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I have received an offer from a firm which is more of a start-up nature. Since they are willing to make a good offer I am a lil' apprehensive of the credibility of the same. I continue to wonder whether they would be punctual in crediting the salary on time. Since I believe in talking things in a forthright manner, I would like to ask the recruiter whether the salaries would be made regularly.

Please suggest how can I clarify my concern with the HR in a polite manner without sounding crude.

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What form of answer do you want here as I'd imagine a personal promise isn't likely to be sufficient? – JB King Jun 27 '14 at 9:05
I don't think that the recruiter is in a position to answer your question. I don't think the recruiter is 100% sure that they are going to get their commission either. If, however, the recruiter has placed people into the startup before - say in the last year or so, that would be a good sign, although past results arte no guarantee of future performance. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jun 27 '14 at 12:19
Could you clarify "of a start-up nature"? Is this a company with people, an actual office, benefits (implies somebody to administer them), etc, or do you mean three guys in somebody's garage? Is the business particularly risky? Lots of start-ups manage to pay their people on time every pay period. – Monica Cellio Jun 27 '14 at 15:27
@MonicaCellio - I am pretty sure we had this question before. Basically the OP wants to know what the funding level is for the Company that its not going to run out of money to pay people a month or 2 from now. – Chad Jun 27 '14 at 20:34
up vote 28 down vote accepted

Joe has it right. Don't worry about sounding "crude," as you put it.

Just ask. These questions may best be answered by a business person, not an HR person, but that depends on the people. This is business, and startups are risky business. It will help your case in your interview process if you ask questions that show you care about the company's situation.

You can say something like this.

"Please tell me a bit about your company.

"Where are you getting the cash for payroll and other expenses? Please tell me a bit about your investors. How long is it until you need another round of financing?"

You can even ask these questions:

"Who are your competitors? Do you have any key customers lined up? What are the critical success factors in succeeding in your business? What do you expect me, personally, to do to help make the company successful?"

The "what do I need to do?" question is important: it shows you understand that you're a part of the company's success.

Don't be the slightest bit embarrassed to ask these questions. You won't annoy any serious entrepreneur by asking them. Quite the opposite.

If you get evasive answers, especially about the company's investors or financing plans, you need to be very careful about the job.

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"Who are your competitors" shouldn't you know that before you interview with them, just in the process of researching the company? – corsiKa Jun 27 '14 at 14:57
@corsiKa: Perhaps you should know the competitors before the interview. But, for early stage pre-product startups it may not be obvious, possibly even to the founders. Plus, this question is not a request for information as much as it is an invitation to talk about how the company plans to succeed. – user987654 Jun 27 '14 at 16:38
These are very similar questions to what I was asking when applying for a couple of tech startups last year. Especially a startup that is in its early stages, it is crucial that you understand exactly what their position is, lest you make my mistake and waste 6 months on a dead-end company. They should be completely understanding and reasonable with this kind of information, and most entrepreneurs that I've talked with were rather excited to discuss these aspects of their company. – Thebluefish Jun 27 '14 at 16:58

It is both polite and professional to request a contract before starting work.

You say something like "Great, I'm really excited to work on this project. Before we get started, let's formalise the relationship."

The contract should list:

  • Your salary
  • When you will be paid (monthly in arrears, weekly, etc.)
  • Your notice period
  • etc.

I've worked for start-ups which haven't paid me on time. Sadly, all you can do is remind them of the contract and let them know you won't be working until you've been properly paid.

If the client is unwilling to sign a formal contract, you have to assume that they can't afford to honour their agreements.

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This is the answer. Get it in writing. – Fiona - Jun 27 '14 at 9:35

Please suggest how can I clarify my concern with the HR in a polite manner without sounding crude.

You engage in a conversation about the startup that goes something like "Tell me a little about the funding for this company..."

You explore the source of the startup's funding, if additional rounds of funding are planned, and what is the run rate at this time.

Your intent is to get a sense that the startup is well-funded, and well-run, and thus less likely to run into the kinds of problems you fear. (This is as opposed to asking "Will I be paid on time?" which could only elicit a less-than-useful answer of "Certainly.")

You may also choose to talk with one of your potential peers, where you can chat about how well the company is run, and probe a bit about finances and paychecks as well.

Ultimately though, it comes down to a matter of trust. Things can go south quickly in a small company, and you must trust that management will do the right thing. That's one of the risks of joining a startup that you must be willing to accept. Otherwise, a startup probably isn't for you.

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