Working at a startup company can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Not only do you have the opportunity to be a part of a small, dynamic team, but you also have the chance to make a big impact on the overall success as the company grows. If you've decided not to follow the traditional route, joining a more established company, but instead you're looking to land your first job at a startup, it's important to approach the process with the right mindset and strategy. Here are some tips to help you get started:
Start by learning as much as you can about the startup company you're interested in. Look at their website, read about their products or services, and get a sense of their company culture - their careers page and job descriptions are a good place to start. Many startups and tech companies will also get a mention in the startup news when they close a funding round, which will contain interesting info and details of decision makers. This will not only help you tailor your application to the company's specific needs, but it will also give you a better idea of whether or not the company is a good fit for you.
Connecting with people who work at or have connections to the startup you're interested in can be a great way to learn about job openings and get your foot in the door. It's a good idea to connect with startup founders, the leadership team and any early employees you can find on LinkedIn. Attend industry events, join relevant online groups or forums, and reach out to your professional network to see if anyone knows of any opportunities at the company. Try and set up general conversations to better understand their business model, company culture and decide if it's the right startup environment for you. Most startups are happy to have this type of conversation, so it's always worth reaching out.
Tailor your CV and include a cover note: Your CV should highlight your relevant skills and experiences, and demonstrate how you can contribute to the startup's success. Be specific about your achievements and how they align with both the company and the job description. It's important to show you understand the realities of joining an early stage company and how it's really not about bean bags and table tennis. You'll need to show you understand startup employees often work long hours, are required to work magic with limited resources and often have to quickly learn new technical skills outside of their job description (e.g. data analysis - a skill every early employee should learn, regardless of job titles, even at a basic level). You'll also need to show you understand the upside of joining a company in the earliest stages; a great learning opportunity, more freedom, a compensation package with meaningful stock options and the ability to make a real impact on the bigger picture, often within the first week. A cover note is a great way to do this, as long as you keep it short at make sure it's targeted at the specific person you want to speak with, whether that's a co-founder, hiring manager or internal recruiter.
Startup companies often have a more casual and relaxed interview process compared to larger companies, but it's still important to come prepared. Research the company and its products or services, but keep in mind that if you're interviewing with a particularly early stage startup, information might be sparse. Practice common interview questions, and come up with specific examples of how you can contribute to the team with your own valuable experience. Startups hire people generally based on culture fit just as much as skills and experience. With this in mind, it's a good idea to understand the company values to make sure these align with your own, as well as preparing examples to show off your experience. Above all, you'll want to prepare good questions as asking great questions, which you can't easily find the answer to online or which really make the decision maker think, will make you really stand out in a competitive hiring process.
Don't be afraid to take initiative and show your enthusiasm for the company. If you can't find an open position that fits your skills and experience, consider reaching out to the company, particularly a co-founder, to express your interest in working with them and see if there are any opportunities available now or in the near future. Most startups will have a 6-12 month hiring plan, even in the early stages, so this can be a great way to secure your next job.
Securing your first job at a start up can be a competitive process, but with the right preparation and a proactive approach, you can increase your chances of landing your dream job. Don't be discouraged if you don't get the job on your first try – keep networking, building your skills, and applying to new opportunities, and eventually you'll find yourself in your next job, working at a startup,