How to Ace Your Startup Institute Interview

We get a lot of questions about the admissions process for our full-time program. Our Admissions Guide is a great place to start to get your questions answered, providing details about what we’re looking for, the kinds of interview questions you can expect, and the process timeline. I interviewed Katie Bickford to dig a little deeper into the initial stages of this process. Read on to learn about the do’s and don't for applying to Startup Institute, and what you can do to prepare for your interview.Startup Institute bootcamp admissions process

[bctt tweet="How to Ace Your @StartupInst #Interview with @bickfordkatie" via="no"]


Q: What’s the #1 thing that you wish people knew about the application that they don’t?

A: That applying isn’t a formal commitment. The application process and our admissions process is an exploration. Applying simply opens the door to having a conversation about possibilities and what’s right for you.

We only admit about 18% of people who apply. As far as thinking about if this is a fit for someone, I’m looking to determine: is the work a place where they’re going to be able to tap into their ultimate fulfillment and joy professionally? Is the culture fit there? Does their expectation of the outcome match up with what we know will be possible? Because, we are so outcomes-driven, we don’t want to bring someone into this program unless we have a match in terms of an understanding of where this person realistically will land when they come out of the program.

The application is quick and easy, and simply tells us that you’re interested in having a conversation. We keep it simple on purpose, because we want to have a real conversation with anyone who is interested in exploring this—we don’t anybody left behind because they didn’t know how to fill out an application in a way that makes them appear “tasty.”[bctt tweet="Our app is quick + easy—#interviews are much more important to us, says @bickfordkatie"]


Q: What should candidates do to prepare for an interview?

A: First of all, learn about the program. Go to the basic resources:

The videos, in my opinion, are the greatest. Another thing people will sometimes do is go on LinkedIn and search for people who’ve done the program, and read about their backgrounds.

The reason for this is, we only have 30 minutes for this interview, and it’s your choice how you want to spend it. Do you want to spend that 30 minutes diving into you and figuring out your situation, or do you want to spend it learning about Startup Institute? Our admissions team is happy to spend this time explaining what Startup Institute is, but if we don’t have to do that we can make a lot more headway.

At the end of the day, we want everyone to leave our admissions process better than they came—regardless of if Startup Institute is right for them. So, if someone gets to spend that time investigating options, digging into things, and talking about their background and what they want to do, it’s going to be a more constructive conversation for them—both in terms of our program, but also their own bigger picture.[bctt tweet="We want everyone to leave our admissions process better than they came, says @bickfordkatie"]

Q: How do you help candidates to develop insight around their careers?

A: I think the key, is to talk about it in a context that is solution-focused. When someone is dissatisfied with their job, it’s very easy for them to get stuck in this infinite loop of “this isn’t working. I’m really unhappy. I’m really unhappy.”

The people who make great students for us are solution-oriented, and they’re builders, and they’re doers. Having a problem that they don’t know how to solve—being stuck in this negative place—is at many times incredibly dissonant. They think I’m the kind of person who’s positive. I like solving problems. So, when they’re saying “I’m unhappy in my job” and they’re stuck in this loop of “I hate that I don’t have more opportunity” or “My team is really negative,” the energy that would normally go toward finding a solution, instead goes toward digging deeper and deeper into the situation, and feeling worse and worse.[bctt tweet="The people who make great students for us are solution-oriented builders + doers - @bickfordkatie"]

Our admissions process is about having constructive conversations about what’s possible, beyond what people consider to be the “normal paths,” which are to just get a different job, or go to grad school. We talk about the potential for other options, and what other things can be changed or addressed. We try to go back to the things you really enjoy and the things that you’re really hungry for and miss, and how we can be constructive about finding a positive direction to go in, so that you can get out of the loop.[bctt tweet="#CareerChangers - go back to the things you miss and are hungry for, says @bickfordkatie"]


Q: We’ve talked a lot about the interview process and what you’re evaluating. Is there anything that candidates should be aware of going into the homework assignment?

First of all, if they have questions, they should always reach out. This homework assignment isn’t meant to assess how independent you are.

The purpose of this assignment is to find out if this kind of work is a place where joy happens. As you work through the assignment, you should actually pay attention to how much you’re enjoying it. Is it fun?

This is one thing that I test for while I’m trying to help people figure out which track is right for them. I’ll be like, “Okay. I get that you can do it, but is there a visceral joy in it?” We’re not just looking for you to know how to do it. We want to know that you can do it, and that you like it.[bctt tweet="Your work should be something you're good at + a place where joy happens, says @bickfordkatie"]

Q: What if they don’t feel that joy?

Then we talk about it. There are a lot of other paths that we can take. We can do another assignment to try a different track. If the homework doesn’t represent that place where joy happens, then we explore, and we look for something else. We’re happy to do that.

Q: To wrap up, what is the worst mistake that someone can make in our admissions process?

A: This is going to sound really trite, but the worst mistake is to not apply because you feel like it is a commitment. Other than that, there isn’t really a mistake.

Certainly, being yourself and expressing yourself isn’t a mistake. I know there are things that people have felt they did wrong. But, at the end of the day, the purpose of our admissions process is to find out if Startup Institute is a good fit. Usually, these candidates simply portrayed themselves as who they are. And, given who they are, they wouldn’t be happy in this program. Maybe they’d get here and think, “What did I sign up for? I don’t want to work on culture skills.”

Our admissions process is service-oriented. When we built this team, the idea was that we’d create a process that really represents what the program is all about. It is an opportunity for candidates to explore topics that are important to them and their careers. If you’re trying to identify the source of your career dissatisfaction or unhappiness, our admissions process, from a service perspective, is built to help you create more insight around that. It can only be helpful for you.

Interested in learning more about the Startup Institute admissions process? Download our Admissions Guide, or schedule a call with Katie’s team to explore the potential for your own career.

Photo credit: Bram via Flickr cc