into initial sales conversations, and starting to nurture relationships to the point where they want to interview, it’s time to put together an interview loop. This guide will teach you how, assuming you have little-to-no experience interviewing.

While every interview loop is going to be different, we’ll aim to cover best practices common to most loops:

5a. Designing the interview loop

Designing an interview loop starts with researching and defining what you need. It’s important to map any important skills and personality traits to different parts of the interview and have clear success criteria. Tactically, track your interviews by adding structure through stages: initial sell conversation → screen(s) → onsite → debrief → references → offer.

5b. Best practices for interviewers

Share best practices with interviewers to ensure your candidates are getting a positive experience, and interviewers are getting the best signal. Best practices include doing some prep before the interview, putting the candidate at ease, asking the right questions, leaving time for the candidate’s questions, and taking detailed notes.

5c. How to run a debrief

After your interviews, you’ll hold a debrief to make a hiring decision. Before the debrief, everyone will write down their feedback. During the debrief, each interviewer will share their verdict on how they got there. Coming out of the debrief, you’ll aim to have a yes/no hiring decision or clear action items for gathering more signal.

5d. Reference checks

Throughout the interview process, you’ll aim to get back-channel references. You’ll also get formal references as a final step before making an offer. Your goal with references will be to validate or invalidate information you gathered during the interview process by learning more about the candidate’s performance in previous jobs, their strengths, and areas that may need improvement.

5e. How Gem interviewed our founding engineering team

Depending on your situation, you may be able to leverage “contract to hire” to build your early engineering team. This is how Gem hired nine out of our first ten engineers. It’s a great way to evaluate candidates and helps them get to know your startup.

And don’t forget about candidate experience — your interviews should also be an opportunity for candidates to learn about you. So make sure your interviews are a two-way street and apply the art of selling & closing through every step of the process.

Up Next

Now we’ll get a little more specific about the topics discussed above. Part 14 will go in-depth on how to design an effective interview loop.

In the meantime…


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