5 Essential Startup Interview Questions

August 20th, 2018

I had an interview a few days ago with an exciting FinTech startup in central London. They had a great idea, a passionate and charismatic CEO, who was on a fantastic mission. A mission, to allow “every person on the planet to have access to a bank account”.

It was a really early stage startup. Just two co-founders. They were looking for a “Full-Stack JavaScript Developer” to come on board for a short 4 week delivery date. During the interview acronyms were flying around all over the place. From KYC (Know your customer) to AML (Anti-Money Laundering) checks and talk of cryptocurrencies and C++, it was pretty overwhelming.

We seemed to cover everything about the backend, the clients and the expected growth. When it came to answering the questions about design and frontend, things weren’t that clear. For me, many of the answers given were big red flags. So thought I would share them with you and why they were.


  1. Do you have designs for this work?
    For me this is a pretty basic question and the answer says a lot. Lack of thought and investment in to designs has always comes back to bite you in the bum. I once started a project from a blurry sketch on a napkin. It was meant to take a day to build. And, four weeks later we were finalising the content. Having a design gives you time to think about different UX & UI decisions, gain feedback, get people onboard with the idea, and of course, it helps developers. It’s an investment in time worth doing.
  2. Who is going to manage this project?
    For an early stage startup it’s super understandable that they might not have a Project Manager. But, it’s important for someone in the team to run the project and make sure you hit development milestones. If this falls to the developers responsibility then you’re going to need more time.
  3. Do you have a “definition of done“?
    Understanding and agreeing on the “definition of done” is really important. Especially in early-stage startups if you’re one of the only developers. It gets everyone to think about what a “done” feature looks like. Giving you a clear guideline to work towards for delivery. Without this it’s really easy to have lots of scope creep.
  4. Who will I be working with?
    For me this is a big one. When I first started out as a contractor, I was so chuffed just to get a job. So, I ended up being the only developer, sat on a random table in the corner, coding away. A few years later, I only look for roles with other Frontend Developers. Having the ability to ask questions about implementation or help with debugging. It’s so useful. Working with others is also a great way to remove potential bugs. Being able to pair program and to simply have someone to review and approve a PR is great.
  5. When will you be looking at hiring more people?
    If you are stuck on your own. Then it’s nice to know when someone else will be joining. It shows a good focus on future growth within the business too.