Since every employee is so critical in a small company, its founders will want to ensure that you’re a valuable hire. And the best way to prepare for an interview at a startup is to brush up on some key principles of entrepreneurship and growth.
5 Books You Should Read Before the Interview
These books will teach you about the different aspects of running a successful company and arm you with the knowledge you need to take on the startup world.
1. “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries: Ries uses business growth theory and the science of success to teach readers how to create a solid company in an environment of uncertainty. This is the blueprint for building a business that is ready for growth and a must-read for anyone considering entering the startup arena.
If you read only one chapter, don’t miss the chapter on innovation, which provides a great step-by-step model on how to nurture disruptive thinking.
2. “Predictable Revenue” by Aaron Ross: Here is your bible for lead generation, sales development, and consistent sales systems. Ross guides readers through the process of developing predictable success, creating self-managing systems, and establishing sustainability.
This is a short book, so you should read the whole thing and read it again a few months later.
3. “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni: There’s an art to building a strong team. Lencioni walks readers through the process, from participating in self-assessments to identifying the tools needed to build a high-performing organization.
If you only read one chapter, I highly recommend the fable. But if you don’t have time for that, the overview will give you 80 percent of the information you need to know.
4. “Good to Great” by Jim Collins: Have grand plans to build one of the top companies in the world? This is the book you need to read. Collins highlights the differences between good and great companies and explains why “good” is the enemy of those businesses that go the distance. He’ll teach you how to hardwire great performance into a company’s DNA.
If you read only one part, make it the chapter about the Hedgehog Concept. Take it from hedgehogs: Sometimes, simplicity is best. Just as the hedgehog rolls into a ball to outwit the clever fox, every business should find one thing and do it extremely well.
5. “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” by Verne Harnish: Want to get (and keep) your organization on track for explosive growth quarter after quarter? Read this book for a practical set of tools that will help you with everything from building your culture to securing financing.
If you only read one chapter, make it “Mastering a One-Page Strategic Plan.” You will never execute the steps you need to succeed without a plan, and Harnish provides one of the best one-page templates I have found.
How to Nail the Interview
Once you’ve done the requisite reading, you have to make all that fresh information work for you during the interview. Here are some natural ways to incorporate these concepts into your discussion:
- If you’re drawing a blank on personal experiences when asked about the most important lesson you’ve learned, answer with one of the principles you read about and how it applies to you.
- If the interviewer mentions a company that’s not doing well, use a relevant reference from “Good to Great” to analyze its downfall with more context.
- If the interviewer mentions a specific challenge the company faces, offer ideas from your reading on ways you can help the business move forward.
- Ask insightful questions based on the principles you’ve learned to glean more information about the organization.
- Use the concepts in the reading to explain common workplace problems in a simple way.
Reading these books and being able to apply what you’ve read will help set you apart from other candidates by showing you have the knowledge to move the company forward. Educating yourself also demonstrates initiative, which will give any founder confidence that you’ll be a valuable addition to his or her startup team.
Which books have been vital to your entrepreneurial education? Leave a comment, or connect with me on Twitter to share some of your favorites.