The qualities you need to succeed at a big, stable business are very different from those you need to thrive at a growing startup. Everyone knows that in theory, yet often newbie entrepreneurs use the same tired interview questions used in the corporate world for screening candidates for startup jobs.

Disappointment on both sides often ensues. But there is a better way, according a guest post by Reforge executive and 500 Startups partner Susan Su that recently appeared on the blog of Uber's Andrew Chen. In it, Su speaks with a number of startup veterans like herself who together have interviewed over 1,000 candidates for growth roles at fast-growing business, asking them to name some of their favorite interview questions for startup hiring.

1. How would you growth hack a city?

At a growing startup there's no playbook. Successful candidates need to have the ability to think outside the box and generate their own ideas. To test this capacity, Nick Soman of Gusto gets candidates for growth roles to think on their feet and come up with creative solutions by asking them, "How would you growth hack a city?"

"It's not an immediately technical or product-based experience, and yet it's an interesting question," Soman explains. "How would you attract residents to it? How would you attract the other people and elements that that ecosystem requires? What mechanisms would you employ to grow your city? It's very revealing to see how people approach growth when they have no templates, when they start from zero."

2. If you just got a new computer at work, what apps would you immediately set up?

If your business is at all connected with tech (and very few aren't these days), you want your employees to have a deep understanding of what makes for a great tech product. Which is why Atlassian's Shawn Clowes always tries to find out if candidates have a genuine passion for tech by asking the question above.

"I'm looking for their take on a piece of software that they care about, something that gets them excited, and then how they explain it to me," he notes. "That gives me insight into how in touch you are with the industry, how much you're seeking out things that are different or somewhat common, and whether you're an early adopter of things."

3. What's your superpower?

No, this isn't one of those famed (and now largely retired) wacky interview questions much beloved by startups a few years back. Instead, as Survey Monkey's Elena Varna explains, digging into what a person is truly excellent at (with this wacky phrasing as one potential opener), is essential to hiring someone who can grow with your company.

By learning what a candidate is truly great at, you can both tailor the position to make best use of their talents and evaluate how they might be of use to your business in the future. "Too often, we identify a problem or a hole in the business and start looking for the person that will fit it. The person you find could be effective very early on, but evaluating too tightly against a specific role can be very short-sighted. Yes, they might be able to sort out that immediate issue for you but in the same stroke you may end up hiring the wrong person long term," Varna says.

"The real opportunity is finding the person who will be happy (and make your business happy) as the definition of growth itself expands, and the immediate problem becomes obsolete," she concludes.

This is really only a taste of the advice on offer in the complete post, so go check it out if you're hiring for a growing business (or if you're the one who's being interviewed - the post also offers great advice for candidates).

Published on: Nov 7, 2016