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Startup Interview Questions

Interview questions for startup’s are inherently different than other interview questions.  Whereas other applicants are typically asked questions regarding their previous role and experiences, an startup is brought in to handle a specific subject and matter.

Subject matter experts are usually brought in when a business needs an individual who is an expert on a particular subject or issue.  Hiring the correct startup can substantially ease your team’s workload and the trajectory of your business.

A startup, or subject matter expert, is an individual who is an authority or expert in a particular area or topic.  These individuals typically have extensive experience and history in their respective area.  A subject matter expert typically leverages their expertise and knowledge to assist companies in identifying, solving, and resolving issues which can become business critical.

By leveraging their previous experiences, a subject matter expert is able to effectively assist their employer in navigating unknown waters and issues which may cause delays and compromised business functions.  Hiring for a subject matter expert role requires asking specific interview questions to get a better and more holistic sense of the individual’s knowledge and expertise.

Why Hire a Subject Matter Expert?

There are a multitude of reasons why a company would opt to hire a subject matter expert.  One of the main reasons is that a subject matter expert is able to effectively relay information and knowledge regarding their respective areas of expertise.  By relaying timely and relevant information, a subject matter expert is able to assist their employer in avoiding issues and pitfalls commonly encountered.

In addition, a subject matter expert is able to provide a fresh perspective.  By joining an ongoing project, startup’s are able to provide a new “set of eyes” and may be able to identify issues and critical perspectives which may have been missed.

Lastly, subject matter experts may be hired as a voice of reason.  Their extensive experience and previous history in their respective topic allows them to provide a nuanced, thoughtful response to commonly asked questions and issues.  This third-party perspective can be invaluable to a project or deadline.

Interview Questions to Ask a Startup

As the introduction of a subject matter expert to an ongoing project, task, or deadline can make or break it, it is necessary to formulate the interview questions to ensure you hire the correct one.  Whereas commonly asked interview questions may be utilized for non-startup roles, we recommend focusing your interview questions for a subject matter expert to ones that will ensure adequate and proper understanding and knowledge of their field of expertise.

When interviewing a subject matter expert, it is of utmost importance to ask questions directly related to their field of expertise.  This includes not only asking questions related to their previous experience, but also asking questions which are behaviorally based.  By asking behaviorally based questions, you will be able to better understand the startup’s workflow and how they address problems and issues.

Interview Questions for SME’s

Provide an Explanation of a Difficult Topic Which You Understand Well

At the end of the day, the subject matter expert should be just that, an expert on a specific topic.  However, understanding a topic and explaining a topic are two fundamentally different things.  While a subject matter expert may have a thorough understand of a certain topic, they should be able to properly, adequately, and accurately explain that topic.

A subject matter expert whom is unable to properly describe their area of expertise will be unable to provide a path forward for the team.  It is, therefore, of utmost importance that the subject matter expert be not only an expert in their respective field, but also an expert in describing their experience and understanding.

What Challenges do You Foresee in This Role?

When interviewing a subject matter expert, it is best to ask direct, unfiltered questions.  A great interview question is what challenges and issues they foresee in the open role.  The reason?  Because asking this question will help you to determine the individual’s understanding of the project and role.

A truly great subject matter expert will be able to explain what issues they foresee occurring and will be able to provide exact steps that can be taken to avoid those issues.  An interviewer will be able to compare differing answers and determine which path makes the most sense moving forward.

What Are Two Negative Qualities of Yours That May Impact the Completion of This Project?

A subject matter expert should be able to work well with others and should be able to properly articulate their experience and their path forward.  By asking the interviewee what negative qualities of their may impact the completion of the project, the interviewer will be able to ensure that whomever they bring in will be able to work well with the team and provide an articulate explanation of their ideas and path forward.

Tell me About a Time You Made an Error on a Project. How did You Correct That Error?

No one individual is perfect and nearly everyone will commit some mistakes while on the job.  However, what is more important is an individual’s ability to correct the error and to ensure that it does not occur again.  This is a great question to ask as it forces a level of vulnerability.

In addition, it forces the interviewee to provide the interviewer with a list of steps taken to correct the error.  This allows the interviewer to gain a deeper understanding of how the interviewee handles problems and issues, particularly of their own doing.

Are You Passionate About Your Area of Expertise?

Perhaps above all else, the interviewer should look to determine the subject matter expert’s passion regarding their field of expertise.  Although passion does not directly correlate with success, it can help with a continued desire and interest in pursuing the field and remaining committed to its understanding.  An interviewer should confirm the interviewees passion and commitment to the field, ensuring a continued level of interest as the project continues.

Interview Questions for SME’s

Conclusion

There are a plethora of interview questions for startup’s that an interviewer can ask.  However, the questions should be focused on their understanding of the field and topic.  In addition, the subject matter expert should be provided with an adequate level of information regarding the project and task, ensuring that they are able to address specific issues and nuances.

Hiring for a subject matter expert is inherently different than hiring for another role.  A startup is meant to provide depth, clarity, vision, and a path forward on any project or role.  As-such, it is of utmost importance that the perfect subject matter expert is brought in, as their influence can have a substantial effect on the project and the team.

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