42307624 - businessman interviewing male job applicant in office

42307624 - businessman interviewing male job applicant in office

Business / Education / Europe / Innovation / Interviews / Research

Interested in a career at a start-up?

Want to work at a start-up? 10 phrases you should never say during an interview


In recent years, start-ups have undoubtedly become increasingly attractive for younger workers. According to an online survey, more than 70 percent of German citizens aged 18-34 would like to work in a start-up. Company structure and processes are considered to be more flexible than, say, a large, established corporation; start-ups also tend to offer regular team events, free snacks and more freedom to try new things and take on new roles, given a smaller staff. Below, check out some start-up interview tips from Munich-based start-up Holidu, a search engine for holiday lettings. Holidu’s HR team receives over 700 applications and conducts over one hundred interviews each month; HR manager Yen Nhi Do has compiled a handful of phrases you should avoid saying during an interview with a start-up.


“What are you guys doing again?”

One obvious start-up characteristic is that, as a company, it’s not (yet) as well-known as a large corporation or an established brand. However, you should show that you have somehow heard of or dealt with the product, and are familiar with the company vision. It is important that you can identify that you can align with the mission and have the passion to bring the company forward with your own ideas and thus help the organisation come closer to its vision.


“I don’t think I’ve ever made a wrong decision.”

We think that there is much to learn from any unsuccessful situation. That’s why employees should reflect on decisions carefully, and always try to improve and grow. This includes admitting that a decision may not have been the best and taking full responsibility. Especially in a start-up, where you cannot build on years of experience, you have to be sensitive and self-aware, own up to mistakes and show how you’ll fix them and learn from them.


“I make decisions according to instinct.”

In a start-up, especially in the tech sector, it is important to work extremely precisely, as every decision can have serious consequences. Therefore, strategies and objectives are based on detailed data-driven analyses. You should bring this attention to detail and passion to delve deeply into a subject and look at it from all angles.


“I’ve always been terribly bad at English.”

In many start-ups, the official company language is English. However, no one expects perfection on day one, since you can always learn and improve – as long as the will and the drive is there. And more than speaking English well, most start-ups attach great importance to your ambitions around self-development, and how you can work to improve your skills and learn new things.


“I hate foosball.”

No, this isn’t about you being a master footballer. Start-ups cultivate a very friendly, fun and familiar atmosphere – this is something that sets them apart from large corporations, and something people look for in a job. As such, you’ll find many folks at start-ups enjoying time spent with one another – both during and after work – and taking a quick break from their duties to play games like foosball to destress and reinvigorate. You can be bad at foosball but play on occasion to demonstrate you’re fun and spirited. Strong team spirit characterises the atmosphere of the young companies – and it can be maintained particularly well at a company foosball tournament or another fun team event.


“I’m not in charge of that.”

In a dynamic work environment like a start-up, flexibility is required. All team members are encouraged to contribute their own ideas and to think innovatively – it is about looking beyond your own lane, expanding your expertise and, if necessary, wearing a few different hats. When work gets tough, you always help each other out – this includes taking on tasks that do not fall within your own direct area of responsibility.


“I get frustrated when things don’t go as planned.”

Understandably, everyone wants things to go as planned. Structured working and setting milestones is extremely important in the successful execution of tasks. However, you should not be discouraged if project requirements change at short notice and you realise that you need to adjust your plan. Decisions in start-ups must be made quickly, and positivity, flexibility and agility – as well as being able to quickly bounce back from setbacks – are essential.


“I’m waiting to see what duties I’m assigned.”

Start-ups survive thanks to the commitment of every single employee. With your brainpower, initiative and proactivity, you should be actively involved in the company’s activities and use your strengths. Use your creative freedom and suggest projects to your team on which you would like to work. Demand responsibility and feedback!


“I avoid difficult situations.”

Start-ups face the incredible challenge of building a successful company out of nothing but a vision. In order to achieve above average results, they set very ambitious goals and work hard to achieve them. Likewise, you should not avoid difficult tasks. When working on a complex problem, do you find that you can’t help but fiddle around until you have a solution? Even if that means overcoming barriers, and taking responsibility for an unexpected setback? This is the right attitude for working at a start-up!


“I’d like a single office.”

Google, Facebook and other major tech companies have open-space offices. This floorplan within a work environment is considered innovative, as it lets the departments merge, spatially, and makes for easier, more efficient communication. In addition, actual large, private conference rooms can be better put to use, for private meetings or meetings that really require a lot of discourse between a fixed, set group of people. However, if you feel you can’t concentrate with lots of background noise, you can always ask, during an interview, if noise-cancelling headphones are allowed (they usually are). Many start-ups have telephone booths or small pods, which can be used temporarily for necessary silent time or phone calls.


The Munich start-up Holidu operates a search engine for holiday lettings. Within three years, the company has grown from three to more than one hundred employees from over 30 nations worldwide. Each month, 700 applications are received and around 130 interviews take place via Skype or on-site. Holidu’s HR team has grown with the company and now comprises six employees.



Online survey of the internationally active venture capital company E.ventures on the topic “Start-up culture: How attractive are start-ups as employers”, on which 1,000 young German citizens were surveyed in February this year. https://www.haufe.de/personal/hr-management/startups-als-arbeitgeber-beliebt_80_400468.html


For more information about Holidu visit us on www.holidu.co.uk

Please feel free to send us an e-mail or give us a call. We are looking forward to work with you!



Sarah Sullivan
Phone: +49 172 438 6506

E-mail: sarah.sullivan@holidu.com


Follow us on social media:

Twitter: www.twitter.com/Holidu

Instagram: www.instagram.com/holidu/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/holidu

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/holidu/


About Holidu

Holidu is a leading global search engine for holiday lettings. With the mission of simplifying finding and booking the right vacation home, Holidu scans millions of holiday lettings from hundreds of travel sites with one click. The search engine uses proprietary image recognition technology to compare prices across multiple websites, enabling savings of up to 55% on a given accommodation. Headquartered in Munich, Holidu was co-founded by brothers Johannes and Michael Siebers in 2014. For more information, visitwww.holidu.co.uk


Riesstraße 24
80992 München

+49 172 438 6506


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