What I Look for in Candidates Interviewing at My Startup

Caren Maio

Even in the startup world, where a talent gap means tech employees are in high demand, a solid resume is no guarantee of employment. Why? Because personality, cultural fit, and first impressions matter. The interview is your first and possibly only opportunity to stand out. It’s your chance to show an employer all the virtues that differentiate you. But I’ve found that many candidates struggle to move from simply repeating what’s on their resumes to actually demonstrating what makes them uniquely qualified.

I’m the founder of Nestio, a startup that helps landlords and brokers market and lease apartments. Over the past six months, our workforce has tripled, to around 40 people, and we’re still growing. These days I’m spending a lot of time in conference rooms interviewing prospective candidates, from engineers to salespeople to a new director of marketing. While on paper most can do the job, in reality some clearly stand above the rest.

In my firsthand experience, I’ve noticed several traits that set apart the candidates we ultimately hire from the ones we don’t. Of course, this list is not definitive and these things may appear obvious. But a CareerBuilder study that surveyed over 2,000 hiring managers identified similar characteristics in top employees. In other words, there’s a reason that companies like ours are paying attention to these characteristics and hiring the candidates who possess them. What are they?

They’ve done their Googling. This is just common sense, but I’m amazed at how often this step is skipped. We’ve had candidates come through our doors who have asked questions that reveal they don’t know who our target customer is or even what our platform does. 

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