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12 Startup Founders reveal their favorite interview question(s)

startup-interview-questions-revealed

Curious about what successful entrepreneurs ask when they interview job seekers? Wondering what it takes to get hired by a high-profile startup? 

We interviewed (ha!) the Founders of some of the fastest growing companies and asked them to reveal the questions they ask while recruiting new team members for their venture.

If you are a job seeker or a hiring manager, either way, you’ll find great nuggets of wisdom in this post. And some of these startup job interview questions will surely surprise you!

Here we go:

‘Please walk me through the journey of how you got here today to be applying for this job?’

Gabriel Weinberg - Founder, DuckDuckGo

Gabriel Weinberg
Founder, DuckDuckGo

Gabriel Weinberg is the Founder & CEO of DuckDuckGo, the search engine that doesn’t track you.

He says this is the highest-leverage question he has come across in terms of learning the most about someone in the shortest amount of time. 

“It requires them to essentially tell a brief career story, which forces them to highlight what they think is important, how they see themselves, and how well they communicate.

Then it allows you to easily use their answer as jumping off points to ask follow-up questions like why they made certain decisions, which illuminates how they think.”

‘Take 5 minutes and tell me your story?’

Gurjeet Singh - Co-Founder & CEO, Ayasdi

Gurjeet Singh
Co-Founder & CEO, Ayasdi

Gurjeet Singh is the Co-Founder & CEO of Ayasdi – an artificial intelligence software company.

“By the time I am interviewing someone, they have already been tested for skills. I am not looking to do that again. This question allows me to test:

– how someone describes their journey?

– are they self-motivated or did they excel at what their boss told them to do?

– what are they proud of having accomplished?

– what does success mean for them? have they seen it?

– the best candidates often sprinkle their questions for me during their answer and the calibre of their questions is the biggest signal for me.” 

‘Let’s say I give you a few million dollars. You don’t have to work, you don’t have to really do anything. What would you spend your time doing?’

Galen Ward - Co-Founder & CEO, Estately

Galen Ward
Co-Founder & CEO, Estately

Galen Ward is the Co-Founder & CEO of Estately that makes it easier for people to find & buy homes online.

He is also a mentor at 500 Startups – a leading early stage venture fund & startup accelerator.

He loves asking this question because it forces the candidate to talk about their passion and something that is really meaningful for them – whether it’s a sport or something else.

“It tells you about their core interests outside of trading time for money and that tells you something about their motivation and what drives them. People are surprisingly honest about it – no one has told me they’d save the world.”

‘If you won the lottery and you had more money than you ever need — and you choose to work — what would you do?’

Rahul Vohra - Founder & CEO, Superman. Founded Rapportive

Rahul Vohra
Founder & CEO, Superman. Founded Rapportive

Rahul Vohra co-founded Rapportive that was acquired by LinkedIn. He is now the Founder & CEO of Superhuman – a fast & intelligent email client. 

“The wording is important here; it keeps the candidate thinking about jobs, as opposed to other activities.

Given that, if the candidate talks about activities unrelated to the role, that’s a big warning sign: their dreams are misaligned with their reality.”

‘What is the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced? How did you get over it?’

 This is another one of Rahul’s favorite interview questions.

“If the candidate talks about a work challenge, you have to wonder whether they have authenticity or perspective.

This question really only works in a 1-to-1 situation, where you’ve had the chance to establish rapport. If the candidate shares a personal story, be sure to thank them for it.”

‘What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?’

Another great question that is put by Rahul to his interviewees. He says 9 times out of the 10 the misconception is actually true, and the candidate has given you examples of how this is the case.

‘What was the best team you ever been on — be it in a professional environment or not — and why it was such a good team?’

Alex Cavoulacos - Co-Founder & COO, The Muse

Alex Cavoulacos
Co-Founder & COO, The Muse

Alex Cavoulacos is the Co-Founder & COO of The Muse – an online portal that helps people in searching jobs, exploring top companies and offers expert career advice.

She says that seeing what candidates value in a team tells her a lot about their style and priorities, and there is no right answer, which gives them room to show personality.

‘What is the one thing you want to learn during your time here?’

David Cancel - Co-Founder & CEO, Drift

David Cancel
Co-Founder & CEO, Drift

David Cancel is the Co-Founder & CEO of Drift – a messaging app that makes it easy for businesses to talk to their website visitors.

He wants to recruit high performance individuals for his company and as per him the most effective approach for doing that is to align their personal goals with business goals.

“Also, if we do that then we create 10x potential for that person.”

‘Do you believe in horoscopes?’

Paras Chopra - Founder & CEO, Wingify

Paras Chopra
Founder & CEO, Wingify

Paras Chopra is the Founder & CEO of Wingify, the company behind Visual Website Optimizer – one of the leading A/B & Split Testing Software.

He says the answer tells how much control the person feels on his/her life and actions.

“We are looking for individuals who have a strong internal locus of control and believe that the end result is a cause of their own actions.

We believe such people display a higher sense of responsibility and judiciousness when taking important business decisions, compared to those who believe overtly in external factors like luck or competition affecting their performance.”

‘This is a real problem we’re facing – ________ . Let’s think it through together.’

Amanda Steinberg - Founder & CEO, DailyWorth

Amanda Steinberg
Founder & CEO, DailyWorth

Amanda Steinberg is the Founder & CEO of DailyWorth – a leading financial & career advice portal for women. She is also the Co-Founder & CEO of WorthFM – a digital investment platform slated to launch this year.

She says this question tells her a lot about how the candidate thinks as well as how they might work together.

‘What was for breakfast? Did you exercise this morning?’

Sairee Chahal - Founder & CEO, SHEROES

Sairee Chahal
Founder & CEO, SHEROES

Sairee Chahal is the Founder & CEO of SHEROES – a career portal for women in India.

She asks this question to gauge the candidate’s sense of self, discipline and perspective on life. She also says that in her opinion fitness and integrity are closely linked together.

‘Do you really want to do something big and revolutionary? Do you understand what would be required of you to join us in this mission?’

David Sifry - Founded Technorati

David Sifry
Founded Technorati

David Sifry has started and built 6 companies both venture-backed and bootstrapped, and is the founder of Technorati – the first blog search engine.

Dave says that oftentimes, especially as the company grew, his job was primarily to convince the prospective employee to join, so he was often telling them why they existed, what they were trying to achieve, and what to expect if the candidate chose to work at his company.

“I often asked them if they really wanted to do something big and revolutionary, and if they understood what would be required of them to join us in that mission – that this wasn’t for everyone, and that there were plenty of great jobs out there for people with their formidable talents, but that we were looking for a special breed of person – someone who wanted to step up and take risks, someone who had no problem going full-speed into things, even if that meant they left a dent in the wall.

What I promised them is that we would give them the authority, the resources, and the teammates to go and break through those walls.

What I asked them for was if they were willing to take on the commensurate responsibility that comes with that authority.

And I wanted to make sure they really thought about it and were committed before they accepted the offer.”

‘What does your work setup look like?’

Alex Turnbull - Founder & CEO, Groove

Alex Turnbull
Founder & CEO, Groove

Alex Turnbull is the Founder and CEO of Groove – customer service software company. Their entire team works remotely and hence he always asks this particular question from the candidate.

“As a remote team, we need to hire not just great performers, but great remote performers; people who can excel at self‑starting and self‑managing.

A big part of that is being thoughtful about your workspace. If someone hasn’t put much thought into their setup and works from their couch 100% of the time, or worse, ‘doesn’t know yet,’ this signals that they might not be ready for a remote position yet.

There are a lot of right answers and very few wrong ones—we have folks working in everything from coffee shops to home offices to coworking spaces—but it’s important to me that some thought was put into this, either from previous remote experience or in preparation for future distributed work.”

Sidenote: Team Resumonk works remotely as well. Cheers to all the remote teams out there!

‘What are the top three books you’ve read this year?

Jessica Mah - Co-Founder & CEO, inDinero

Jessica Mah
Co-Founder & CEO, inDinero

Well, the interview is also a chance for the Founder to learn from the candidate.

Jessica Mah is the Co-Founder & CEO of inDinero accounting software and loves asking this question for herself. “I ask that so I can add them to my reading list and figure out what to prioritize :)“

Do you have any favorite question that you ask all the people you interview? Let us know in the comments below.

Resumonk helps you create a beautiful résumé & cover letter in minutes. Stand out from the crowd and multiply your chances of landing your dream job. Check it now!

 

Dear Software Engineer – This is why your resume was rejected

Software engineering resume examples

So you sent your resume to your favorite companies, and never heard back from them?

Guess what, you are not alone. Top technology companies like Google receive over 2 million job applications in a year and hire about 5000 people only. So the average applicant’s odds are 1 out of 400, says Laszlo Bock, head of people operations at Google. Presumably this includes all roles in Google, it is quite possible that odds are even lower for their engineering positions.

Admittedly, this is one of the premier technology companies, but the situation is not much different at other places as well. There is a good chance that your resume is going to be shelved without you ever figuring out the reason behind it. To not end up in the rejected pile, you must avoid the following mistakes regarding your resume

1. Not sending your resume via an employee referral

If you are applying directly via a company’s website or through a job board, please stop!

As per the Impact Group study in 2010, job applications using networking or referrals are far more successful than applying online. 26.7% of external hires made by organizations came from referrals, making it the number one external source of hiring for the participating firms. 46% of men and 39% of women find their jobs through networking. The higher your salary, the more effective networking becomes. (src: julliengordon.com).

How to get referred?

Now that we know that referrals are the single most reliable option of landing interviews, let’s see what you can do about it-

  • The most obvious way – Apply to companies where your friends or ex-colleagues can refer you – See how Steph Jang hustled a job at Khan Academy.
  • Connect with an employee of your target company on LinkedIn and send them a polite and intelligent email. Patrick Mckenzie gave a great example of such a cold email on Hacker News recently.  Here is a modified version of his example:
    “Hey Bob,
    I saw your presentation at $CONFERENCE last year on Youtube. Great stuff; loved what you did with $FOO, in particular $COMMENT_PROVING_YOU_KNOW_WHAT_YOU'RE_TALKING_ABOUT.I'm also a $FOO developer. I noticed that your company is hiring for $ROLE. I’d love to be a part of your team. Do you have a few minutes to chat on Thursday about what you guys are doing?
    Thanks,
    Yourname
    Your website or any public profile link”
  • Sometimes, the ‘earning referral’ strategy also works where you get yourself noticed by other means. See if you can help improve their open source code or report issues with their product/site.

Read More

Fresher Resume Guide: How to Write a Resume If You Have No Experience

How to Write a Resume If You Have No Experience

If you’ve been wondering how to make a resume with no experience, stop worrying. Writing a resume with no work experience is different to a normal resume, but it’s easier than it looks.

Basic fresher resume issues

The issues in writing a resume for freshers are straightforward enough:

  • The core issue is that a resume must be a useful document to its readers. You must provide relevant, concise information.
  • Always bear in mind that any prospective employer has their own specific criteria. You must address these criteria in full. If you don’t, computer screening can discard your application.
  • There’s no such thing as an all-purpose resume. Obviously, your basic information will be similar, but you’ll need to modify your resume for different employers.
  • Research the employer’s business! Use the employer’s contact person to get as much information as possible about the job. This can save you from some major blunders and provide very useful information.
  • More isn’t necessarily better in terms of amount of text. Stick to solid facts, without adornment, unless additional information gives you a clear advantage.

Formatting your resume

Your fresher resume format is critically important:

  • Your resume must be easy to read. Always think of the reader’s needs.
  • Use dedicated sections, not just headers, to split up your resume into simple segments. This is to help the reader focus on specific information, like qualifications, etc.
  • Make sure that your resume has a credible, professional look and use color to break up your sections. Some resumes you’ll see online look like junk mail, and that’s not where you want to be. Look professional!
    You can also consider using any of these beautiful resume templates on Resumonk.
  • Allow space for your information. Don’t try to cram things in to spaces which are too small.
  • There is no set-in-stone format for fresher resumes apart from the obvious baseline information required. If you have high value information, like an internship or project relevant to the application, include it.

Basic fresher resume layout

A typical fresher resume fresher resume layout is pretty simple:

  • Name and contact info header- Large standard font, all easy to read.
  • Career objectives- Optional, and not necessarily useful. Keep this section brief and clear, if included.
  • Qualifications- Spell out relevant information. Check to make sure you’re providing all the information required and clearly define your skill sets in terms of application requirements. Use the same keywords as the job criteria to get through computer screening.
  • Software skills- This is a common requirement for many employers and a major checklist criteria item for some.
  • Relevant practical experience- Projects, internships, related academic work if applicable. Ensure you address the employer’s high priority requirements in this section.
  • Achievements- Clearly define your achievements. Expand to include relevant position requirements.

Above all- Think!

The usual, fatal mistake with any resume is sending the employer some half-baked, incomplete, last minute thing you did at 4AM. A resume written like that invariably looks like that and winds up in the discards.

Checklist:

  • All employer criteria addressed?
  • No typos?
  • Looks good?
  • Includes all your high value information?

You’re ready to go.

15 Soft Skills You Should Never Use on Your Resume

Soft Skills to Avoid in Resume | Resumonk

All this talk about how critical soft skills are for inclusion on your resume and, ultimately, your job search success. Employers even list some of these “soft skills” in their job ads. It’s this unyielding catch-22. The employers want to see that you’re a “team player” and “hard worker”, but yet they don’t want to see that information on your resume!

How are you supposed to convey that you can meet the requirements of the position when some words aren’t supposed to be included in your resume? And how are you supposed to even know what those offending words are? Here’s a list of the top 15 words HR does NOT want to see on your resume:

 

  1. Best of breed
  2. Go-getter
  3. Think outside of the box
  4. Synergy
  5. Go-to person
  6. Thought leadership
  7. Value add
  8. Team player
  9. Results-driven
  10. Bottom-line
  11. Hard worker
  12. Strategic thinker
  13. Self-motivated
  14. Dynamic
  15. Detail-oriented

 

The problem with the list is it contains mostly generic soft skills. So what can a job seeker do? You can still give the employer the soft skills they’re looking for, but wait until the interview to show them you’re a great culture match. Focus your resume on showing them you’re a great experience/skills match! Switch it up and focus on keywords, quantifiable achievements, and unique successes.

Also, here’s a list of the BEST alternative words to use on your resume as preferred by HR themselves! Check out this list of the 15 best words to use on your resume on GreatResumesFast.

Avoid The Top 5 Resume Mistakes

Common Resume Mistakes - 2014 | Resumonk

Looking to land your dream job? Before you send out your spruced-up resume to employers and recruiters, ensure that you aren’t guilty of making the following mistakes.

#1 Using a generic objective statement

To obtain a position enabling me to utilize my strong communication and leadership skills that offers growth and advancement opportunities ..

Does your resume start out with such a vague statement? If yes, remove it now. Hiring managers literally spend a few seconds on each resume, and you’d lose the race before even it started.

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, President of Career Trend suggests replacing the objective with a focused headline and profile summary that markets your value to alleviate a company’s pain.

Make it as relevant as possible for the job position you are applying. e.g. A preschool teacher can summarize herself in the following way:

“Passionate early childhood educator with over 8+ years of experience in cultivating young children’s learning through emergent curriculum. Fluent in English & Spanish.”

#2 Very few accomplishment statements

Most job seekers just list out responsibilities and duties in their resume. An often repeated advice is to use metrics to quantify your contribution e.g. “Implemented XYZ marketing strategy to increase sales by 35%”. But what if your job profile makes it difficult to come up with these hard numbers?

Jessica Holbrook Hernandez, President & CEO of GreatResumesFast suggests the following:

Think about a challenge or situation you faced while employed. What action did you take to address it? What was the outcome? That’s your story, that’s the value you offer employers, those are your results/accomplishments/successes/contributions. By the way, it is also great practice for behavioral interviewing.

#3 Grammatical mistakes & inconsistencies

Review your resume multiple times to get rid of any grammatical mistakes. Michelle Lopez, Founder of One2One Resumes offers the following excellent tips for proofreading:

1. Proofread quietly, away from distractions like television, radio, family and friends – find a quiet space.
2. Slow down. Don’t skim over words, read each and every one.
3. Don’t limit yourself to reading your resume on the computer screen – print it out and read it on paper.
4. Read out loud. Hearing your words alerts you when what you have written is not what you thought you’d written.
5. Get someone else to proofread the resume as well.

Also, get rid of any inconsistencies in the use of hyphens or capitalization when it comes to employer/city names. e.g. If your previous employer was called PineTree Graphics, do not write it down as Pinetree graphics etc. Attention to detail is a much sought after quality in most of the jobs and you don’t want to leave a bad first impression about yourself.

#4 Formatting inconsistencies

Use consistency in font sizing and bullet point styles. If you are making the employer names as bold and dates as italics, do it consistently through out the resume. Be careful of the whitespace related issues between paragraphs and the margins.

Or better, use an online resume builder like Resumonk to come up with a beautiful resume for yourself.

#5 Including personal information such as age/date of birth or marital status

You are being hired for your skills and the value that you’ll add to the organization. Your age or marital status has no relevance in most job applications. You should leave them out in your resume.

How to setup SSL on Heroku for a Rails Application

Heroku Namecheap SSL Certificate

We recently setup SSL on Resumonk.com which is a Rails 3 application running on Heroku. Here is a quick summary of the entire process and hope it saves you some time when you are looking to enable SSL for your Rails application on Heroku.

What is SSL and why do you need it?

SSL or Secure Sockets Layer is protocol for establishing a secure (encrypted) link between server and the browser. If your app or website is using a database for storing and retrieving user generated information, you need to get SSL to ensure that the data is transmitted securely and to ensure that it is less vulnerable to tampering or forgery.
Also, displaying SSL Seal helps improve trust and it tells your customers that their data is protected.

Adding SSL certificate to your Heroku application

To use SSL for an app hosted on Heroku, you’ll need to enable SSL add-on that Heroku provides. This add-on costs $20/month. Please keep in mind that this is a recurring expense and it does not include the cost of the SSL certificate itself. You’ll need to buy that separately.

Note: If you don’t plan to use a custom domain then you can use the free SSL that Heroku provides – (https://myapp.herokuapp.com).

Here are the steps that you need to follow to add an SSL certificate to you app –

  1. Purchase SSL certificate
  2. Generate private key and CSR
  3. Provision the Heroku SSL add-on
  4. Upload the key and certificate to Heroku
  5. Update your DNS settings
  6. Update your app code to redirect https instead of http

STEP 1: Purchase SSL certificate

We bought a RapidSSL certificate from Namecheap.

Note: RapidSSL certificate ($10/year) is only valid for the root domain. If you need to secure all your subdomains (blog.domain.com or labs.domain.com), you’ll need to buy a wildcard SSL certificate.

STEP 2: Generate Private key and CSR

Before you can activate your SSL certificate, you’ll need to provide a CSR (Certificate Signing Request) to the SSL provider.

The first step to generating a CSR is to create a private key. You can use openssl for generating a private key.

On a Mac (install Homebrew first if you don’t have it installed), open up Terminal.app and use the following command.

brew install openssl

On Ubuntu, you can do –

sudo apt-get install openssl

Once you’ve installed openssl, use this command to generate a private key –

openssl genrsa -des3 -out server.pass.key 2048

You’ll be asked to enter a password.

Enter pass phrase for server.pass.key:
Verifying - Enter pass phrase for server.pass.key:

Then run this command –

openssl rsa -in server.pass.key -out server.key

The above command will create a file called server.key in your working directory. We’ll need this key to generate the CSR.

openssl req -nodes -new -key server.key -out server.csr

This is the command that will generate a CSR for you. You’ll be prompted to enter the following details –

  • Country Name: 2 Digit code. This link has a list of all accepted country codes – http://www.ssl.com/csrs/country_codes
  • State and Locality (e.g.: California, New Delhi etc)
  • Organization name (Legal/Registered Name of your company e.g.: Abhayam Software Solutions Pvt. Ltd)
  • Organizational Unit is whichever branch of your company is ordering the certificate (e.g. Marketing Department, Product Development, Software Lab)
  • Common Name – This is the most important part so be extra careful. Common Name is the domain name that you want the CSR (and the SSL certificate) for. Please note that you need to specify which URL you want – www or non-www. You cannot set the common name to example.com and expect it to secure www.example.com.
    For Resumonk, our main URL has www in it and the root url (non-www) redirects to the www url, So the common name we specified was www.resumonk.com

The previous command would have generated a file name server.csr. Open up that file in a text editor and copy everything inside the BEGIN/END block.

NOTE: The following step is only applicable for Namecheap and may vary for other SSL providers.

Login to your Namecheap account (or any other SSL provider) and navigate to your SSL dashboard – Your Account -> Manage SSL Certificates and click the “Activate” link next to your SSL certificate.

Paste the CSR code that you copied into the text box and fill in the rest of your details. For server name, choose Apache 2.

Important Note: You will have to choose an approver email from the list that is shown. You’ll have options like [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] etc. If you don’t have any of these email addresses created, you’ll need to do that before proceeding since Namecheap will send our a verification email to the approver email address.

Once you save all the details, you’ll receive a verification email from Namecheap (to the approver email that you specified earlier) asking you to verify that you want to active the SSL certificate.

After you verify, Namecheap will send you an email with 2 certificates – WEB SERVER CERTIFICATE and INTERMEDIATE CA. Copy both these certificates one after the other into a separate file and save it as server.crt.

Important Note: INCLUDE the BEGIN CERTIFICATE/END CERTIFICATE lines and ensure that there are 5 dashes to either side of BEGIN CERTIFICATE and END CERTIFICATE. Do not add any extra whitespaces or line breaks.

The final file should look something like this –

—–BEGIN CERTIFICATE—–
[encoded data]
—–END CERTIFICATE—–
—–BEGIN CERTIFICATE—–
[encoded data]
—–END CERTIFICATE—–

STEP 3: Provision the Heroku add-on

Now you need to provision Heroku’s add-on. Open up your terminal and cd to your project directory. Then give this command –

heroku addons:add ssl:endpoint

STEP 4: Upload the key and certificate to Heroku

Now add the certificate and private key to Heroku

heroku certs:add server.crt server.key

Here the server.crt file is the certificate we created in the last step and server.key is the private key we generated in Step 1.

If everything worked as it should, you’ll see a screen like

Adding SSL Endpoint to example... done
example now served by fuscia-1212.herokussl.com.

This is the new endpoint URL at which your domain should point.

STEP 5: Update your DNS settings

Login to your domain management panel.

If you already have a CNAME record pointing to myapp.heroku.com, change it to the new URL endpoint (fuscia-1212.herokussl.com).

If you don’t have a CNAME record, you’ll need to add your custom domain to Heroku first. To do that, follow this guide.

Now once the DNS change has propagated (this can take a while), you’ll have SSL activated on your website. Navigate to https://mydomain.com and you’ll see that the address bar turns green and shows a lock symbol.

Additional Step for Rails apps –

STEP 6: Tell Rails to use the https URL.

You’ll notice that right now, although you have got your SSL certificate to work, you can still access your app without SSL (http://mydomain.com). You need to tell Rails to use the SSL version by default.

Doing this is really easy, open up production.rb file and add this line –

config.force_ssl = true

That’s it. Now if you try access your website without ssl (http://mydomain.com), Rails will do a 301 (permanent redirect) to the https version.

One final thing to keep in mind is that if you are using social sign-in (omniauth), you might need to change the callback URL (especially for Google+).

Also check your code for places where you have referenced the absolute URL and change it to https (This usually happens in transactional emails (welcome, password-reset etc) that you send out).

That’s all there is to adding a SSL certificate to your Heroku-hosted app. Let me know if you have any questions.

PS: Resumonk can help you create a beautiful and professional resume in minutes. Try it out and do let me know how we can improve it further.

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