The Ultimate Guide to YCombinator Interview Preparation: Lessons from Reddit


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 17, 2023

4 min read


The Ultimate Guide to YCombinator Interview Preparation: Lessons from Reddit


Preparing for a YCombinator interview can be a daunting task. The interview process is intense, and you need to be confident yet humble. In this guide, we will explore the key strategies for interview preparation, drawing insights from both YCombinator and Reddit. By understanding the common points between these two platforms, we can gain valuable insights into building for a highly opinionated user base and applying them to interview preparation.

1. Be confident, yet humble:

Confidence and conciseness are key when facing a YCombinator interview. You need to exude confidence in your answers while remaining humble. This combination creates a formidable impression on the interviewers. One effective way to showcase your preparation is by writing a document that contains anticipated questions and your well-crafted answers. This document serves as the core of your preparation process and helps you organize your thoughts.

2. Know your strengths and weaknesses:

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses is crucial in any interview, especially in a YCombinator interview. Before the interview, identify two to three core strengths that align with your business idea. These strengths should be highlighted throughout the conversation, even if they are not directly asked. Additionally, be prepared to address your weaknesses. Anticipate common concerns and prepare short, crisp answers to address them. By proactively addressing your weaknesses, you demonstrate self-awareness and the ability to overcome challenges.

3. Focus on interesting problems and unique insights:

In any startup, it's important to tackle interesting problems. Ideally, your business idea should address a unique or novel problem. However, even if the problem itself is not completely novel, you can bring a new insight or approach to the table. This demonstrates your ability to think outside the box and adds value to your business proposition. Furthermore, understanding the market size and dynamics is essential. YCombinator looks for startups in small but rapidly growing markets, as these present compelling opportunities for growth.

Lessons from Reddit:

1. Identify and measure your Trust Vault:

One of the key lessons from Reddit is the importance of trust in building a highly opinionated user base. At Reddit, they developed the concept of the Trust Vault, which represents the level of trust the customer base has in the company. It is crucial to measure your Trust Vault to understand how much trust your customers have in your team. One effective way to measure this is through surveys, such as the Edelman Trust Barometer. By asking questions about trust, you can gauge the level of trust and make informed decisions based on the feedback received.

2. Find the right customer voices to listen to:

When building for a highly opinionated user base, it's important to listen to the right customer voices. Often, the loudest people may not represent the general user base or your ideal customer profile. Negative feedback can sometimes be misleading, as users may not provide feedback on features they find useful. It's essential to consider whether the feedback represents a significant portion of your user base and whether those giving feedback can influence other users' opinions. Additionally, if you decide to deprioritize a group's feedback, make sure to communicate the reasons behind your decision.

3. Take actual discussion out of the public square:

One valuable lesson from Reddit is that the public square is not the ideal place for nuanced product discussions. To foster productive discussions, consider forming an advisory council consisting of passionate community representatives. This council provides a safe and private space for discussions and ideation. By creating a culture for reasonable discussion, you can encourage candid feedback and thoughtfulness. Utilize forums, chat rooms, or live conversations to facilitate these discussions. Additionally, establish a process and cadence for connecting with the advisory council, ensuring relevant feedback and building trust.


Preparing for a YCombinator interview requires confidence, preparation, and a deep understanding of your business idea. By incorporating lessons from Reddit's experience with a highly opinionated user base, you can gain unique insights into interview preparation. Remember to be confident yet humble, know your strengths and weaknesses, focus on interesting problems, and prioritize customer trust. To summarize, here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Write a document with anticipated questions and answers.
  • 2. Highlight your core strengths and address weaknesses proactively.
  • 3. Foster productive discussions by creating an advisory council and taking nuanced discussions out of the public square.

By following these strategies, you can increase your chances of success in a YCombinator interview and build a strong foundation for your startup. Good luck!

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