Startups are fast moving businesses with very lean teams. They behave differently from a large corporate – they have less processes and a very unique approach to recruitment.

What to expect when you are interviewing at a startup company:

1) Your first interview is as a important as your final interview

Startups don’t tend to have dedicated HR people until they get to a certain size. That means the person you are likely to interview with probably does a whole lot more than just HR. Unlike big corporates that tend to have lengthier screening processes, when you interview at the startup, you probably meet the decision makers early in the process. And if it was a HR person, they probably do more than just HR. This is an opportunity to impress and also find out what it’s like being in the business.

2) They like candidates with strong motivations, even if you are not the most experienced candidate

Not saying that skills are not important, but startups know that with their busy workload, shifting schedules and priorities, any staff that joins them has to be really motivated, and believe in their cause. The mentality of the Malaysian workforce still leans to having a preference to working with large corporates, so startup founders will want to know why you are interviewing with them. Telling a startup founder that your long term goal is to be able to have your own business can actually help you land the job, as long as you can demonstrate that you will give it your best while you are at the startup.

3) Show that you are able to do more than your current level of experience

Startups may not have the resources to hire super senior people, but at the same time, they don’t have the time to wait for the junior person the learn the ropes. When you join a startup, don’t expect some formal training regime, you will get right into the business really quickly. Learning fast and doing many important tasks early in their career is what attracts many people to a startup, but if you have a problem with this, then the startup culture may not be for you. Therefore at the interview, if you can demonstrate that you understand this, and do not need to be spoon fed, you will have an advantage over other candidates.

Working at a startup is really quite an experience, and with the startup scene booming in Malaysia, it’s going to be a roller coaster of a career, and maybe even lead you to have your own startup some day. So enjoy the ride, and have fun in your interviews!



Posted by Derek Toh

Derek is the founder and CEO of WOBB.CO. He was part of the pioneer batch for the Stanford-MaGIC Entrepreneurship Program, and is also a mentor for McKinsey & Company's Youth Leadership Academy. Derek is on a mission to revolutionise work culture in Asia. He cares about initiatives that improve education and the talent market. Derek is also a big fan of superhero movies, and has been told that he drinks too much coffee during the day.