Sunil Rajaraman, co-founder of Scripted.com
By Sunil Rajaraman
March 19, 2015

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What are three tips for nailing a job interview?” is written by Sunil Rajaraman, co-founder of Scripted.com.

The single hardest job a CEO has is hiring a great team. Especially, when you’re just starting out — under-resourced and short on time — the only way to get great people in the door is to have a rock solid interview process. When I was CEO of Scripted, I hired some amazing people, but I also made a few mistakes. When you make a hiring mistake, it can steer your company completely off track and taint the culture permanently. Here are my top three tips for candidates interviewing at startups:

Show up with a playbook
I recently attended a speech by Joe Lacob, owner of the Golden State Warriors, where he talked about why he decided to hire Steve Kerr. Kerr apparently showed up with 40 pages of notes specifically detailing how he would succeed as head coach. And Kerr ended up executing on that playbook perfectly this year. Similarly, candidates who want to stand out at startups should have a clear idea as to why they want the role, and more importantly, what they would do if given the position. Some of the most impressive candidates I’ve seen have showed up with 90 and 120 day plans.

Bring up relevant experiences
One very common hiring mistake — one I’ve made a few times — is hiring folks with impressive resumes from previously working at large companies. These candidates think they can apply the same playbook to a startup – it wont work. If you have no experience working in an entrepreneurial environment, that’s a major red flag. Show some flexibility, ask a lot of questions, and bring up experiences that may be analogous to what the startup is facing. At startups, the founder(s) are taking a big risk on you, but you’re also taking a big risk by potentially joining the company. Make sure you’re willing to take on the challenge.

Establish common ground
Once you’re invited into the office for an interview, ask for an agenda in advance that lists who you will be meeting. Research everyone and see if you can establish some sort of common ground with them during the interview process. It can be as simple as seeing if you have someone in common on LinkedIn, or looking at their company profile and seeing if you like the same bands. Once you establish that common ground, it makes the interview process much more comfortable.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: What are three tips for nailing a job interview?

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