If you have worked in larger organizations for some time, you would realize how much political it gets and how your growth gets limited by the bureaucracy of the organization. More likely than not, a well run start-up can really help you get away from that and grow fast with greater authority and responsibility, and have a strong impact on the company’s growth as well. If you buy this idea, and find a good start-up to work for, how do you ensure it is indeed the right start-up with experienced management / founders, good organizational culture, and a good place where you can come, perform, deliver and grow.
You may want to evaluate your decision about joining a particular start-up by discussing a few relevant queries with them. You should be honest with them if you have other options (other large companies, or other start-ups), and how keen you are in joining them or not. Any criteria that is important for you, which may be determine your final decision, it could be location, role and responsibility, work profile (example specific technology or domain), how well you get on with the start-up team, or compensation. My personal suggestion is to have compensation as one of the lowest criteria, you should focus more on job profile / responsibility … money does come in time. Besides the usual questions you ask (around compensation, terms and conditions, job profile, etc.), you should feel free to ask them certain open ended questions by which you can judge if it could be a good match for you.
Funding situation of the start-up
Hopefully you would get an honest answer with some high level figures. You may not wanna join a start-up that may not have clear funding for the next few months / quarters. In case they honestly share that funding through investors or revenues are uncertain, you may still go for it knowing the risk. The time you spend there can still teach you a lot. Consider it as an experience / adventure.
Ambition of the start-up
You must feel comfortable when somebody from management or HR answers this question for you. They must have a relatively convincing idea on what their ambition is.
How can you grow within the start-up team
Presumably they like your profile, and now they are keen to work with you. You can ask them how does joining the start-up help you. How can you grow in time. The answer maybe that you get exposure to a new domain, you get more responsibility, or you get monetary benefit (cash or stocks)
Work culture and team
This should be one of the most important factor in your consideration. Do you feel good and comfortable while talking to their team? do you see them working as a group, enjoying what they do? they may be busy and a bit stressed with work, but should be nice people to work with. You may expect to work longer hours, feel free to check with them what’s an average working day for them like? These factors should be very important in your consideration.
Background of the start-up
It’s an interesting question to ask how did they got the idea for a start-up and what they did since then till now. It would hopefully give you a good idea of the journey they went through and you may be able to relate to. Typically the start-up representatives should be willing to answer most of above questions to some extent. This would get you closer to their core philosophy and hopefully help in creating mutually collaborative decision.