Startup Interviews- Expect the unexpected

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.

-Isha Kothiyal, MBA 2014-16, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur.


On 13th March, 2015, Economic Times published a report on the innovative interview formats being used in start-up companies to hire employees. Gone are the days when domain knowledge was the only criteria for recruiting people. Start-ups are now getting inclined towards hiring people who can fit into their culture as well.

Online furniture seller, Urban Ladder has a rigorous interview process that begins with a 45 minute telephonic interview. This is done to check the candidate’s communication skills, past work experience, basic fit into the organization’s culture and career plans. This is followed by a three to six hour problem solving exercise, where the candidates having engineering background may be subjected to hacking tests.

The googly is bowled when the candidates after clearing the earlier rounds are left stranded at an airport for about two hours to gauge if they are able to strike up and hold a conversation with strangers. “The fundamental premise of hiring is potential more than performance. Since we are trying to do something that has not been done before — selling furniture online — we need a rigorous process to spot talent” ,Rajiv Srivatsa, Co-founder & COO, Urban Ladder.

Similarly, Jombay, a Talent assessment and analytics platform provider starts evaluating the candidates for their cultural fit through a rapid fire round centred on the candidate’s personal life. They are asked to create their own psychometric report, compare it with the one generated by Jombay, and then explain the perception gap. Candidates are sometimes made to wait in the reception area where five books and an equal number of newspapers and magazines are kept. The candidate’s behaviour is observed to infer the cultural or personality fit from which books, magazines and newspapers are picked by him/her. Junior-level interviews may also require candidates to play guitar to check how they adapt to or learn in unfamiliar territories.

Owners and managers in entrepreneurial ventures are looking for people who are innovative, smart and self motivated. Fitting into the organization’s culture has become a key criterion to be part of a start-up. Employees working for start-ups are required to wear multiple hats and so a detailed assessment of their capabilities and skills is a must. Traditional interview processes in multinationals with a large HR department tend to be structured and hence inflexible. They might fail to assess the candidate’s cultural fit. It has become imperative for upcoming organizations to innovate their candidate selection process so that the potential employees are able to maintain a long and mutually beneficial association with their employers.


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