5 Questions That Reveal Whether a Job Candidate Is Startup Material

When hiring the team that will turn your dream into success, look for people who think corporate cubicles are too small.

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By Anna Johansson

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Hiring is one of the most difficult, and yet most important, parts about running your own business. Your team exists to help drive your business to success because, unless you're some kind of Superman, you can't do it all by yourself.

Still, delegating the responsibilities of running your company is a challenging milestone. Choose someone overqualified and you'll pay more in salary than you'll gain in benefit. Choose someone fresh out of college and their lack of experience might compromise your operations. Choose someone skilled and affordable, and they may not stick around with your company for long.

Ultimately, you want candidates to fill specific roles who are dedicated, patient, adaptable, and passionate about what they do. Skills can be learned, salaries can be negotiated and performances can be tweaked, but those fundamental qualities should be prerequisites to any hiring decision you make. To find candidates who exhibit these qualities, be sure to ask these five questions:

1. Where do you see yourself in five years?

This is an important question because it can help you figure out whether this job is a major institution for your candidate or just a stepping stone on the way to something better. For example, if you ask this question and your candidate answers to the tune of "starting my own company," you know it's not necessarily a long-term fit. If they answer that they're interested in following the course of this position and eventually stepping up as managers or supervisors, that's a much more reassuring response. Even the answer "I don't know" is valuable to you as an entrepreneur. It means that they're flexible and open to the possibility of new experience. If you keep them happy, you can help them grow into practically any position that your company will be able to offer.

Related: 7 Interview Questions That Determine Emotional Intelligence

2. How willing are you to learn a new skill for this job?

Because it's a job interview and most candidates are eager to please, don't be surprised if the majority of your candidates answer "very willing" to this question at the outset. However, you can use other indicators to gauge how open a person truly is to learning new skills or developing new experiences. For example, if the person explains that he/she started his/her last position with one skill set and gradually built toward another, that's a practical demonstration of adaptability, rather than just the insistence of it. This question is also more effective if you have a handful of new skills in mind for the candidate to learn.

3. What made you interested in this position?

This question will reveal the inner motivations of your target candidate. If the person answers that he/she is just looking for a job, or needs a way to make money, consider it a weak response. If the person answers that he/she has always wanted to work for a startup, or that he/she wants to be a part of growing something from a ground level, or answers that he/she wants to work in a place where he/she can follow his/her passions, consider it a strong response. The level of emotion and passion you see in a person giving this response will tell you how good a fit this person is for the position.

Related: How to Ace the 50 Most Common Interview Questions

4. What's your approach to handling a crisis?

Crisis management is a big part of working at a startup. Crises will happen all the time. Most of them will be small crises, but they're still significant and won't stay small if mishandled. It's tough to tell exactly how a person will behave under pressure, but your candidate's answer here should give you some indication. Ask for specific examples of crises he/she has faced in the past, and listen to how he/she philosophizes about crisis management as a whole.

5. If you could do anything in the world, what would you do?

You want a strong answer to this question, as it can reveal much about a person's true personality. Essentially, you're getting a gauge for this person's calling in life, and you'll be able to tell instantly whether he/she is going to be passionate in this chosen position. If you find out that your candidate has interests far outside of what the job calls for, you can be sure he/she will lose interest in the position before too long.

You want to find flexible workers who will stick with your business for the long haul, so ask these questions of every potential job candidate you bring in. You'll always have opportunities to make adjustments, either by hiring new people or parting ways with your earlier hire, but the stronger you can make your team at the outset, the less you'll have to worry about later on.

Related: 5 Revealing Interview Questions That Assess Employee Fit

Anna Johansson

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Freelance writer

Anna Johansson is a freelance writer who specializes in social media and business development.

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