What I look for in an interview

As with most VCs I frequently sit down with people in what are essentially interview situations. Some of the time these meetings are traditional interviews (and I’m writing this to crystalise my thoughts before a couple this morning) and some are meetings with senior execs in potential investments.

These two types of interview have some important differences, most notably the job of selling the attractiveness of the company falls to me in a traditional interview and to the exec in a potential investment, but in both my main purpose must be to assess whether the interviewee is an A-star candidate. Also worth mentioning is that in both cases I also have the secondary objective of showing that we at DFJ Esprit are people you want to work with.

For the rest of this post I’m going to dwell on the first objective – forming a view on whether the interviewee will do a great job going forward.

First there are a bunch of things I look for regardless of the job title of the person I’m meeting:

  • An understanding of the job to be done, and an ability to articulate which parts will be difficult and what the approach will be
  • Examples of success in similar jobs done previously (usually)
  • An understanding of why they were previously successful (as I’ve written before it is important to try and identify people who were only successful because they were lucky)
  • An ability to articulate what is exciting about the opportunity at hand
  • Commitment to success
  • Intelligence
  • Intellectual curiosity
  • High energy – startup life demands it
  • Good people skills
  • Compliments the rest of the team/fills any gaps

Plus it is always good if the meeting is fun!

After that there are always going to be role specific things – e.g. with the dev managers I was meeting this morning I was very keen to understand how they would contribute to the technical vision and roadmap of the company and bridge the gap between the commercial and tech teams.

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  • Commitment to success?

  • You get the sense from some people that they would rather die than fail. Others don't seem so bothered. That is what I meant.

  • Tom8786

    This is a good post,

    What I always get people to try and do, however my focus is more for call center jobs , is have people think about things they are proud off, or examples of success and always keep a note of them separate to their CV for reference pre interview, or Resume as we call it in the Philippines!

    I will have them set about trying to think of about 6 things they are very proud off and a couple of things they think they can do better. And always think about the reason they did something, how they did it and the outcome, and be very specific, a very general example:

    “I was given the task to manage a new team of 8 agents, the teams conversion was quite low when I first joined the company at 19%, I undertook more coaching based around objection handling which was a specific area of weakness and side by side coaching, II did this to ensure feedback was timely to maximise the benefits, the result was I was able to increase conversion by 3% and we are now the top team”

    The reason I like to have people do this is because mostly interviews in the call center and sales roles generally are very competency based, however the ways the questions are asked vary drastically, some are quite direct, others will ask you to answer based on core values a company has. However having a list of questions of which you can refresh yourself with pre interview is a great help as you simply just have to adapt your answer to fit the question, rather than think on the spot.
    Another tip is to take a pen and paper with you, and if you are asked a question jot down the main points, and use it! I think it shows you are very interested and try to have a couple of questions you want to ask the interviewer, jot down there response just like they are to you!

    Good luck.

  • Interesting comment, tks. Asking for specifics, as you describe, is good if you think a candidate might be over stating their contribution in prior jobs and for more junior recruits.