How to Explain Entrepreneurial Experience During an Interview

An entrepreneur multi tasking

Discussing your entrepreneurial experience during an interview might seem like a difficult task. As an entrepreneur, you have so many diverse and desirable strengths. You know how to run a company, develop strategies and business plans that bring in money, and manage employees and contractors. By running your own business, you probably picked up about a million and a half other critical skills.

Unfortunately, however, recruiters will have concerns when interviewing a former entrepreneur. Most of those concerns involve questions about your ability to transition from being an entrepreneur to an employee.

Some may wonder whether you can adapt to the company’s culture after running your own company and doing things your way.

Can you take orders without question?

Will you be able to work with a team when you are not in charge?

In this article, I will discuss strong responses to common interview questions for entrepreneurs. By following these guidelines, you can discuss your entrepreneurial experience during the interview with more confidence.

Five common questions for an entrepreneur

At one point, when you think everything is going right, the interviewer will throw you a question that’s designed to make you defensive.

Can you perform at the same level as a traditional candidate?

But this is your time to prove to the Hiring Manager that you can do all of this and more. You have to sell yourself as an employee just like you sell business offerings to your clients.

When transitioning to an employee after owning a business, you need to pitch yourself like you would pitch an idea.

To get you started, here are a few popular questions that an interviewer will ask a former entrepreneur:

As a business owner applying for a job, why did you choose our company?

Why do you want to work for our company?

This question tests how well you know what the company does and how passionate you are about the work they do.

When answering this sort of question, do not give the impression that you are just looking for any job after your own venture. Instead, give the employer tangible reasons for why you are interested.

An entrepreneur transitioning to employee thinking the answer to the question, “Why do you want to work for our company?”

The best way to approach this is to research the position more closely.

What parts of the role align most closely with your interests?

What aspects of the company appeal to you?

Is it their collaborative culture or their name in the industry?

Play those up in your response.

Here’s a sample answer to this question for an entrepreneur:

Here's a sample answer for an entrepreneur.

To learn more about the most critical mistakes job seekers make during the interview process, check out my article here.

Why are you transitioning from being a business owner to an employee?

Why are you looking for a job instead of starting another business?

If you have been successful in your business, interviewers will wonder why you’re planning to discontinue. In case your business did not succeed, they would question your strengths and proficiencies.

Therefore, during the interview, most employers will be curious about why you are giving up on the startup culture and your entrepreneurial experience

Are you going to use their company as a stepping stone for your next venture?

Are you here to gain market experience or identify potential partnerships?

Their fear-based list can go on.

But you can have many personal and professional reasons to pursue permanent employment. Maybe you have started a family, continued your education, or moved across the country. Due to these reasons, you may not be thinking about setting up a new business.

Here’s a sample answer to help you talk about your startup during the interview:

A sample answer to help you talk about your startup during the interview.

If you need direction to transition from being a business owner to a corporate employee, this article contains excellent advice from a former entrepreneur.

Why did your startup fail?

Can you tell me about a time when you failed at something?

This is a fairly common interview question. This question is bound to come up when you talk about your entrepreneurial experience in an interview. There is no need to mention why your startup failed or got acquired unless you are asked.

If your business did not get traction, that is not necessarily a black mark. This is one of the many reasons why companies are actually keen on hiring entrepreneurs; rather than shying away from failure, they find ways to turn it into success.

When talking about your startup during the interview, following these tips can help you shape your response:

  • Be honest – Accept the shortcomings and what could have been better.
  • Strike a balance between being totally blameless and completely self-deprecating.
  • Giving a response that comes across as very emotional might be perceived as a sign of anxiety or lack of control.
  • Talk about what you learned from the failure.
  • End on a positive note.

There can be many reasons why businesses don’t perform well. For instance: lack of resources and funds, unsuitable market conditions, a lack of long-term vision, or incompatible team members. However, you can talk around these during the interview by focusing on your wins.

Here is a sample answer for explaining your entrepreneurial experience during the interview. You can customize it according to the problems you faced:

A sample answer for explaining your entrepreneurial experience during the interview.

If this is something you’d like one-on-one coaching for, schedule an interview coaching call here.

It’s best to avoid saying that you quit, especially due to pressure. This may make the interviewer think that you might do the same at their company. Instead, mention the challenges that you had to resolve and the wins that you achieved despite those challenges.

Why should we hire you?

Entrepreneurs are great leaders, and you should be proud of all your strengths. As a business owner applying for a job, this question may sound intimidating. However, reinstate the attributes that helped you start, run, and grow a business.

You can talk about the things that you learned in the process. You can talk about the unexpected challenges that you faced and how you resolved them.

Why should they hire an entrepreneur?

Tell the interviewer how you became a great time-manager and how you learned to be self-directed. Talk about how great it will be to work with a team again after being in a resource-constrained situation.

In short, mention the skills you have that you’re going to bring to the company and summarize your work history and achievements.

Or, you can talk about bringing your entrepreneurial mindset into a corporate environment. That can be a big plus for companies wanting to drive innovation and solve problems internally. Such companies embody the startup spirit and cherish employees who bring forward creative ideas.

Overall, you should aim to be honest and enthusiastic.

Here’s a sample answer to this question:

If you’d like to learn more tips on how to answer, “Why should we hire you?” and other similar questions for an entrepreneur, check out this article.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

As business owner applying for a job talk about your 5 year plan.

This is a question most interviewers ask, and it can be difficult to answer if you’re not prepared for it. The hiring manager asks this question to find out if you set realistic goals, are ambitious, and if the position you are interviewing for aligns with your objectives.

Ideally, a recruiter will want to hire someone who plans to stick with them for the long term.

Here’s a sample answer to this question:

A sample answer on where do you see yourself in 5 years.

Remember that one of the biggest questions the hiring managers will have on their mind is, “How long until this person starts their own company again?”

If you can do it once, you can do it again. To further reassure the interviewer, emphasize the following points while explaining your entrepreneurial experience during the interview:

  • You are excited about the opportunity to work for the company and be part of a team.
  • You want to stay and grow with the company for the long term.
  • Your skills and knowledge gained from your startup are relevant and perfect for the position.

Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t — you’re right.” Going to an interview with a strong, powerful “I can do anything!” mindset is essential to beating interview anxiety and setting yourself up for the greatest chance of success. As a business owner applying for a job, it might seem like a daunting task, but just remember that you have achieved so much during your entrepreneurship, and not everyone is capable of successfully setting up a business.

If you are still unsure about how to approach the interview process, schedule an interview coaching call with me. I will guide you on how to answer tough interview questions.

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