Have you ever wanted to work at a startup? If you come from the corporate world, then there are a few things you should know about working in a new business and how the hiring process might differ from what you are used to.
The first, most significant difference is that when you apply to a startup, you’ll probably be interviewed by the CEO rather than an HR team. This is because startups are rarely big enough to have HR teams. Also, startup founders know talent is their biggest competitive advantage, so they usually want to oversee hiring decisions directly.
Another difference to bear in mind is that startup interviews tend to be more personal. The interviewer will ask questions to help decide whether you will fit in well with the rest of the team and thrive in the startup environment.
Lastly, fewer people are involved in making hiring decisions at startups, which makes the whole hiring process shorter and less complex than it would be at a large company.
With these key differences in mind, here are seven tips to help you land your dream job at a startup:
1. Networking Is More Powerful Than Ever
Referred candidates always have a better shot at landing an interview than unknown applicants, and this is especially true at a startup.
First of all, referrals can help dramatically narrow the field of potential candidates. This is important to startups because, as mentioned earlier, the CEO is usually the one overseeing the hiring process. They don’t have time to be screening tons of unqualified candidates.
More importantly, personality and cultural fit are especially crucial in startups. A referred candidate is more likely to be a good fit, because someone who knows the startup will have already decided the candidate is a match.
This doesn’t mean having industry connections will guarantee you a position with a startup. However, networking with the right people can open the door to a first interview, where you will have the chance to demonstrate that you are the best candidate for the job.
2. Be a Customer Before an Applicant
You should use the startup’s product or service before you apply for the job. If you are going to add value to the company’s product or service, you first need to know how it works. That way, you will be able to locate pain points and brainstorm potential solutions you can share during your interview.
3. Get in Touch Before the Job Exists
Keep an eye on the news surrounding startups you’d like to work for, paying extra attention to funding announcements. These announcements may be a clue that the company will begin hiring soon.
Don’t limit your search to the career opportunities advertised on the startup’s website or on job boards. If you think a startup will benefit from hiring you, get in touch. Explain to the CEO exactly how you could add value to their company.
4. Be Creative to Land the Interview
Especially if you’re sending a cold email rather than applying to a specific job post, you can’t rely on your resume to get you an interview. Instead, you need to get creative.
Email the CEO and outline the ways in which you could directly help the startup if hired. A good way to make your case is to identify a challenge the company faces and share your solution. Be sure to come across as constructive, not critical. This will show the CEO that you are passionate about the company and have the ability to solve real-world problems.
5. Show Off Your Personality During the Interview
A strong company culture is essential to a thriving startup, so use the interview to demonstrate how well you align with the company’s values and mission.
You will need to do some research before the interview to better understand the startup. Why was it founded, and what problem does it seek to solve? What values does it hold?
Once you have this information, ask yourself if you share the same ideology. Can you see yourself happily working to help the company achieve its aims?
Once you are in the interview, be sure to transmit your shared beliefs to the interviewer.
6. Ask the Right Questions
Asking great questions during an interview is a one way to show you are passionate and engaged. If you are not sure about what to ask, try one of the questions recommended by Yvette McKenzie, content strategist at Open Colleges.
Of particular note on McKenzie’s list is the question, “What are the organization’s plans for the next five years, and how does this role fit in?” This is an excellent question for a couple of reasons. First, it shows your interest in the long-term success of the company. Second, it demonstrates that you would like to stay in the role for a long time. This is important to startups: They can’t afford much turnover, especially in the early stages.
7. Be Sure to Follow Up
A quick thank-you email a few hours after the interview shows you are both polite and truly interested in the job. Following up is also a sign of determination, a quality especially valued by entrepreneurs.
Getting a job at a startup you love can be a life-changing experience. If you want to ditch the corporate world for a more satisfying career path, these simple steps will help you secure that dream job.
Maria Onzain is a digital marketing expert who writes about careers, education, ed. tech, and life hacks.