It’s going to take more than a resume to stand out.
Even as recent bank failures have shaken Silicon Valley, venture capital is still one of the most competitive industries to break into. Having a standout application that piques the interest of the firm is just the beginning. Nailing the interview is your opportunity to show the firm why you’re not only a qualified candidate, but an indispensable hire.
According to VCs, the interview process for an entry level role at a VC firm is extensive and includes sitting face-to-face with top movers and shakers at the firm. “It doesn’t matter if it’s for an analyst with an investment focus or for a platform or fund ops role. You pretty much have to talk to everyone at the firm, because all these firms are pretty small,” says Sri Varre, who has been interviewing for a venture job since May 2022. In her experience, you should expect to have at least four interviews—or more.
A line of questioning to expect will probe your basic knowledge of the firm, including its investing strategy and at least a few of the firm’s winning investments. “You don’t need to know every portfolio company,” says Nicole DeTommaso, a senior associate at New York–based Harlem Capital, but at a high level, you “should know the fund size, the check size, what stage they invest in, any major industries that they invest in.” She also suggests being familiar with two portfolio companies that you like, and one that you have questions about why they invested.
Another key thing to know about the firm you’re interviewing at? How they make money. Claire Biernacki, a principal at BBG Ventures, who runs the firm’s hiring efforts, recommends that applicants come with a fundamental knowledge of how a venture capital functions financially. “While we’re not looking for candidates to nail this, I expect a basic understanding of management fees, MOIC, and how carried interest is calculated. Being able to think through ‘can this investment return half our fund’ factors into the types of companies that are a good fit for VC funding and creates a filter for top of funnel sourcing.”
Other questions could include thesis-driven topics specific to VC (What is your personal investment thesis? Do you have a founder network?) to more personal (What is the most underrated or overrated thing about you? What is an unpopular opinion?). Varre recommends approaching each interview as a conversation: “Your whole job is just network building—whether you’re on the investment front or whether you’re on the platform front or whether you’re [working in] fund ops—it’s all client-facing work. You’ve got to just be able to carry a conversation.”
One thing to remember is that these firms want candidates who have original ideas, so respectfully pushing back if investors question your perspective is often a way to gain positive recognition. Leslie Crowe, a partner who heads up the people functions at Bain Capital Ventures, says that applicants should stand their ground if they really believe in an idea during interviews. “I see a lot of people fold, and I think this business is about being comfortable standing behind the things that you are passionate about,” she says. “It may not be an opinion that is widely held, but that really spirited discourse, I think, is what helps venture firms make better decisions.”
It’s crucial for prospective employees to remind the firm why they specifically would be a valuable employee. Meera Clark, a principal at Redpoint Ventures, suggests interviewees come to the interview with several new ideas that would fit in with the firm’s thesis in mind. “Having tangible, investable opportunities to offer to them or to speak to, I think, is incredibly important.”
Similarly, Crowe adds that the best advice she can offer is to “start off figuring out what your niche is going to be.” For example, are you deeply networked into your college and might have early access to founders? Have you worked as an engineer with lots of technical expertise to offer?
At the end of an interview, you can stand out by asking the firm questions that highlight your knowledge of its operations. “You could say something along the lines of, ‘I saw you just made an investment in [this startup]. I’ve noticed the trend in that space; there are great tailwinds; [and I] would love to hear your logic and how you thought about that investment,’” says DeTommaso. Plus, she advises, don’t forget those important questions like: do you get carry, is the job partner track, how long does it take to get promoted, etc.
And always go back to the interview basics: Get a good night’s rest the night before an interview, says Emila Damjanovic, partner at Lead Edge Capital.
If you want to read more about how to get your foot in the door at top firms, read Fortune’s full guide to getting a job in VC.
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