I often ask interview candidates how they spend their days. I do this because I find it hard to evaluate the role people can play in a startup in the absence of concrete functions and tasks. Saying you do “strategy,” “sales,” “business development,” or “work with clients” is hard for me to get my head around. I want to hear about deals, product launches, big orders, etc, but I also want to hear what you do at the task level.
I actually give my own response to the questions to diffuse any tension.
I spend my days:
- Working on sales and pitch decks of various flavors
- Meeting with agencies and clients and explaining our product
- Working on operational tasks such as budgets and hiring plans
- Interviewing candidates and following up with candidates
- Putting out fires
- Marking up contracts
- Evaluating and acquiring products and services we need
- Answering questions from current clients about their live or soon to launch campaigns
- Writing out ideas for campaigns and giving written and oral feedback on campaigns
- Completing campaign plans in excel
- Meeting in teams to come to decisions about product and sales
I could go one, but an initial rattling of the first things that come to mind helps me to get a flavor of what a person DOES beyond the high level, and often meaningless, category-level function description.
I also like to ask what tools people use.
Again, I use: Excel, Keynote, Powerpoint, Google docs, and screen grabbing for mocks. I like to look in Pivotal tracker, but am more of a lurker than active contributor.
I think this all goes back to how I viewed business before having worked in an office. Even as recently as college, I didn’t fully understand what people did in offices. And so general topics of what a person does in the absence of the hand-dirty descriptions remain hard for me to grasp.
This also is relates to the fact that I LOVE hand-dirty tasks and can’t imagine not working in decks and spreadsheets. So it’s hard for me to conceptualize another scenario. I suppose to give a technical analog, I can’t imagine giving up coding. I simply love to code, to do the business equivalent of “make,” even though I’m a manager. And it’s incredible what can be achieved in unstructured time, making me seek to allocate maker time in my schedule.
So to bring this full circle, when I ask, “how do you spend your day,” what I’m really asking is “are you a maker” and what do you make and with what tools?