Asia muslim businesswoman using laptop talk to colleague about plan by video call brainstorm online meeting while remotely work from home at living room. Social distancing, quarantine for corona virus

Interviewing for a job is stressful. Interviewing for a job virtually can be even more nerve-racking.

Being prepared for any interview can help reduce stress, make you feel more confident, and give you a better chance at a successful outcome.

Beginning job seekers tend to make the mistake of treating all job interviews the same. While there are plenty of tactics that apply to all interviews, meeting with a startup can be a bit different.

“There are a few nuances students, in particular, should be aware of when meeting with startups,” said Amanda Kostin, Career Services and Events Manager with the Engineering Career Resource Center at U-M.

With MPowered’s Startup Career Fair happening on February 18th, the CFE and ECRC have teamed up to clue you in on a few tips when dealing with startup interviews.

1. Hoodies and Blazers Anyone?

Dress can be more casual than the typical business professional seen at regular career fairs. But, you should still look professional – think simple patterns and neutral colored blouses and button-up shirts. While Silicon Valley may show startup teams working in jeans and hooded sweatshirts, this is still a job interview and you want to make a good impression. 

Digital composition of thoughtful woman in straw hat standing in front of chalkboard with question marks2. Do Your Research

If you can get your hands on the product the company makes you’ll be able to answer questions in a way that demonstrates your real interest in the company. Realistically, this may not be possible with all startups.

“Be aware when preparing for the fair and researching the companies that will participate, you might not find much information online regarding the company,” said Amanda. “In some cases, the company may not yet have an established website for the company.”

3. Does Anyone Have Any Questions?

The answer to that is always “yes”. If there is not a lot of information available for the company, it will be up to you to craft targeted questions about the company, the position, and their expectations for the role. If you are lucky enough to interview with the founder, you should find out about their vision, what they are passionate about, and what the success of the company means to them. 

Remember, not everyone measures their business’ success by how much money they make. Perhaps it is more about societal impact, environmental impact, or advancing technology. Good stuff to know before you make big life decisions.

4. But, Since We’re Talking About Money…

Remember that compensation at a startup may look different (stock shares, perks, etc.) than a traditional salary. Everyone’s financial situation is different, so make sure you discuss this with a potential employer. Don’t ever feel embarrassed to discuss money. 

Support for salary transparency is growing and makes the hiring process fairer and more efficient. Some individuals may be willing to take a lower salary because they get to travel for work more or attend events they wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise. Talk to the employer about opportunities and ways for professional growth as well.

5. Know The Product You’re Pitching (
aka YOU)
You are the product. Who knows you better than you? Maybe your mom? Okay, but besides her, definitely you.

“You will want to be flexible with your elevator pitch, knowing you might not have much information on the company,” Amanda explained.

Come prepared to talk about yourself in the context of the company you are meeting with. Have examples ready that fit the goals, ideals, and culture of the team. If they focus on social issues, talk about non-profits or organizations you’ve volunteered with or worked at. You should highlight the aspects of you that the company will be attracted to. They should feel like you would transition into the team seamlessly.

Also, come with your own ideas. Showing that you already have ideas about how your particular set of skills could improve workflow, customer conversions, or future iterations show you are actively engaged and thoughtful about what your path might look like within their company structure.

Card in an envelope mockup with leaves in the background6. Thank You for Your Time

Always follow up with a thank you. Manners are free and can take you a long way. Sending a quick email to thank them for their time, reminding them a little about what you talked about, and asking for potential next steps helps you stay fresh in their mind. This also demonstrates your continued interest in the position while helping you manage expectations. No one likes to just be sitting by the phone, waiting to hear back about something as important as the rest of your life. #nopressure

So In Conclusion

Remember, you’ve got this. Take a deep breath, smile, and take your time thinking about your responses. Oh, also remember to sign up to meet with employers at the Startup Career Fair – that’s a big one.

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