Ace the interview: What 8 Austin tech companies look for

Written by Katie Fustich
September 12, 2018Updated: January 3, 2023

In the tech world, interviews can take many forms, from coffee dates to coding tests and remote video calls. Knowing what to expect at your interview, and how to prepare, can make or break your next big opportunity.

Built In Austin asked some of the city’s fastest-growing tech companies what, exactly, makes a candidate stand out, and the answers were as unique as the companies themselves. Learn how you can get your foot in the door below.


image via blackbaud

Blackbaud helps a range of companies in the nonprofit and social good sectors perform at their peak, with a suite of tools such as cloud software, data intelligence and content management software. When it comes to expanding the Blackbaud team, Technical Recruiter Johnathan Mesta said he looks for those prepared to go above and beyond for others.


What makes your interview process unique?

As a leading tech company in Austin, we take full advantage of technology to help make our interviews unique. We use HireVue OnDemand and HireVue LIVE to conduct video interviews with candidates across the globe, which can be taken on both web and mobile devices and allows you the flexibility to complete the interview on your own time.


What is the best way a candidate can impress you or stand out in an interview?

For me personally, it really is the little things. Take the time to learn about our organization and make sure you understand the role by reading the job description thoroughly. I typically will ask a candidate “Why are you interested in joining Blackbaud?” so if you haven’t taken the time to learn about who we are and what we do, it will be tough to respond. Express interest in our organization and the position you apply for, whether that’s through asking questions or by describing how your background relates to our role and our company.


What’s the best question a candidate has ever asked?

At the conclusion of an interview with a technical candidate, I was asked the most important question I’ve ever been asked: “Team Marvel or Team DC Comics?” It definitely caught me by surprise, but also gave us a great chance to connect personally.


image via adia

Adia connects individuals to jobs in hospitality, customer service, retail and marketing, and also helps companies fill critical roles in those industries. It’s no wonder then, as Project Management Officer Angelek Marler explained, that Adia uses a keen eye to fill its internal roles, with a focus on curiosity and passion.


What makes your interview process unique?

Usually, companies will wait to involve the CEO or other C-suite members until the final discussion with a candidate; we typically have our executive team involved in the interview process early on. We think this cuts out an opportunity for the potential team member to experience the communication styles of company leadership.


What is the best way a candidate can impress you or stand out in an interview?

Show curiosity, resilience and passion about what you want to do, and be willing to work hard. Doing research on our company and coming prepared with thoughtful questions seems standard, but oftentimes we talk with candidates who don’t know much about our product or organization. While this obviously is not mandatory, it is a meaningful way to express initiative and curiosity.


What’s the best question a candidate has ever asked?

“Why should I join Adia if I can create a better version myself?”


NSS Labs
image via NSS Labs

As NSS Labs works to advance transparency in the cybersecurity industry, their interview process reflects this same mentality of accountability. VP of Human Resources Susan Bollinger explained how this globally recognized cybersecurity firm finds the best of the best.


What is the best way a candidate can impress you or stand out in an interview?

Beyond acing the technical and playing well with others to meet our goals, it is evidence of natural curiosity. For example: What are you excited about — in your field, in others? What kinds of questions do you ask about the role and our business? Are you a person who is always learning, and therefore not challenged by the idea of learning more?


What’s the best question a candidate has ever asked?

“How does NSS Labs stay objective?”

“What makes you excited to work here?”

“How does your management support you in getting things done?”


image via lithium

Every day, the Lithium team works with brands like eBay and Sprint to create high-converting digital customer experiences. Aileen Edwards, Lithium’s manager of global talent acquisition, explained how this company mission starts with a holistic assessment of every new employee.


What makes your interview process unique?

Every candidate is required to complete our pre-employment assessment, no matter the level or position. The assessment is a great tool that helps us focus less on a candidate’s previous work history and more on their future growth opportunities. The other is our ability to hire candidates who are looking to enter a new field but perhaps have little to no experience in that area, or those who are career changers who want to transition from one functional role into another. For us, it’s about a candidate’s aptitude to learn new things and contribute to our dynamic culture.   


What is the best way a candidate can impress you or stand out in an interview?

I love when candidates have done their homework on Lithium: who we are, a basic understanding of what our product offerings are, etc. They can keep it high level but should they be selected to move through our interview process, our interviewers expect them to have done some research. Candidates who are honest about their experience (or sometimes, lack of experience) show they are humble and are curious and what to learn and grow.


What’s the best question a candidate has ever asked?

One of the most memorable questions I had was when, at a previous company, a candidate asked about our company core values since they could not find them on our website. At Lithium, our culture is important us and having company values that we live each day and express through our work and how we communicate with one another is key to our success. Our values are on our website, are discussed during our all-hands meetings, and are built in as part of our interview process as a stake in the ground for our commitment to drive us to be one percent better every day.


image via Imprivata

Imprivata helps companies in highly regulated industries like healthcare and the law manage remote access, ensuring compliance and audit-readiness. Director of Software Development Alejandro Castro said that when it comes to growing the team, getting to know the candidate is the most important step.


What makes your interview process unique?

We don’t focus our attention on brain teasers or impossible questions. Our interview process is meant to be a two-way interview: we want to learn as much as possible about the candidate, but we also want them to learn as much as possible about our culture and day-to-day operations so everyone can make as informed a decision as possible.

We take a realistic approach to the interview and always try to work through something interesting we have been working on recently. We also discuss our methodologies and processes to ensure candidates get a realistic look at the job and the team.

At the end of the day, we are trying to assess what would it be like to work with the candidate, and we want to offer them that same opportunity to assess us. Once a candidate makes it onsite, their technical abilities have been fully vetted. Onsite interviewing allows us to focus our attention to cultural fit. We think that is key to having a successful team.


What is the best way a candidate can impress you or stand out in an interview?

Show us how passionate you are about building great things. Tell us about things you have learned in your spare time, just because you love what you do. I am impressed when people show interest and curiosity in things they do. It tells me that they’re the kind of person who will never stop learning and improving.


What traits do successful candidates display during interviews?

We like people who are confident in what they know and are not afraid to recognize what they don’t know. We also like people who never stop learning, and who tackle problems in a thoughtful and disciplined way: curiosity, humility and pragmatism, to put it in a few words.


image via appsumo

AppSumo equips small businesses around the world with the tools they need to succeed. Internally, this lean team is eager to find candidates who fit with the company’s close-knit culture, explained Customer Support Manager Vanessa Yepes.


What makes your interview process unique?

At AppSumo, we have a lean team that is very close, and having the right culture fit when it comes to our hires is high on the priority list. So every team member meets with candidates over coffee to talk about their experience, personal interests and skills. This is a great opportunity for every department to engage with potential new hires, as well as for candidates to get a real feel for the team.


What is the best way a candidate can impress you or stand out in an interview?

Showing that they have done their research and identified areas for improvement goes a long way. I think it can feel intimidating to tell a company you’re interviewing with that they can do better, but ultimately we really value and appreciate actionable feedback.


What’s the best question a candidate has ever asked?

“What are the challenges this department is currently facing?” This exemplifies a problem-solving mentality. Bonus points, if, upon answer or in a follow-up, they’re able to offer solutions.


image via signpost

As a leading customer relationship management software provider, Signpost works by intelligently gathering data from customer touch points and using them to manage relationships. Director of Sales Alex Rainer shared how the growth of his team involves finding curious and humble salespeople.


What makes your interview process unique?

Because our process is skills based, we don’t feel the need to put on the scare tactics. We want to create an experience where you get a taste of the awesome culture here, but mostly, we open up the opportunity for you to play on the field. Our interview starts like any other interview: a preliminary phone screen with our recruiter, and, if everything goes well from there, then we’re going to invite you to meet more of the team.

Our onsite interview is broken down into two parts: First, we set you up with a sales manager to run through a role play session, where you get to learn how to pitch our product, and our sales managers see your selling style and how you take coaching. This actually prepares you for the next step: We have a computer set up, we’ll give you a headset and a script and we’ll have you make some calls. This is where our candidates really get to shine.


What is the best way a candidate can impress you or stand out in an interview?

Pro tip: Do your homework. There’s nothing worse than hopping on the phone with a perspective candidate and, when you ask why they think that Signpost is the place for them, the answer is: “I’ve been so busy with interviews, I haven’t had a chance to look.” This makes the candidate look unprepared and shows that they’re not interested in the opportunity, but rather just an opportunity.


What’s the best question a candidate has ever asked?

I think there are two types of great questions to ask in interviews: The questions that pertain to the skill set of the position: “What are the three most important traits that your successful salespeople have?” and the questions that connect with the person interviewing you: “What’s been your experience with the company?”

One question asks for some insight into what the role requires and the other allows for you to create a connection with the person you’re talking to, which in the end, is just another skill set that great salespeople have.



image via coder

When hiring for his teams, Coder CEO John A. Entwistle seeks a combination of passion, intelligence and accountability. The cloud-based software development platform provider seeks those looking for a culture of mutual respect.


What makes your interview process unique?

As a young company, our interview process is ever-evolving. Not having any redundancy is incredibly important to us. When you know something, we can tell. We don’t need you to get up and diagram something on the whiteboard or elaborate for an hour. We try to fill our time with natural conversation, so the interviewee feels they are getting to know us just as we get to know them. We look for people who are passionate about their careers, and the natural conversation tends to tell us all we need to know about that person’s current knowledge and potential.


What is the best way a candidate can impress you or stand out in an interview?

If you’re passionate, show it. We understand that interviews can be nerve-wracking, but never let that stop you from showing your passion about a certain subject. If you have questions, ask them, and dig into the technologies. If you don’t know something, take the opportunity to learn. Passion, energy, work ethic and an eagerness to learn are what we look for.


What’s the best question a candidate has ever asked?

“Tell me your story.” It’s something we try and ask every candidate, and when they ask us, it shows they aren’t just concerned about compensation and benefits. Understand where a company’s leadership came from, and learn about their struggles and accomplishments to get an idea of what it’s really like inside the company.

In a startup, always ask to talk to at least one founder. Good founders understand that, without their teams, their companies would be nothing. If you don’t feel like that founder would do anything for you, which most won’t, don’t join that company.

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