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Personality Matters More When You're Interviewing For A Startup Job

Vivian Giang

This is the fifth of a twelve-part series called "Career Insider." This series will give youneed to know to advance your career. Brought to you by Johnston and Murphy.

Working for a startup is exciting. It's also a lot different than working for a company that's been around for hundreds of years.

And being successful at an established company doesn't mean you'll thrive at a startup.

Matthew Bellows, CEO of Yesware, a software firm that provides  cloud-based email analytics for salespeople, has worked at six different startups.

He thinks there's a m uch higher standard when it comes to personality fit at startups than there is at older companies.

"[Startup candidates] don't get denied because they lack a technical skill," Bellows told us. "If you're smart enough you'll figure out the skill sets you need."

"However, we spend so much time with one another, that if you don't get along with others, it's a big deal," he says. "Whereas at a bigger company, if you went to the right school, you'll do fine."

There's a lot of what Bellows calls "constant inevitable chaos" in startup culture — one example is changing a meeting location at the last minute because of an office renovation. A good employee has to be able to handle the chaos.

When interviewing candidates, here's how Bellows decides whether there's a personality fit: 

1. Are they genuine?

At the beginning of the interview, Bellows likes to throw in the test question: "Have you tried the product?"

He told us that a lot of candidates will lie, but it's hard to lie through a technical question and eventually "the cracks begin to show."

If they don't lie and are genuine about their answers, then they prove that they're not "just putting their best face forward." Bellows said that this is where you get a sense of what they think is interesting and whether they'd be a good fit for the company.

2. Do they have a sense of humor?

This isn't whether or not they can tell a funny joke, but rather, they need to show that they don't take themselves too seriously.

"Life in a startup requires flexibility and if they're too serious, they won't be able to bend with the wind as things change." 

Yesware is a two-year-old startup and currently has 12 full-time employees ranging from the ages of 22 to 45. The company is made up of approximately 75 percent engineers and 25 percent marketers. 

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