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Thoughts on the Y Combinator interview process (arvindn.livejournal.com)
43 points by randomwalker on Apr 19, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 8 comments

Near the end of the interview, Jessica said, "so do I make the check out to you?" I said yes. "Did you actually spend 700?" I said I'd spent most of it. I actually spent more than 700, but I only had receipts for slightly less. So she wrote a check for 700 right there on the spot. I was kinda speechless.. I was expecting a bunch of paperwork. We kept laughing about it later. That little incident tells you a lot about why YC is awesome. No bullshit.

And there's an important lesson to be learned here, too: Sometimes it's worth simply trusting people. It's possible that someone who spent only $500 could have gotten a cheque for the full $700; but even if everybody was in that position and was dishonest enough to take advantage of the trust, the amount of money YC would lose would be insignificant compared to the total amount of money involved.

So guys, remember that they interview a bazillion companies all at once, so don't assume they remember what you said in your application.

I think this pretty much applies to all interviews: The job of a resume / YC application / scholarship application is to get you the interview, and once you've got an interview you shouldn't rely on your written application for anything.

don't assume they remember what you said in your application.

For interviewees, on the other hand, it pays to remember things about the interviewer or their organization. It is an opportunity to demonstrate both interest and competence.

My first job ever was as telephone order entry operator at a store that sold office supplies. At one point in the interview the interviewer walked me to the floor, past the section that was doing drop shipping. Then she started to explain to me what drop shipping was -- "It is when we take the order on behalf of the supplier and then the supplier ships it from their location directly to the customer's door, without the merchandise entering our physical control at any point."

I mentioned "Well, strictly speaking, you don't deliver it to the door. You deliver it to anywhere on the first floor or anywhere accessible by dolly if there is an elevator provided, for an extra charge of $35, with exceptions noted in the catalog."

That got me some googly eyes.

"Its on your website. I made it my business to know your business."

As soon as I said that I realized that a) that was probably the best line I had ever delivered in my life and b) that job was so mine. And it was. There is a reason they put "attention to detail" in the solicitation. (Incidentally, you can totally hack this. Learn five interesting facts about the opposite party, and steer the conversation such that you're able to use one or two of them. I certainly didn't memorize everything about the company prior to my job interview.)

Yeah. It was our first time pitching/interviewing. We're learning :-)

I was also surprised by the interview process. I'd read and been told that it was likely to be confrontational and we would be expected to defend our idea, explain our market, and why we could beat our competitors. But they mostly just wanted to see our demo.

would be interesting if someone brought a hidden mic to their interview, and upped it for other people to listen

Would also be very unscrupulous to upload such a thing without the folks from YC's consent. However interesting it would be, I would hope that no one would actually do this.

Personally, I'd much rather just find out how an interview goes by actually going to an interview.

Nice catch, Zev.

your value = the sum of your assets * your integrity

Zero times anything is still zero.

The biggest lesson I drew from this experience is that listening to other interviews would ultimately be useless. Every conversation with YC will be unique, because every team and product will be unique. Mimicing somebody else would give you no advantage, so the only approach you can really take is to know yourself, know your product, and know that YC isn't a necessary factor (albeit a very helpful one) for your startup's ultimate success.

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