This article was published on March 5, 2014

Want to work at a startup? Nail these 9 interview questions

Want to work at a startup? Nail these 9 interview questions
Ryan Matzner
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Ryan Matzner

Ryan Matzner is the Director of Strategy at Fueled, a mobile design and development shop based in NYC and London. He has a decade of online Ryan Matzner is the Director of Strategy at Fueled, a mobile design and development shop based in NYC and London. He has a decade of online and mobile marketing experience, working with clients such as American Express, Condé Nast, Ideeli, Thrillist, HBO, QuizUp, Barneys, and Gilt Groupe. He can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Google+.

Ryan Matzner is the Director of Strategy at Fueled, the leading iPhone application developers and masters of mobile design, based in New York and London. This post was originally published on the Fueled blog.

As Fueled has grown from its infancy to more than 100 employees, I regularly interview many smart candidates who could answer your standard interview questions in their sleep.

While these candidates’ majors, universities, and goals reliably give me basic background information, it’s the deeper insight that makes a candidate stand out. I barely went to college myself. It’s hardly the most important part of a resume.

These tell-me-about-who-you-really-are questions open a window into who the person is, how they think, and what kind of employee they will make.

These are insights I wish I had known back when I first started interviewing people. So for young startups, here’s some food for thought when you start interviewing employees. And for everyone else, maybe this will help you land a job.


What apps can you tell me about that aren’t lame?

We want the apps we make to be trendy, but if your favorite apps are Flappy Bird and Instagram, we have a problem. Tell me about something I haven’t heard of yet.

I like when a candidate knows about apps that I don’t – as long as they’re not lame. And, here’s the twist: Tell me what you would change about this app. “It’s a cool app” is a rather pedestrian opinion.

What do you hate about apps that you use frequently?

The best project managers are big complainers. If you have no critiques about an app, then how will you help Fueled build the best apps in the market? Be a perfectionist. Be an improver.

What startup would you work on if I gave you money to do so?

I don’t want to see your business plan. I want you to speak intelligently about the ideas that you have. We deal in ideas – people pitch us concepts all day.

Also, if your startup dream is to open a restaurant or shoe store, you probably shouldn’t be interviewing at a tech company.


How many people live in New York City?

We like people who possess a lot of general-knowledge information because you never know how it might come in handy. With a city population estimate, it’s okay to be off by a couple of million. But if you think there’s 100,000 or 100,000,000 New York City residents, that’s quite concerning.

If we wanted to create an app targeting a New York audience, how can we expect you to build out a business model if you don’t know the size of the audience?

What’s the latest news you’ve heard from the tech industry?

You should be able speak about startups and the tech scene in general, how companies get funded, who’s getting funded, and what you think about it. We like people who possess an entrepreneurial spirit.

How does the Internet work?

Explain it to me. If you want to work in a technical position, go into detail. And for other positions, it’s a bonus when we find people who understand technology really well.

What music do you listen to? What books do you read? What movies do you like?

There’s no right or wrong answer, and you don’t have to be into these things. But you have to be into something, and I want to know why. I like to see depth in a person.

How good are you at ping-pong?

It’s nice to have some table talent around. Definitely not a requirement, though.

What did you do over the weekend?

We’re not judging you. I don’t care what you did over the weekend – but I do care how you tell me about what you did.

A big part of being conceptual is being a good storyteller. Being able to verbally convey information well is important. If you did nothing over the weekend, it’s still 48 hours of nothing. Even sleeping in can be an interesting story if you make it one.

What are your go-to questions when interviewing a candidate?