Interviewing to re-enter the corporate world after start up "fail"


I'm following on this question regarding my start-up experience in my resume.

Over a year ago I quit my consulting job to start-up a service company, and after 13 months we (my partners and myself) have to shut down due to lack of money to keep it up (among others, but definitely on the top list). In fact, the resolution was decided yesterday, and the company will still be "alive" for 1 or 2 more months till we deliver to clients still in service.

Thus, it is time for me to re-enter the corporate world, and of course have to polish my resume regarding my experience, the good and the bad, of these las 13 months.

And I'm keen on knowning / understanding the type of questioning I may get on the subject when interviewing. Particularly those on the failure side of the start-up.

Interviews Failure

asked Apr 27 '11 at 09:37
36 points

4 Answers


The one that gets focussed upon (at least in the UK) is much the same as going back permanent after a spell contracting: "We think you'll get bored" and a dozen variations on this theme.

Essentially even if you wow them with your suitability for the role a concern will be that you'll be off at the first sniff of the next opportunity first chance you get! Have a good, prepared answer for this, and expect resistance especially in a larger company. In a smaller company, sometimes the reverse applies and it's taken as a positive feature, but that's the minority.

In your favour, there's only a year out, so you could also imply it was but a moment of madness. Against, employers seem wary of those who've demonstrated a dislike of being a sheep. (aside from that minority of small businesses that see it as a positive).

answered Apr 27 '11 at 09:54
2,552 points
  • You may also get questions about whether you can handle big-company politics: it's quite different being a cog in a machine. You may want to consider contracting, too -- easy in, easy out. – Jeremy Mc Gee 13 years ago
  • Matt, many thanks for your input. I will definitely keep the issue in mind and well prepare for that type of questioning. – Saitam 13 years ago
  • @Saitam Good luck with your job search – Matt 13 years ago


By and large, employers just want to know you can do the job they need done. If you're not applying to run their company, they probably won't care why your company closed.

My wife and I closed our software consultancy in late 2001, and I just list it as a job on my resume, with title "President/CTO". Since then, potential employers have mostly concentrated on the breadth of technical expertise and projects I list from there. If they ask, "Why did you leave ---?", I just reply, "That was a software consultancy my wife and I owned, and it got as big as eleven employees. But things were already getting difficult from the dot-com crash, and then we had two clients adversely affected by 9/11, and that caused cash flow problems. So we just wrapped up our projects, laid everybody off and closed it up." So far, nobody's asked further than that.

answered Apr 27 '11 at 11:33
Bob Murphy
2,614 points


It really depends on where you are located. If you are anywhere near Boston, NY, SV, and any other entrepreneurial centers - this is nothing new to us. There is a lot of churn. If you got some "scars", you may just be a better employee.

answered Apr 27 '11 at 13:36
Apollo Sinkevicius
3,323 points
  • Apollo, if only I could make to those areas... WOW! But unfortunately I'm not even close (down Latam)... and people are not that open minded... even in big US corporations. Nonetheless, I will follow your suggestion and bear this experience as if they were "scars of wars". Thanks! – Saitam 13 years ago


As you market yourself -- think like a marketer. Identify your core value proposition and play to it. Identify your potential weaknesses and flip them into advantages. Since selling yourself to “Corporate America” is a B2B sale -- the resulting marketing material (like a resume) need to be highly personalized to the person who is receiving it.

Your perceived weakness is that you took launched a business and it didn’t work. How could a hiring manager see that as a positive? Well, they-- like most people -- probably dream of doing the same thing. Validate how hard it is and that they are making the right decision staying where they are. You can say something to the affect “I went with the dream and realized that I missed many of the advantages that a great company like offers me today.” or “I am proud that I tried to launch a company, and now I have a renewed appreciation for the opportunity to which working at offers.” or “The most important skills I learned leading a start-up, are all applicable at at .

You have been to the other side -- you can speak about the other side -- and you are choosing to return.

Make them laugh The often overlooked "killer-ap" on these things can be humor. People love to laugh, and they love the person who can help them laugh.

The opportunities for humor in your situation -- to defuse and re-direct questions about a "failure" back to your core-proposition are limitless.

Beyond “been there, done that” I am sure lubricated with a little Vino, you and some friends can come up with killer responses that will make the interviewer smile -- and end any concern that your entrepreneurial gene will in any way infect the cube.

Perhaps: “I assure you my entrepreneurial gene has gone sterile and will not infect the cube.” (On the other hand -- that probably has fairly limited appeal)

answered Apr 28 '11 at 23:30
Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points

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Interviews Failure