Venture capital is an often sought-after industry and one which few are actually able to break into. It’s incredibly competitive due to its high levels of competition and interesting work.
Like investment banking and other financial industries, the interviews are often divided into behavioral and technical. Below, we’ll review what interviewing looks like at a VC firm and then provide you with 50 of the most common questions for both types of interviews.
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The Venture Capital Interview Process
There is no definitive format for a VC job interview because every firm has its own style; however, there are some foundational principles that underlie most interviews. Keep in mind that before going into an interview, you should understand the startup ecosystem, the technology and trends in your target industry, the case study methodology, and your reasons for trying to get into venture capital.
There are generally at least these three steps in the interview process of a venture capital firm.
1. Intro Call
First, a preliminary call is scheduled so the candidate can meet the hiring manager and test the basic fit, and the manager can pitch the role. It’s an open conversation meant to see whether the candidate could work well with the team, why they’re interested in the firm, and how qualitatively well their personality and experiences would integrate.
VC firms tend to require a basic level of technical or operational knowledge and also like to see applicants who can personally relate to the founders and culture. They are expected to have energy and enthusiasm as well as a broad range of interests across the spaces that the firm covers. Even in the intro call, applicants may be asked a few case study questions related to the market/industry or investments.
2. Pitch Deck Review
If the candidate seems to be the right fit, they’ll move on to the next round: an analytical pitch deck review session. They will be required to review several pitch decks and walk through their thoughts on them. The interviewers are looking for a high-level, thoughtful, and succinct articulation of each company and its market.
In this round, the interviewer is looking for a variety of things, including if the candidate understands how easy or challenging a given business model will be to scale and if they’re able to ask insightful and necessary questions, among others.
This step is critical because, at the end of the day, the best founders choose their investors. If the candidate is able to quickly understand where there is a lack of information and ask perceptive questions, they’ll be able to build immediate rapport with the people they may ultimately end up working with.
3. Meet the team and references
The final step is very straightforward. The candidate will meet the rest of the team and get to know them personally. At this point, it’s less evaluation and more company and culture fit analysis and discussions on salary requirements. The hiring managers will communicate expectations and make sure that everyone is aligned with the applicant.
50 Interview Questions for Breaking Into Venture Capital
With that, let’s jump into some of the questions you’ll be asked throughout the interview process. The most important things to remember are that you should be able to clearly articulate why you want to join the VC industry overall and the firm in particular, and have knowledge of the markets and industries in which the firm works.
- Tell me about yourself/walk me through your resume.
- Why did you choose to do [insert past role]?
- Tell me about [an experience on your resume]. What were your responsibilities/achievements? What did you learn? Why did you leave?
- What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
- Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?
- Where do you see your career in five years? What are your top career goals?
- What is your long-term professional goal?
- What are you most proud of?
- What are your biggest failures? How did you overcome them?
- Tell me about a time when you… (showed leadership, overcame a challenge, resolved a disagreement, convinced someone of something, changed the trajectory of a project, etc…).
- What’s your superpower?
- What drives you to improve yourself?
- What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
- How would you describe yourself? How would a friend describe you?
- What do you believe that most people don’t?
- Why are you interested in this role? At this firm?
- Why are you looking to leave your current job?
- What do you bring to the firm? Why would you succeed in this role?
- In what areas do you think someone in this role spends the majority of their time?
- Why do you think that you would make a good VC even with… (three objections they may have about your background/candidacy)?
- Why not private equity, entrepreneurship, or a startup?
- Do you have any questions for us?
- What sectors are you most interested in and why?
- What companies most excite you right now?
- What blogs/articles/publications do you read? What podcasts do you listen to?
- What has been the most interesting acquisition or IPO in our industry in the past one or two years?
- What are your thoughts on the IPO market at the moment? Is there a bubble? Is this a problem for venture capitalists?
- Are there any investments of ours that you like and why? Which has the biggest potential among these portfolio companies? Which one do you think we shouldn’t have invested in?
- Who are our biggest competitors?
- Is there a company you think is really overvalued in the markets?
- Tell us about an exit you heard about recently.
- What are the key stages to a VC investment from beginning to end?
- If you joined tomorrow, how would you source potential investments?
- How would you assess a startup? How would you evaluate a late-stage startup versus an early-stage one?
- What steps would you take in doing your due diligence?
- What metrics would you look at when evaluating a company and why?
- How does a VC firm raise money? How does it track its performance? What are its most important KPIs?
- Do you think investors value revenue or profit more?
- What would you look for in a startup's financial statements?
- How do startups get valuations?
- What is pre-money and post-money?
- What are convertible and SAFE notes? What are the trade-offs between them?
- What terms would a VC firm negotiate with a founder?
- What different business models could [example startup] apply?
- How can a startup dominate a segment where there are there other companies doing the same thing?
- What kind of engineers should a startup hire? Experienced or young? Cheap or expensive? Local or international?
- How much time do you think [example startup] spent on patent protection between Seed and Series B?
- What have you personally invested in and why?
- How do you normally calculate the churn rate?
- Walk me through the three financial statements.
Preparing For Your VC Interview
While not exhaustive, these specific questions will give a good foundation upon which you can start to prepare thoughtful responses and practice your answers. You don’t want to come off as a robot, but you also don’t want to be stumbling through your responses.
With most interviews, applicants tend to rush through their answers. Remember that it’s supposed to be a conversation, not a race. It’s completely alright–and recommended, in fact–to take a second to think about what you want to say and then organize the thought in your head before you start to respond. You do not need to have a perfect answer prepared rapid-fire immediately after they ask the question.
The best way to prepare for interviews is live practice. At Leland, we have a whole host of world-class, vetted coaches with experience at some of the world’s top venture capital firms to work with. Do a mock interview, talk to them about your motivations, have them review your responses and resume, and anything else you need help with. Below are some of our top recommendations, but you can browse all of them here.
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