This is true in general. I remember when I did consulting interviews you needed to talk like that and the feedback I got was that I didn't do enough of it.
Funnily enough, I could clearly tell that whenever I had a programmer job interview, everyone was always really impressed with how 'structured my thinking' was.
Other than being impressed the biggest benefit that you also describe in your blog post is that it is simply very clear what you are about! And people seem a lot happier when listening to you feels like a simple thing to do.
Here's an example of how I do it. The following that I wrote down was typed as quickly as possible.
Interviewer: So tell me about yourself
Me: Alright, there are three perspectives I'd quickly like to touch:
With 1. personal, I'm all about fantasy and curiosity. Understand that and you understand me.
Educational: I studied to become the bridge between the business world and the computer world while also trying to become an expert in both. Therefore, I started of with business informatics. Upon graduation I immediately started studying psychology - people, and computer science - computers. And I studied game studies to merge them back into one topic again.
Professional it's rather interesting: the past 8 years I saw my university as a playground and I just applied to any job that didn't feel like work. This resulted in me becoming a teaching assistant, a coach for teaching assistants, a bootcamp instructor and a programmer/web developer. In total I have about 2.5 years of work experience, 1.5 on teaching development and 1 on development.
It was a huge improvement compared to my standard 15 minute answer. This answer above is just told under 1 minute.
> Me: Alright, there are three perspectives I'd quickly like to touch:
> 1. Personal
> 2. Educational
> 3. Professional
That seems so forced and unnatural that it makes me cringe. 'Tell me about yourself' should be a natural conversation starter, not an exam that you did your homework for.
I am right in the middle of interviewing right now (I'm open for any interdisciplinary business/dev/get things done role).
IMO when you interview you're always on the spot and always being judged. I've done it the other way. I am the type of person who likes to just drift away and associatively talk about things (hmm... the very astute reader could've inferred this given what I said in "1. Personal" :P). It has never done me any favors when I did this in a job interview.
The issue you run into is (quote from the article):
> "So, yeah, like, we're like working on this thing, but then my cofounder quit, and now we have this customer who's really loving the product but then we hit a bug with Docker because it uses React in the Kubernetes and now, you know, I'd like to know if you reimburse travel cost when I do the interview and stuff"
It's better to make the mistake of being too formal at an informal moment than the other way around. And honestly, I have been surprised to what extent I should not have been informal in the first place.
Moreover, people will somehow signal to what extent you're being too formal. I can tell from their body language. However, when I'm too informal I can't actually tell to what extent I'm too informal.
"Tell me about yourself" is simply not the kind of thing normal people ask each other for breaking the ice. It's a stressful question that puts people on the spot and forces them to 'create' a first impression.
Now, I do think that one should do a little bit of homework to give a somewhat structured answer to "Tell me about yourself", but there is such a thing as too perfect, at which point it becomes jarring.
And as another person argued correctly, I probably didn't fully succeed at that.
Just because an answer is structured, doesn't mean it's dishonest.
When I was structured I did use a variation the STAR method when they expected me to. Having a method like that makes things quicker to go through, as long as you make it your own and own it. I adapted the framework a bit by swapping the T (Task) for P (Problem) as it sense to me why you'd need to emphasize the task as opposed to the problem you'd be trying to solve. In rare cases I also adapted it to the SPARAR method, since the result made the problem smaller but didn't fully solve it yet.
I prefer to structure things on the fly though without a pre-defined framework.
How would I describe myself? Three words: hardworking, alpha male, jackhammer, merciless, insatiable.
Of course, context matters and the context of a YC interview is an elevator pitch.
In that setting, the “tell us a little about yourself” question should probably be one or two sentences.
I’d probably answer. “My name is Tim, from the Netherlands living in Berlin with my long time partner. Second time founder in the tech space. I have a computer science background and enjoy playing the guitar.”
As always, YMMV.
My name is Mettamage, from The Netherlands. Living in Amsterdam with my girlfriend. I studied: psychology, business informatics -- both bachelors -- and computer science and game studies -- both masters. I have worked as a teacher/bootcamp instructor and programmer. I enjoy running.
When I'm reading it, I think I see this working better in some situations but not in others as my profile simply invokes a lot of questions. And when it does invoke a lot of questions, then my way of talking about it saves time.
People are going to ask: why did you study so many things? With my answer they don't. More importantly, I don't like that question. I can't stand it. I've heard it too many times over in my life. I'm a bit burned out with people their tone on that question. I'm fine with if you're surprised. But a lot of people simply find it weird in a negative sense, and I'm tired of hearing it.
My profile in what I did as work is rather broad, which leads to questions. Interviewers, being the conservative munchkins that they are, they can't pigeonhole me into a role. In my particular answer I pre-empt the most important one which is: why did you do so many things in such a short amount of time? Oh, you did it as side jobs during your study for fun. And now you're looking for your first long-term job.
And most importantly, it's all true. Or at least, I believe it is.
Also, I don't want people to know that I enjoy running. I want people to know that I'm a curious fellow that loves to use his imagination and if you understand the essence of that you can kind of infer a lot about who I am (in one of my other comments there's an example of this).
It feels like profile from a guy who just finished school. I do not thing that education is that important in startups or business generally.
Ideally, it should do it for a lot more topics but that's where reality sets in.
You cannot stand when people ask you "why study so many things" question?
Your "cannot stand" attitude hints that you resist evaluation of your potential mistakes.
Something like this should set the tone up for an interview -
Hi I'm ... studied business informatics because I'm interested in the intersection between business world and the computer world. Upon graduation I realized I wanted to understand human psychology better so took that up formally. This eventually led me to game studies. I'd say that makes me come across as a curious person which I identify with.
Over the past 8 years I became a teaching assistant, a coach for teaching assistants, a bootcamp instructor and a programmer/web developer. In total I have about 2.5 years of work experience including 1.5 on teaching development to others.
P.S. Based on my experience, "applied to any job that didn't feel like work" is something better left out from an introduction for a job interview.
Also, I feel that you're right with:
> P.S. Based on my experience, "applied to any job that didn't feel like work" is something better left out from an introduction for a job interview.
But I wouldn't be fully to explain why. IMO if something doesn't feel like work but play, it means your energy capacity of it is really high.
I feel that the message is being misinterpreted for having a lack of responsibility or something, but that's not the case.
I’ll, however, just toss a complement: You’re a fantastic writer. Pithy, funny, informative. Nice work here.
Is this delay only for interviews outside the Bay Area?
Surprised they don't have 2 for 15 or 1 for 30 min.
After all, you don't avoid the unconscious bias of a single mind by adding more minds. That just gives you three sets of unconscious bias and adds biases caused by group dynamics.
Do you have a link? I may be googling the wrong terms.
Rather than 1 person, 30 minutes (one measurement), given 3 who all had the same experience, you are less likely to have all three have an impression unconnected with the substance of the conversation.
You're right that it's an advantage, but it reduces noise, not bias.
Bias by definition skews systemically in the same direction so the positive effect of taking multiple measurements is minimal.
The YC partners are trying to be similarly biased against entrepreneurs who (they believe) will not be successful in the program.
They are much less likely to be similarly biased against irrelevant factors like accents, mannerisms, backgrounds, etc.
They're not less biased, they just average out their biases over the group.
Your assumption is that three people chosen from a fairly homogenous pool are going to cancel out each others biases, which is... optimistic.
I don't know from this conversation what they're actually doing, but what they should be doing is using a diverse set of opinions to create a fixed set of questions and a fixed marking scheme, and then sticking to it for that round of interviews. Then looking back over time at every interview question and analysing how well it predicted later outcomes.
Their track record suggests they're doing pretty well.
Multiple independent assessments are great at reducing random noise. Bias is noise, sure, but it's by definition not random so you need other forms of intervention to counter it.
Discussing candidates after an interview allows social dynamics within the group to distort the signal so you reduce the value of taking independent data points. Not only will it not reduce bias in the way you seem to suggest, but you'll also lose some of your ability to reduce random noise as the noise from more dominant interviewers will be amplified.
I don't have time to dig out citations, but a good starting point would be "What Works - Gender Equality By Design" by Iris Bohnet. She's one of the world's leading academics studying how biases are affected by different hiring techniques.
In my last company ($100B, publicly traded, extremely data driven), we interview candidates in a group of 2 (or more, but rarely) on clearly defined criteria to look for signals - in either direction.
During interview each of the interviewer looks for evidence to gather the signal - stronger the better and the purpose of the interview process is for all the interviewers to gather signals (preferably all criteria, preferably strong in either direction, but ofcourse bound by the realities of limited availability of time).
Once the interview process is over each interviewer jots down the signal strength and the related evidence on the scorecard independently and suggests the result of interview.
Later during a calibration, the signals and the evidences are presented to the interviewing peer group (recruiter, hiring managers, interviewers from other rounds), and pretty much disallows for any unconscious bias such as "I don't think Alice would be a good team lead (because she is a woman, and woman are not good managers), or "We should not hire Amit (because he is an Indian, and Indians write poor code").
Again the examples are too in-your-face, but unconscious bias is unconscious, and in the absence of having to defend your perspective to external parties with the support of evidences, which does not happen if there is only a single interviewer.
Think of it as the rubber duck for interview and biases, to keep your own unconscious bias as interviewer in check.
You've explained that your interview process has a predetermined scoring system which is a good start. I'm curious what the effect of this calibration stage is... did your company do predictivity and bias analysis on it?
People are allowed and encouraged to change their individual decision after getting more insights and evidences gathered by other interviewers.
> did your company do predictivity and bias analysis on it?
Recruitment, HR and leadership conducts it to tweak the process, but I am not privy to those studies.
To me a startup makes amazing sense when you have an original disruptive idea and the passion to unload all your time and energy into the spirit of that idea knowing you will probably fail. That is the anti-thesis of a fashion.
On the disruption part, I disagree. There are markets that are just old or aging. Fairly small improvements and a rethink of the market can already make a new product viable.
I just tried to think of a single successful startup that wouldn't be classified as "disruptive" and couldn't do it.
Are you successful startup? Yes (e.g. you turnover $20k a month solo). Are you disruptive? No.
Truly disruptive startups are in two digits range. Successful startups that “made it”, whether it’s revenue, money raised, or profit, are in the hundreds of thousands/millions.
I'm a university drop out who works non-technical jobs that earn less than most first year programmers would be on and whenever I'm employed full time I work 40-45 hour weeks and save over half my income without really trying.
Dependents come with enormous opportunity cost. So does a high standard of living.
It's definitely real. I used to coach at a bunch of startup events, and many people were definitely drawn to the hype. E.g., the fresh college graduate who was trying to decide between going to grad school or doing a startup. The people who were sure they had the "next Facebook".  The people who want to be the next Steve Jobs, or whoever the press is lionizing these days.
And really, I think a lot of the "Uber for X" wave was of that style. How many of those really had plausible unit economics? Versus just being a bunch of people playing disruption dress-up with a tide of VC money behind them?
It is my fervent hope that WeWork's the peak of that bubble. That with less hype and froth, we'll see more companies focused on serving users and creating long-term value.
 In my view, there will be no "next Facebook": https://www.quora.com/Is-it-foolish-to-go-to-Startup-Weekend...
There is virtually zero chance they will be successful. It's not that they have time and money to burn. It's just that they are living a dream/fantasy.
You do not have to get married to an idea to make money or require capital to make a return for shareholders.
Many people have the luxury of trying multiple ideas without needing to top up their personal balance sheet by exchanging time for money. This allows them to rapidly iterate towards a market hit, and solidify the survivorship bias. Many other founders do only get one chance to blow all their savings and then go back to work for the next decade, increasing the likelihood that they encumber themselves with more life circumstances that prevent them from ever having the flexibility to not exchange time for food and shelter.
There could be a vast array of underlying reasons for them simply wanting to try doing a startup.
Maybe working for someone else 40 hours a week isn't giving them sufficient purpose, and they want to try something that will? How many of us feel this but never act on it?
Maybe they believe that their skills and work ethic can gain them significantly more income than what they can get grinding 40 hours in other people's businesses, and grinding interviews every couple of years to get meaningful salary increases, and are willing to take on the risk to see if they can make that happen for themselves?
Maybe they see life as being short and want to try something different for themselves to escape the expected timeline of school -> university -> job(s) at compan(y)(ies) -> retirement -> death?
Some people seem to simply want to do it for the sake of it, but there could be many underlying motivators than making some sort of vacuous fashion statement which you're implying.
>some people have money and time to burn without the stresses of daily life of things like a demanding job or children.
Some people inherit money. Some people save like savants. Others may have got a payout from a previous company going public or being acquired. Some are money orientated and have built careers around it, and have a partner with similar traits who'll carry the income if they believe in the other's idea.
The main thing is that it's not your money, so why would you care?
>To me a startup makes amazing sense when you have an original disruptive idea and the passion to unload all your time and energy into the spirit of that idea knowing you will probably fail.
To you, maybe, and thankfully you're part of a tiny minority with such opinions. Stay-in-line, continue grinding at other's businesses and therefore lining other's pockets unless you've something "disruptive" to produce? Businesses should only emerge if they've a niche offering? Really?
The free market, and well-being of the consumer, relies on competition. Competition does not happen in a market comprised only of companies "disrupting" one thing or another. Starting a company on the basis of having identified something a product, or service, does already but you believe can be done better, is as legitimate as bringing something "disruptive" to the market.
The chains you've bound yourself in with in regards to the life choices you've made and the tolerance to risk produced by them shouldn't be the basis on which you judge the activities or choices of others.
This is true, and I was expecting the same sentiment from the post but it was not there.
And as far as startups being a "thing to do". As opposed to doing what else? Working for a big company? What pray tell would be better and more meaningful? It probably wouldn't be in tech.
“What pray tell would be better and more meaningful? ”
They are people, right?
I have a name, you have a name, the three partners must also have names. Who were they?
The specific names of the three judging partners aren’t important (obviously) what is important though is that there is a tendency to provide those in position of power (generally, or in a given situation) with a layer of protection (by anonymity) that is not afforded to those whom they have power upon.
The omission caught my eye.
It reminded me that YC has this glaring asymmetry in other parts of the application process, specifically with the personal video they require people submit, but do not disclose who watched it.
I thought that if I say something, someone might ask a followup question, and I can bring that point above in a followup comment.
So again, thanks for asking ;)
P.S - the downvotes on the comment are worth it, obviously.
If the author hadn't posted about this experience, no one at YC would've made a public post saying they interviewed him.
Indeed, that would be a bit on the weird side if YC made a post saying "we spoke to someone from Checkly, his sense of humor was kinda funny."
(Not because of YC though. It was already a mess, why would they want to touch it?)
(BTW there was Can’t Wait at YC S11)