Despite the job market being in flux currently, most venture capital firms’ hiring plans remain relatively unchanged for the remainder of the year. Venture capital (VC) is a notoriously tough industry to break into — but the current climate may present as many opportunities as challenges with the right preparation.
Getting hired at a top tier VC is highly competitive. There is no formula: no specific college major, work experience or skill set that is clearly a significant factor in contributing to success in the industry. This, in turn, makes the VC interview process a challenging one for which to prepare.
I myself had to go through the interview process just two years ago. I started Femstreet before I entered VC, and although the newsletter certainly helped me to get on VC radars, it was still not an easy ride and required endurance, the right resources, and preparation. Now that I am on the other side, I want to pay it forward - providing our members community with the insights and information they need to put their best foot forward into the VC process.
To start, here are my top five tips for getting a job in venture:
Give, give, give before you ask for anything. Send VCs dealflow, host dinners with founders, organize virtual meetups with industry experts or try to support firms with diligence calls when they have questions that are aligned with your experience. Show a freemium version of yourself.
Showcase the calibre of your thoughts publicly. A lot of people get in through content creation, including memes (not sure I’d recommend that route). Harry Stebbings got into VC through podcasting, just as I did through a newsletter. There are loads of blogger VCs, and even if you are just curating content, people love newsletters with a personal touch.
It’s all about relationships. Venture capital is an industry built on trust and reputation. Lean into your existing networks and build them out.
Do your homework. If you are interviewing at a SaaS focused or consumer-focused fund, make sure you have a good understanding of the standard SaaS and consumer metrics, exit multiples and go deep in your research in one sector. Make sure to check the partners' background, know their portfolio companies and prepare specific questions. I’d also recommend speaking to founders they have backed.
Practice makes the master. Don’t expect to get a job offer after your first interviews. Instead, use them to learn about the industry, build relationships and then practice, practice, practice.
The key to creating a framework for preparing for interviews is to ensure you are prepared to answer questions that cover each of the below elements:
Who: Who are you and why are you a good fit for the role and the firm?
What: What makes you qualified for the role? What evidence can you provide to support that?
Where: Where have you succeeded and struggled? What did you learn from those experiences?
Why: Why this role at this firm? Why did you choose your past roles?
How: How will you contribute to the firm?
I am here with Austin Guy and JJ MacLean from GoingVC, a professional development program and global community helping its members advance their careers in Venture Capital. GoingVC brings together experts in venture capital, entrepreneurship, and business and fosters a collaborative environment where future leaders of the industry can learn and build on the essential skills they’ll need for success in the field.
While they prepare to release The GoingVC Venture Capital Interview Guide, we wanted to go over some of the most common questions that come up in VC interviews and how to get ready for them.
Expanding on that, how would you prepare for questions on due diligence? What critical things do you look for?
Lola from Hummingbird VC published this great list of VC resources: https://www.notion.so/A-very-practical-list-of-resources-about-venture-0b5ea0d94b144e1d8ca5ce9bd8758c75
What other resources would you recommend?
Let’s start with the basics, how would you answer: ‘Why do you want to work in venture capital? Why right now?’
Expanding on that, what about: ‘Why VC as opposed to an operational role with a startup or launch your own company?’
What about ‘where do you want to be in five-years?’
What about past roles? How would you prepare for questions like: ‘What were you responsible for in your last job?’ or ‘what did you like/not like about it?’
How should people talk about their most significant strengths and challenges?
Continuing on that last comment, another common question is, ‘tell us something we don’t know from your resume?’ Can you talk about why it’s essential to get that one right?
How about: 'what do you expect your day today in the role to look like?'
Yes! Doing your homework before each interview is an essential part of the process. Another common type of question you should prepare for is: ‘Why our firm?’ or ‘How are we different from our competitors?’. How would you prepare for that, and why is attention to detail so important?
Another firm-specific question I always prepared for was: ‘which of our portfolio companies are you most excited about?’ it’s flipside, ‘which would you have passed on?’ was often a little harder. How would you approach those?
What about questions around sector expertise?
And pitching a startup?
And your top questions in a first founder meeting?
Core to a VCs job is being able to pick out and invest in the most promising startups. However, you can’t invest in the best if you never have a chance to meet them leading to the common question: ‘how would you source companies?’. What do firms want to hear?
What about the other end of the investment lifecycle—how do I prepare for the questions about the IPO or M&A market?
Before we wrap up, every interview should leave time for the interviewee to ask some questions. What questions would you recommend asking the interviewer if given the opportunity?
Are VC firms only interested in associates who want to become partners?
It's said that associates have three jobs, source, pick, win. However, that assumes that the partners are successful at raising.
What can associates do to help with raising (beyond killing it at source, pick, and win)?