Have you heard of Masterclass, Coursera, Turnitin, Coursehero, and Handshake? Our guest today is the Head of Talent at GSV Ventures, an early-stage investment fund that has invested in all of these companies and manages over $270M in assets. We are lucky to have Amanda Porter who supports talent acquisition and performance management across GSV Ventures and its portfolio companies.
Here are some questions we will be answering:
– How to know if VC is right for you?
– How do you break into VC?
– What are the personality traits of an ideal professional in VC?
– How can sports translate to real-world job skills?
– Is working for a startup beneficial prior to joining a VC?
– What to research about the VC firm prior to a coffee chat or interview?
– What questions are asked in VC interviews?
Connect with Amanda: www.linkedin.com/in/porteramanda/
Get 1-on-1 Career Coaching: www.careercoachingcompany.com/
Follow our Host, AJ Eckstein, on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/aaron-aj-eckstein/
*Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed in this podcast are of the host and guest and not of their employers.
“You want to go into an interview with as many tools in your tool belt as you can. Always lean towards the side of doing maybe a little too much research.” – Amanda Porter
Welcome to the Final Round podcast, where our mission is to help you knock out the competition and land your dream job. My name is A.J. Eckstein, and I’m a recent college graduate, a strategy consultant, a five-time intern and the founder of the Career Coaching Company. I have a passion for helping people achieve their career goals through non-traditional career advice.
Have you ever wondered why only a few people get past the final round interview and land the job offer? Join me in the ring as I speak with recruiters at top companies to learn the secrets why certain applicants get “knocked-out” and others are still standing after the final round.
The Final Round podcast is brought to you by Career Coaching Company. They offer one-on-one live tailored coaching from recent grads who work at leading companies across multiple industries like consulting, investment banking and much more. Now, let’s jump into the ring and get you past the final round.
Have you ever heard of MasterClass, Coursera, Handshake, Turnitin or Course Hero? Our guest today is the Head of Talent at GSV Ventures, an early-stage investment fund that has invested in all of these companies mentioned and manages over $270 million in assets. We are so lucky to have Amanda Porter who supports talent acquisition and performance management across GSV Ventures and its portfolio companies. Amanda is about to share the secret tips to breaking into venture capital. Now, let’s welcome Amanda.
Amanda: Thanks for having me, AJ. I really appreciate it.
Of course! So, on the show, we’ve spoken to a few recruiters in the past who have been interns at the same company that they’re now recruiting for full time. I saw that you previously led talent acquisition at a startup prior to being the head of talent at a top VC rental capital firm like GSV Ventures. So, do you think it’s helpful to be in the startup world prior to then pivoting to the VC side?
Amanda: Yeah, that’s a great point. I definitely think this is one area that there’s pros and cons to both sides. So, I think speaking on behalf of personal experience and other types of VC individuals that whether they’re on the investment team or what I would consider myself being a bit more platform operational team coming from startups themselves. So, speaking to that first, there’s definitely a huge growth opportunity there to bring to the table on the VC side when it comes to founder empathy. That is something you can certainly start to develop if you haven’t been at a startup by talking to a lot of founders.
Naturally, you’re going to be doing that in the role anyways, but just being there essentially on ground zero with these founders, going through the growing pains, the inevitable changes that happen daily, sometimes the rapid speed of what you move, I guess it’s just easier to digest when you’re there yourself. So, whether it’s internship experience while you’re going through undergrad or your MBA program, if you can get any hands-on experience in a startup, let’s say if you’re going to plan for that VC type role afterward, anything operational, working closely with the founders if you can would be great to kind of aim for.
What’s your Talent Strategy?
I think those are all great points and I’ve actually had the privilege to intern at companies as large as the Walt Disney Company but also at some very early-stage startups. And it’s so interesting to see that the goals, the metrics, how the team operates is just so different. So, really having that boot on the ground experience is essential, especially being on the VC side. I know that your main day-to-day is focused on bringing the best talent not only for employees to come into GSV Ventures but also to help with the talent strategy in the portfolio companies of the startups that you actually invest in. So, I guess a great question, the million-dollar question would be what is your talent strategy?
Amanda: First and foremost, talent strategy really comes down to the profile of hire. So, when you think of the role that you are hiring for, you have to really envision who is the right person for this role especially if you haven’t been hired for this role before. Obviously, it gets a little bit easier to kind of grasp that and really understand it. As you see people in the role, you can kind of assess the pros and cons. That’s always going to evolve also as your company evolves. I think one interesting thing obviously at a startup and then not obviously at a VC is that pretty much every VC, they operate a lot like a startup. So, the similar aspects there really boiled down into when you’re building talent, you have to really understand that profile of hire. Otherwise, you’re probably going to be very far off the path. You also have to understand that there’s chapters or seasons, you could call them.
As company’s scale, you naturally go through seasons and so you’re going to naturally start to know that you’re ending a season and getting ready to start into a new season when you reach certain growth stages. So, you’re going to see this mostly in the startup world. So, that naturally is going to equate to different types of hires, different departments maybe being showcased or developed, maybe some people leaving the company because they’re no longer the right fit. Not every team member is going to be a fit for each season or stage, and that’s okay. I think founders, is it something really important for them to just kind of keep in the back of their mind if I have any founders listening. In the VC space, I think of it in a similar sense. So, I like to think of things in seasons. From the VC side, you can more so look at that on the fund growth, whether you’re fundraising for your next fund or deploying capital. So, depending on where the stages are and that can really dictate who you need on your team and when.
I think the main takeaway though is that you said that it comes in seasons, right? And it’s hard to predict because every startup is different and from afar, I think a lot of people can assume that not many startups were able to survive the pandemic, but I would actually counter that by saying that some companies are actually doing better because of the pandemic. I know that GSV Ventures actually has a focus on those ed tech companies that are probably as I’m sure had exponential growth, right? Like MasterClass and Coursera. Right?
So, these companies are used even more because of Covid. I think that for a candidate trying to get an internship or job at these startups, it’s important to do research and really understand where the companies are at and what their hiring needs are. On that road of preparing to either apply or to reach out to a recruiter or head of talent like yourself, it’s important to really prepare your LinkedIn and your resume. I remember when I was a job candidate, I was always trying to figure out what experiences from my life I should put on my resume or LinkedIn. And I saw that on your LinkedIn, you don’t just have all of your very professional experience, like being the head of talent and being at the talent acquisition lead at your past startup, but you also have some other roles like driving for Uber, being an assistant manager at a gym. What advice would you give for someone who’s trying to figure out if they should put those types of jobs as being a server at a restaurant or a lifeguard for instance, that’s not necessarily super relevant to what you’re applying to?
Amanda: I actually don’t think I’ve ever been asked that before, so I appreciate you asking that. So, I bring a lot of vulnerability into my day-to-day career. So, I want to put my full self out there and part of that in the professional world is doing that on LinkedIn. So, I just showcased really everything I’ve done since college. What I love about it too is it’s on my LinkedIn, I can showcase and have the story to bring up in conversation about why and when I made the pivot into talent and recruiting on my resume now, because of my more recent roles. If I were to show you my resume today, it’s not going to have any of that, it will come up during the interview process possibly, but my resume has that and then usually it’s a conversation starter. People can kind of see that natural progression. So, long winded answer, but really it is a storyteller and that’s the beauty of LinkedIn is you can showcase all of that.
I love how you still have them on your profile. I remember some of my biggest takeaways from certain experiences were not just internships at companies, but it was actually minimum wage jobs as a busboy or as a food run or even as a server because you’re forced to work in these fast-paced work environments and yes, maybe it’s not the most prestigious job, but I think learning how to get your hands dirty and working 10, 12 shifts, all on your feet. I mean, it’s a grind. I think that there are a lot of takeaways there. Yes, of course, after that I was able to intern and then actually get a full-time job, but those are the early days and I think that is really important to draw your story and not just say, “Oh, I’m a server,” but what does that really mean? Right? Is it a fast-paced environment? Is it crazy busy when you’re working there?
So, I love how you still have that and it is still part of your story even today. And one of the things that you said is you talked about your passion for sports. We’ve spoken to some past recruiters. One of them was the Tesla recruiter who was a swimmer in college. I know that you are not just someone who goes to the gym and enjoys sports, right? If my research is correct, I saw that you have joined nine marathons. You have cultivated relationships with brands from Lululemon and Nike and you also represent Chicago Wind Runners, which is Nike’s first elite all female running team dedicated to aspiring women to run in, “chase after their dreams.” So, I’m curious to know, do you think that the competitive background of sports from your life has translated to being a competitive professional in the VC space?
Amanda: Yeah! No, I appreciate you doing a bit of research on that front. My passion, my second full time job, if you will, is running. Running has been a huge part of my life since really senior year of high school. I’ve been an athlete my whole life. I think I tried just about every sport. Running is something that it’s me and myself for the most part, but it’s also a team competitive sport. So, it definitely is something that I carry into my full day-to-day life. It has been in the classroom, in the work setting. Since college, I’ve been focusing on the marathon. So, as you call today, I’ve done nine cents. I’ll do my tenth one in June. Fingers crossed that nothing happens Covid wise and not get canceled, but that’s up next. And then actually this fall I’m doing my first ultra. I’d be doing a 50 miler.
So, a lot of big things are in the works. Definitely my second full-time job, a lot of hours in the week, but honestly the days where I don’t run–every other week, I usually have an off day or if something happens like I’ll take an off day here and there. But those are the days I actually find myself a little less able to focus and my best way during the work day. So, it’s always been a fine line of making sure that running is never too strenuous on my mind and my body. But it truly is like how I just clear my head. It’s a natural therapy session. It’s probably really the only time that I’m away from screens. I’m away from having to give answers to anyone. That’s one piece of advice I can give anyone, if you can find something, it doesn’t have to be athletics or fitness related but something outside of work that provides a community. It’s super nice. I think naturally we grow close to our co-workers, which is awesome and everyone should be doing. We have our friends; we have our family but something else. So, anything that you can lean into there. It’s something that’s naturally going to carry over into your day-to-day and your work and yeah, running is for sure been that for me.
I can completely relate because my running is actually surfing and it’s something you can do on your own as well as with friends or family or even colleagues. I’ve surfed with some colleagues recently, that’s been really fun. The main takeaway is there is a competitive aspect, right? Because you don’t just run to run, you also enter to compete in races. So, how is that really translated to the work side? Right? Because a VC not only has to compete for the best talent to work for the VC but you also have to compete for the best startups to join your portfolio? And then lastly, and most people don’t think about this, I just learned that VCs also have to compete for money for each funding round. So, how is it translated for you and your career within VC?
Amanda: I think for me in my role specifically, the way that it really carries forward, for me being a distance runner especially, I lean into having a lot of endurance. I said, I don’t back down easily, but I mean that in a really good way. So, if I have a lofty goal or a deadline that is super soon or whatever it may be, I’m able to really break it out. So, my training has also helped me with that. I realized June 19 of this year, I have my marathon, so I have a coach. I’ve had my same coach for five years now. And so, I invest in him and he gives me my training plan. It’s always broken down weekly and daily with workouts, long runs, easy runs all factored in. So, I know exactly what I have for that week and I do the same thing in my day-to-day and it works. So, if I have a goal to hit, I know I’m going to try to pace it out if I can. Sometimes timelines don’t fully allow that, but if I can chip away at it a little bit every day, once you do reach that goal, “crossing the finish line,” kind of thing, it’s much more rewarding. So, I think if anything running has allowed me to have that kind of mental state to be able to break down goals. Does that answer your question?
Absolutely! And I think whether they’re student athletes or just general athletes or people who like to compete or to play a sport out there, it should add to your story, right? If you do it recreationally on the weekends, maybe not so much. But if it’s something where it really is a part of you, like you said, because you are a runner, you like to achieve your goals, right? You like to break records and that is something that most companies would want in a professional joining their team. So, I think that is a great example of using your background in sports to add to your story. I think the most mind- boggling thing about your story when I was reading a few articles about your background and even after completing nine marathons on track for your tent is that you originally said that you thought of running as a punishment. Right? And I have to know, what was it that changed your mindset from it being a punishment to something that you enjoyed and like to do? How can our listeners think of recruiting not as a punishment, like they have to go through this and it’s just so dreadful, but actually enjoy it and thrive and get that dream job?
Amanda: Yeah, definitely. So yeah, the punishment aspect really came from when I was pretty serious about basketball in high school. For those that have seen me stand up not on the screen know I’m only 5’2. So, basketball was never going to be my forever, whether it be, student athlete wise or career wise, and I knew that. I was a fairly good shooting guard and I loved it, but when it came to punishment in basketball, it meant running up and down the court, up and down the court, sometimes for an hour non-stop. It naturally became, and same thing with other sports, I played softball, soccer, of course you’re always running, but also volleyball. If we weren’t doing well in practice or if we lost the game, I lost a tournament, it meant running.
And so naturally, I just kind of correlated running to being a punishment until my senior year of high school when I started doing distance and realized running actually became more of an escape and going back to being more of a therapy session and more so about me actually enjoying the process of it rather than it’s like, “Oh, gosh, it’s this thing I have to do. It’s going to hurt maybe a little, maybe a lot. It’s going to take up time, all the stuff.” And so, I think translating that over into interviewing and going through the job search, it’s not anything that we humans have been evolved to do. It’s something that we, as a society have really built up and have had to learn how to do. So, it’s not always going to be this like learning. It’s like interviewing for job hunting versus learning how to walk. Humans have evolved to walk and so, naturally, you do have to learn but you’re going to figure out how to walk. Whereas interviewing, job searching, you really have to figure it out, but you can lean into resources, you can essentially develop a training plan to interview well, to figure out what jobs you should be looking at, what career path you want to go down, what roles and titles you should be looking at. So, that’s the beauty of it. So, yeah, so kind of a cool progression there.
No, but I think it’s a great analogy for our listeners because running a race is very similar to recruiting and actually landing your dream job, right? And it’s not a sprint, it really is a marathon, starting with an internship is a mile marker, right? Because that job is the end goal. I’m sure you can attest to this being a runner yourself, that you don’t just go into a marathon having never run before, right? You have to prepare, you have to make sure you have the necessary nutrition, you have to stretch before. And those are things as in networking, fine tuning your resume and LinkedIn, making sure that you tailor all those things to the job description, you can research someone like yourself on a phone call, just like I did for this interview and make sure that I’m asking relevant and insightful questions.
So, I think it is very much like a race and instead of thinking that you’re going to dread it and it’s going to be horrible why not try to go into it with an open mind and say with networking for instance, let me go try to meet some really awesome people like Amanda who maybe I like to run also and now I have a good running connection maybe the next time in Chicago, I hit you up and be going on a job, whatever that may be. So, I think you should change your mind about everything. And I think if we manifest that in the universe, things will turn and you’ll do all the right things. So, I do love that analogy.
I want to take a quick pause and tell you about Career Coaching Company. Are you still searching for your dream internship or job but are having trouble landing an offer? Career Coaching Company offers one-on-one live tailored coaching from recent grads who now work at top companies, like the ones you’re applying to. Be sure to check out their website at careercoachingcompany.com to see how their team of coaches can help you land your dream job. Now, let’s jump back into the ring.
Is VC right for you?
I want to shift gears and dive a little bit deeper into just venture capital and as someone who was part of a business school for undergrad, the mindset is you either do ABC, Accounting, Banking, or Consulting. And obviously diving into the startup realm within VC is very different. So, how do you know if VC is right for you?
Amanda: First off, kind of breaking down what’s most important for you. So, a startup, you are naturally going to wear a lot of hats. That is truly inevitable. If you more so choose a role I’d say like accounting, even VCs especially on the investing side, even though you get to work on a lot of things, investment banking is basically going to be kind of on a set path, especially in an investment banking and accounting, and VCs can break off in a few different branches. But you have to kind of think about that. Are you someone who is excited about wearing a lot of hats? Is that maybe even something you’ve had the chance to do already in the school setting or maybe in your internships and I’d say more high functioning individuals, you’d like to have your hands in a lot of different projects at any given time? Or would you rather feel a little bit more comfortable almost knowing like I’m probably going to be doing this every single day? You know what to expect.
So, I would think about that and kind of really hone in on like, what do you feel more excited about for you as a person? And then also two, for your little bit of a longer-term career path kind of similarly, are you going to want an environment that has an inevitable change at a much more rapid speed, fast pace? You never know what to expect. Of course, when you’re at a startup with the founders, you’re talking about how you’re going to scale, you’re talking about the next quarter, the next fundraise, whatever it may be and the product development, but changes happen a ton there. You could have only 10 months left of cash flow and maybe not be getting the attraction for a fundraiser and have to have a serious conversation about what if we don’t make it.
When I joined Packback, that’s kind of the position that they were in before their series A. Thinking about how you would handle those situations, is that something that excites you or is that something that truly does scare you of not knowing like what could happen? Again, going back to investment banking, accounting, those are much more stable career paths. So, I would say honestly, maybe not everyone out there will agree with me but VC can kind of be a combo of both, especially if you find the right VC firms. So, I would say GSV Ventures definitely operates a lot like a startup. I appreciate that. I am definitely someone who probably will either be at a startup or working in this space, work with startups for at least the super long haul the rest of my career because I love that. I love the on edge sometimes and getting to wear a lot of hats. That’s just what I prefer.
And so, the VC side can definitely bring that into it, especially if you’re in the investment associate type role. There is a bit more of a track for you. There’s a little bit more you’re going to have in your day-to-day life, but of course, especially here, our associates, aside from sourcing, doing diligence and talking to founders every day, they also get to work on various other projects. We’re very unique as well because we have the ASU+GSV Summit tied in that the associates get to do a bit of work on too. So, those are probably the two biggest things I would really recommend people to think about. The beauty of interviewing is that you really get to test out the waters a little bit. Now, it’s not you directly working in these settings, but asking these fairly crucial questions to how does the team function? What is a day in life? What are things I can expect six months, a year into the role? And then tie that back into what you’re feeling, asking yourself the question, do you want to wear a lot of hats? Do you want something where you can expect what you’re doing day-to-day? Do you want a more fast changing environment? Do you want a more stable environment?
Traits of VC Associates
So, could you quantify that in terms of a few key traits or attributes that most associates would have or possess inside a VC like GSV Ventures?
Amanda: Having a fairly high EQ, I think is really important. You have to really enjoy talking to people, you have to enjoy getting to know why someone came up with this idea in the first place, and then have the tenacity and grit to really ask the key questions to be able to set yourself up for success through the diligence process. You also have to be a very intrinsically motivated person. So, high, high level of work ethic. I’d say, relentless curiosity is super key. Being able to be someone who really starts to recognize patterns. So, I would tie that into a few buckets of being very organized, very thoughtful, intentional and curious and the questions you’re asking and how you’re thinking. And then also two, the way that you track things. So, I think all of this kind of plays up into skills a little bit, but then also personality traits of just kind of the mindset that I think anyone in the VC space needs to have, especially if you’re looking at more of the associate role. I would honestly carry that into any VC role regardless because even myself working with founders, talent candidates, whether it’d be even more operational. You have to really pick up on these things. You have to be curious in whatever space you’re in.
Otherwise, there’s probably no reason for you to be in it. So, I would also say part of that is just being proactive. It’s kind of going back to being intrinsically motivated. You have to be really excited every day. So, I mean those are definitely a few, but a few others can be broken down into the specifics of the team and how they operate. I would tie in being a very collaborative person, but also being someone who can operate really well autonomously and being okay with structuring your day, knowing how and when to manage up and ask questions with your team and bringing forward ideas. I think we’re in a unique setting right now of course because pretty much everyone is still remote. But even beyond that, kind of knowing when to take things on, ask questions, but then also when they like pulling team members as well.
So, let’s say that there’s a job candidate and he/she is listening to this podcast and he just heard all the personality traits that you mentioned and this person says, “Wow, Amanda’s basically describing who I am, all the personality.” How would this person ideally break into VC? Are there certain entry points or is it really just firm specific? If they’re doing well, they’re hiring. If they’re not doing well, they’re not hiring.
Amanda: Naturally, there’s the three buckets, the pre-MBA, the post-MBA, coming out of a startup yourself. But when you’re really looking to branch into the VC space, lean into your network that you’ve developed. Network yourself, go to events, go to demo days and then reach out to people, talk to people that are actually in the jobs themselves. I’d say definitely lean into associates, but then there are definitely partners out there that if you send them a LinkedIn message or if you’re at a networking event and you’ve connected with them on there, take advantage of that and then take the coffee chat with them. I would really try to reach out to a lot of the associates on the roles. So, if you’re looking at the investment side specifically, reach out to associates first and foremost to really get a bird’s eye view into their day-to-day life. I would say nine times out of ten, they’re probably at least willing to have a coffee chat with you, maybe answer some questions over email. Just be a little vulnerable with them.
Say, you’re really excited to learn about what it’s like to be in this role in VC, maybe to hear from them directly how they broke and get some real-life examples. I think that’s really, really key. Also, separately attend events. Do networking. I know it’s probably cliché to say that, but it really does go a long way. And within the VC space, I would say the beauty of it is that everyone’s in the VC space because they have to love networking in some way, shape or form. It’s a key aspect of their role, whether they’re looking to meet founders, other thought leaders in the space, candidates, investors, or just other entrepreneurs to collaborate with. I appreciate learning from my failures and my mistakes. And I talked about that with candidates that I speak to every single day and I want to hear oftentimes about mistakes that they’ve made and how they’ve chosen to come back from it. So, I think leaning into how you’ve grown as an individual can tell you a lot about yourself. I think this is really applicable to any job that you’re interviewing for.
But again, I think all circulating back to having a strong sense of founder empathy that is so much needed in the VC space that that will really correlate well and you can really kind of learn a lot about yourself so that when you are interviewing, you can really be confident and say, “Maybe yeah, I’ve failed. I didn’t get this internship or I didn’t get into this program or I made this mistake and we didn’t hit our sales goal that month,” or something. Whatever it is, they’re all really learning experiences and ideally setting you on a much better track to be successful in the future if you can get key takeaways from that.
Diving into the pre-MBA side for a second. If a lot of our listeners are undergraduate students and they’re interested in VC, how can you break in or at least get a taste of the VC?
Amanda: Yeah, so internships are definitely common both pre-MBA and post-MBA. The VC talent role in general, so meaning a VC having a talent dedicated person still isn’t all that common. I would say more VCs have someone in my role or similar talent role, meaning they’re the ones actually probably first getting a snapshot of who the individuals are interested in these internships aka getting the emails and applications themselves. But sometimes those emails and applications may be going directly to the partners or the investment team.
A big thing is that you have to reach out with intention. So, if you’re especially looking to get an internship at any VC, I would say reach out to their team, do a bit of research before. So, some of my favorite people that have actually been hired on since I joined at GSV for internships specifically have emailed, cold outreach our team or connected with us on LinkedIn and actually showcase to us a bit of research that they’ve done. So, specifically something within the ed tech space. They’ve been doing landscaping work, they’ve been doing market mapping, they present us with potential deals and they’ve done a bit of diligence work and they’ve really showcased why they’re excited about GSV the Ed tech sector for us specifically. It can really show us already that they understand the area that we invest in and the type of founders that we work with. Like you were saying before, especially now 2021, you can research just about anything and that’s the beauty of the VC space.
You can take a look at portfolio companies, you can take a look at their thesis, you can take a look at the evolution of the funds that they’ve had and maybe how their thesis has changed a little bit, you can take a look at the backgrounds and experiences of every single team member, find out how long they’ve been around, dig into the managing partner and find out what their vision for that VC firm is. And so, going into it with that, I would say the research that you’re going to put in the time and energy that you’re going to put into that will pay off. I can’t stress that enough. We have primarily hired the interns spring, summer and fall that have reached out to us whether it’s for investment focus, project manager focused, operational focused so that would be one of my biggest pieces of advice.
So, if I’m interested in maybe having an upcoming interview or coffee chat with you and I’m about to go on Google and start researching, what would be some key items that you think are the most critical aspects to research for GSV or any VC?
Amanda: First off, take a look around the venture’s website. I’d say pretty much all of them have their team pages, they have their portfolio. They probably have other reports, metrics and things like that, that they’re going to be showcasing. So, figure out all of that. Honestly, tying into this response, one of my biggest pieces of advice too, especially when you’re going through an interview process, whatever format you prefer, but make yourself some sort of spreadsheet that you can just keep yourself organized in. So, I’ve done this with any interview process that I’ve ever been through because you’re likely not interviewing with just one place or wanting to reach out to just one place. So, make a quick spreadsheet where you can keep everything organized for each company that you’re going to be researching or talking to.
Start to compile everything in there. So, I would honestly break it down by team of review, maybe just a few highlights of team members’ bios or things that you can have as talking points or maybe you realize you can relate to someone on the team and you can use that as a conversation point during an interview. Also, I’d say definitely find out of course like the investing stage that they’re in and their thesis, the type of sector. Are they very sector focused? Are they agnostic? Have they changed or evolved over the years? Meaning like they start out as a more early-stage fund, but maybe today they invest in later stage growth stages as well. So, it’s not just one area anymore. So, try to figure all that out so that you’re not on the interview and you’re like, “Oh, gosh, I said the wrong thing,” by something, you can easily google or find out on their website. So, tying into the role specifically, do your diligence work on that. That’s really the biggest thing. And then oftentimes too, VC firms, whether it’s on their website, which usually they are or you can take a look at their social media pages, you can start to find out key components of their strategy. So, again, going back to whether they’re very sector focused or agnostic, then you can start to do a little bit more research into that area.
So, then again, you have talking points or maybe things that you can showcase to the team prior to say, “Oh, my gosh, did you see so and so is now a unicorn or so and so might be a good potential company to invest in. I know this founder and think what they’re about to be building is really cool and something GSV or that VC firm specifically should be looking into. Other times too, there might be a bit more around the framework or I’d say more so like the guiding principles or something that the VC will use. Usually this falls into how the investment team will leave their diligence work. So, the key things that they’re looking into when they are going to be investing in a company. So, for GSV, we use our five P framework. So, we really dig into the people, the core purpose, of course, the product, the predictability, the potential. So, we dig into all of those things because we want to understand who the people are that made this team, their purpose behind it. We want to understand where it’s going, how it can scale so the predictability behind that. We dig into the product itself, usually using it ourselves, asking advisers or friends and family sometimes to use it. We do a lot of referencing in our diligence. So, understanding if it’s not a product we’re going to be using is that teachers, it’s the professors and the students getting feedback from them.
So, that’s just for us specifically, but all this is usually readily available, whether it’s on their website and their blog posts, social media. So, find these things out and really just highlight them so that you can bring them up as conversation points. Ideally, these are things that you kind of intertwine into your outreach as well when you’re even just reaching out to someone especially if it’s a cold outreach. You want to go into an interview with as many tools in your tool belt as you can. Always lean towards the side of doing maybe a little too much research and have an organized spreadsheet or something showing it all so that you can have these talking points. And through that naturally, you’re going to have questions. I feel you are someone that’s very curious. So, through that research you’re going to develop questions, I would jot those down, that you’re going to be curious about and asking the team about, why do you only focus on ed tech? Why is this your core mission? Why did you develop this framework when it comes to investing?
VC-Specific Interview Questions
I think that was a MasterClass in how to do in depth research. For everyone listening because MasterClass is one of the companies that of course GSV Ventures has been investing in and they’re doing very, very well. And you spoke about interviews and obviously, for most companies there are behavioral questions where it’s, tell me about yourself and also why do you want to work at this company? What are some more VC specific interview questions that candidates should be aware of prior to entering that interview?
Amanda: It’s going to be a little different across every firm. So, I can really speak for us, specifically some insider tips and tricks. But I would say first and foremost, I’m super excited to hear about the career path on why VC. That might sound super cliché but really what we’re leaning in and listening in for is how curious of an individual you are and how you really see VC fitting into your career path because first and foremost, I know others out there will know this, VC and really I’d say the startup world is not for everyone.
Again, going back to VC kind of meshing a bit of the stable with the unpredictability type of atmosphere. It’s not a career path for everyone. It requires a lot of energy, a lot of work, a lot of hours, a lot of dedication because it’s a space like you were saying before, it is super, super active. It takes that kind of mindset. So, asking why VC, it’s usually those are the types of things we’re leaning into and curious about. You want to hear examples especially for the investment side of how you’ve developed and grown in your financial modeling, some of the diligence and deal flow that you’ve already ideally have worked on if you have, if you can speak to that, how you have developed your sourcing strategies. So, again, going back to life organization and tracking pattern recognition, a lot of that naturally is going to be developed through sourcing, talking to founders and there’s a ton of different strategies, things that are always being changed.
But really if you’re going into any interview, hone down what your sourcing strategies are, you know what they are, you’re doing it every single day. Keep that up in your mind is just something that kind of speaks through. And then really leaning in and asking about how you’ve relationship built, how you’ve networked, how you’re looking to grow your career from here, how you’ve taken on initiatives or projects within your teams, that’s a big one because most VCs, especially the leadership team, rarely are they going to tell you in depth how to do things. They really lean into the team to become the experts and ask the questions to figure out how to do things.
So, questions like that speak to, “Oh, you know, I got assigned to this project and I was able to ask these questions and kind of formulate the method to reach this goal,” whatever it might be. But knowing that you’re not going to have this micromanaged type of atmosphere where you have someone telling you exactly how to do something every single day, you really have to be the one that’s proactive and figure out how to do a lot of things. Of course, you’re going to have mentors and leaders as guides and you’ll be able to ask questions or for feedback, but you have to be able to do that. Those are big ones, but when it comes to like a lot of the core skill sets, it’s going to be questions around financial modeling, it’s going to be questions around your diligence process, how you typically manage that, questions around your technology acuity and your product savviness.
So, especially when you’re looking, for a lot of people I’m sure, are going to be focusing on some form of VC that’s in a tech related atmosphere. It’s not always the case, but regardless of it is or it isn’t. Not every VC firm is going to require individuals to be or have an engineering background or computer science background. I’d say oftentimes people are more so like economics, financial type backgrounds, a little bit more holistic. But you should be able to have a bit of a pretty strong skill set around technology and understanding of how things might break and what questions to ask and just being able to leverage that type of mindset of just technology and products savviness.
And then I would also say social community building, networking. Again, going back to things that hopefully you’re already doing, but that’s a very natural thing in the VC space. It really never ends. So, again, also going back to relationship building. So, I would say another thing too is just how you do research, which we were just talking about, but in your day-to-day and how you apply that to your job. So, are you someone who does read a lot of articles, you follow the news, you follow the trends? Also, tying back to pattern recognition. So, I think a lot of these core things, all kind of weave in and out of each other kind of just to the overarching aspects of the role.
I don’t even know how to respond to that between your insight into research and your insight into the interview process. I mean, I feel like I’m learning so much and I’m sure our audience is learning even more. I want to be mindful of your time, Amanda and I’ve learned so much today.
I guess the last question, a tradition we have on the show, all the audience knows where I’m going with this, is what is the best piece of advice that you can give to our audience, help them get past the final round interview and land the job offer?
Amanda: Great, great question. I love the Final Round name and just whole play into this. I appreciate being an athlete myself. So, no, totally. In the interview process it really can feel like that. So, when you’re in that final round, I think one of my biggest pieces of advice aside from that is that I won’t dive super far into things like research and tracking and having questions ready to go. We’ve talked about that. But try to really appreciate the fact that you really should never be nervous for an interview. I’d say that’s one of the biggest things. I actually get very shocked when people are nervous because it’s not a test. There are elements of pass and fail, you get the job or you don’t but it really is a two-part conversation. You’re trying to figure out if they’re the right fit for you and your career and the team that you want to work on just as much as they’re trying to figure out if you’re going to be the right fit for their team. Sometimes it is. Yeah, maybe the two of you just don’t work out well in terms of maybe you don’t have the right skill set or experience just yet to lean into that. Even if it is a conversation, you walk away from not getting that job, knowing that that’s okay.
Again, going back to failure and mistakes. That’s just a valuable learning experience for you and ideally even more fuel under your belt to be able to go into the next round for your next interview process is to just have more “fighting power” and to do better. So, lean into that. Ideally, always ask for feedback. People will always give it. Email them afterward, thank them for their time, ask them for feedback and just explain to them that you want to grow. This won’t be the last time they see you, especially if it’s a dream company or team that you want to work with. But again, yeah, try not to be nervous, be very confident first off that you’ve made it to that final round. That’s something that a very small other set of people can actually say. I would say a good kind of measurement, you can imagine 100 applicants, maybe 40, 50 of those were ones that the application got sent as yes, we’ll talk to you and then out of that 40 or 50 probably only 15 or 20 of those got pushed forward into like actual consideration and then usually 7 to 10 of those are ones that are going to be talking further with the team, and then usually it’s likely only two or three in that final round.
So, know that you’ve already essentially battled 98 people roughly or 98% of the applicant pool to make it to where you are now. So, try not to be nervous. Just be confident, know that it’s more of a conversation than anything else. If you’re in that final round, just be excited for yourself and really just lean into the potential of being a part of that team. I’d say another good piece of feedback is to start, especially in that final round. By that point you’ve ideally gotten to know a good bit of the team and you’ve made a little bit of a relationship foundation there, start to talk about yourself as if you’re on the team already. It’s another thing that I’m actually surprised not a lot of candidates will do.
I’ve tried to do that in the interview processes that I’ve been in. So, start to say, “I or we, we’ll get to do this or I will help spearhead this,” or whatever it might be because I guarantee that’s going to make that team speak to you at that point in time, take a step back and be like, “Okay, yeah. This person actually does see themselves here and it’s going to get naturally, their wheel spinning of yeah, are they on my team or are they not? Maybe we should hire them. So, hopefully that’s helpful advice.
Well, there you have it. Amanda, what a pleasure having on the show. I feel like the audience, myself, we’ve been running right beside you and just crossed the finish line for the 10th marathon to add to your list of marathons. It’s been an absolute joy. Thank you so much for being on the show and we have to have you back soon.
Amanda: Yeah, AJ, I’ll be back anytime. I appreciate it.
If that wasn’t a master class on how to break into VC, then I don’t know what is. One of my favorite parts of this interview was that Amanda explained how job recruiting is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to prepare months before the marathon or the job interview, such as effectively networking, tailoring your resume to the job description and researching that firm in detail. What was your favorite part of the interview? Please share it with us in a review on Apple podcast. We are so close to our goal of 105-star reviews and it would mean the world to us if you supported our mission. Until the next episode of the Final Round podcast, keep fighting and I will see you in the ring.