5 Questions to Guide Your Startup Research

Posted 6/1/2022 in Learn by Jen Lyons

Working for a startup can be a highly rewarding experience. You’ll likely have more influence on the direction of your role and department—or even the entire company—than you would with a more established corporation. Startups often seek to answer questions or fill gaps in important industries, and being on the front lines of that kind of work allows you to have a big impact on the world around you. 

But not all startups are created equal, and it’s important to do your due diligence from the beginning of your job search in order to ensure you end up at the right company. To help you figure out which startup is the right place for you, we’ve come up with five questions you should ask before accepting an offer.

1. What kind of experience does the leadership team have?

You should be able to find out about the leadership team’s background by browsing the company website and LinkedIn, as well as doing a quick Google search. Hit up your network and see if you share any mutual connections who can offer an inside scoop on the team. 

When meeting for an interview, you may have the opportunity to ask leadership directly about their experience and how it has prepared them to run a successful startup. Meeting with multiple members of the team at once can provide some insight into how well they work together.

Access to leadership aside, it’s important to ask your prospective manager about their experience and management style. This can give you insight into how the company is run and whether it will be the right fit for you.

2. What are the company’s values?

Today’s tech industry is driven by company values, and as a job seeker in this market, you have the privilege of being choosy. Make sure your personal values are aligned with the startup’s before joining their team. As you explore the company’s website and meet the team, pay attention to how they demonstrate these values. Ask directly about how company values show up in both day-to-day operations and the big picture.

3. How do customers feel about the startup?

Search for customer testimonials, product reviews, feedback on blogs, and comments on social media. Keeping in mind that every company has a few bad reviews, pay attention to how the startup responds to negative feedback or call-outs online. Do they take ownership and are they accountable? Do they choose to engage? Do they uphold company values in those interactions and strive to improve the customer experience when possible?

4. Are you able to find press praising the startup?

Successful startups are often the topic of articles, blog posts, and social media posts. Look for positive mentions of the startup that they haven’t paid for—this includes shoutouts from news sources, posts and shares from journalists on social media, and reviews of the company found on sites other than the startup’s website. This will help you gauge the startup’s reputation and credibility within its industry. If you find a lot of praise coming from outside sources, that can be an indication that the company is doing well and is likely to be successful in the future. Keep in mind that depending on what stage of growth the startup is at, it may not have a large media presence.

5. What is the company culture like?

Startups often require employees to be nimble in the tasks they cover, especially early on. Great company culture can make your hard work and adaptability more than worth it. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you have a solid grasp of the company culture before you accept an offer. In addition to asking leadership about this at your interview, you can leverage your network. Word-of-mouth can be your best friend when determining whether a company’s culture is the right fit for you. If you can track down former employees or ask to speak directly to current employees outside of the leadership team, you’ll likely get a good picture of the culture. Make sure to look up the startup on websites like Glassdoor and RepVue as well.

Researching the company legitimacy of any prospective employer is important, but when you’re applying to work at a startup, it’s vital. Asking the questions above will help you answer the biggest question related to your job search—is joining a startup worth it? We believe it absolutely is…you just need to find the right one.

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