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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