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How To Land A Startup Job: 20 Tips On Getting Hired

Working at a startup company is nothing like working for a large corporate company. There is no downtime, everything is new and you have to be committed to the company.

We reached out to industry experts to find out how you can land a job at a startup company. Here is what they said…

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#1 Superhero Stories

Whether interviewing with a startup or simply talking with a founder at an event, tell them your superhero stories, not your qualifications. Tell them about a situation where you were the Superman and Wonder Woman that helped accomplish something related to what they're looking for or where you helped a leader get it done. People want to hear stories and journeys, not simply your resume.

Contributors: Kurt Uhlir from Ethereal Innovations

76 points
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#2 Be Yourself

Startups don't want your run-of-the-mill candidates they want hires that can think outside of the box. At Amify, one of our core values is to be the extraordinary you, because we know that monotony does not drive innovation. So when interviewing for a startup, don't be afraid to be yourself. A startup requires a certain level of entrepreneurial spirit from every member of the team; so take a risk, make a proposal, and run with it.

Contributors: Jeremy Brandt Vorel from GoAmify

37 points
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#3 Lab Mindset

One of the most important qualities that an applicant needs to have in a startup environment is a lab mindset or in other words a desire to build or optimize processes. If you want to apply for a role in a startup, but you haven't had this experience professionally don't let that stop you! You can also demonstrate that you have this quality through your hobbies or interests outside of the work place.

Perhaps you were responsible for project managing a new festival in your fraternity, or you volunteered your time to lead a fundraising group? Be creative with your rationale in cover letter and demonstrate your ability to think outside of the box.

Contributors: Annelies Den Boer from Speakap

33 points
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#5 Be Scrappy

Throughout every hiring process, there are certain things that I look for in an applicant. To work at a startup, you need to be scrappy. Typically, startups  are small, so an applicant needs to be able to wear multiple hats. Even if your training is in communication, you have to also be willing to work in sales or social media or something else entirely. Also, make it clear in your application and interview that you’re intrinsically motivated. To be successful at a startup, you often have to direct yourself and keep yourself on task. Above all else, educate yourself on the startup before going into the interview. Make sure you know the ins and outs of the company and understand their brand and how you might contribute to it.

Contributors: Andrew Glantz from GiftAMeal

#6 Don’t Be Afraid To Submit An Application

Read the job posting carefully, but don't be afraid to submit an application if you think you're a bit under-qualified. In our industry, a lot of blockchain startups are submitting job postings for developers with 10 years of blockchain coding experience. The problem with that is most blockchain programming languages have only been around for less than 5 years! Assume that sometimes the people making the posting may not be 100% knowledgeable about the technical expertise they are looking for. Don't disqualify yourself just because you don't exactly fit the specifications in the posting!

Contributors: Steve Gow from Adappcity Inc. Creator of UppstArt

#7 Know The Culture

Check out the startup's website, pay attention to their lobby and watch how they manage their interviews both in writing and in person. How they show up defines an important and valuable piece of their sweet spot and the spirit of who they are and they are always proud of it.

Contributors: Kristin Halpin Perry from Veraz Consulting

#9 Wow Them With Actionable Suggestions

If you're looking to get hired by a startup either as a consultant or an employee you need to show that you understand the business and how to improve it. Do your homework and come up with 12 items in your area of expertise that can be improved. Then create an action plan for solving the problems you've identified, complete with an explanation of why you are uniquely qualified to implement those solutions.

This approach will position you as a knowledgeable expert who is capable of identifying and solving problems on your own an essential skill for a member of a dynamic startup team.

Contributors: Jackson Carpenter from JacksonCarpenter

#10 Network

Work on building up a great network of contacts. Startups often hire people based on recommendations from friends and colleagues, so the more friends you can make in the world of business, the better. This is a tried and tested method of getting your foot in the door; ask your contacts if they know X-person and if they are hiring.

You should also be persistent. If you want a job with a certain company as a graphic designer, keep sending them examples of your work. It’s best to do this through the mail rather than email; they are much more likely to really pay attention to what you are sending them if it’s a physical copy. Enclose a letter saying you would love their opinion on your work and make sure you include your name and address.

Don’t be annoying but sending one sample a month or so has the potential to pay off. It shows the startup that you are passionate about what you do and really value their opinion – a sure sign of admiration and respect for them.

Contributors: Murat Evin from The London School of MakeUp

#11 Show Your Quirks Proudly

In my final interview with my current company, I talked to my (now) boss about how I play Dungeons and Dragons, and we instantly bonded over that as a common interest. It was sheer coincidence that we are both hardcore nerds, but it helps to show some of your personal quirks and interests. Most startups are run much differently than a traditional corporation-like business. You shouldn't be afraid to be yourself.

Contributors: Jessica McCune from Sellozo

#14 It’s 2018 Baby

To get the attention of an CEO use trending keywords in your application like unicorn, SaaS, growth. Quote Jason Lemkin, Christoph Janz, Andrew Chen. But be relevant to the industry you're looking in. Avoid the likes of fake news, GOAT, YOLO, FOMO, salty, lit, low key, etc. You name it.

Complete some of Y Combinator's and/or HubSpot's free online courses. 2018 is all about MOOCs and microlearning. Show your desire to learn new stuff differently.

Use rich media tools like PowToon, Infogram to create your animated application and stand out. Or you can record yourself with the camera, and pitch the company by video introduction.

Contributors: Norberts Erts from CakeHR

#15 Plan

Before: Study the company using all possible resources. Note anything unusual (both positive and negative.) you may have noticed. Get excited at all the possibilities of your new career.

Apply: Go through their hiring process. Dot the I's and cross the T's. Get in the door.

Interview: Get a tour of the facility. Spend a day if possible. Ask lots of questions. Interview them. Tell them why you belong there and how you can help push the startup forward. Have real ideas.

Be open to doing whatever it takes (Startups require that you be open and flexible in doing whatever needs to be done for the company's benefit. Not just

what you are applying for. The infrastructure of the business probably does not have employees in all the normal positions, so you need to be ready to fill these gaps even if out of your comfort zone.)

Ask What is it going to take for me to work here? Be sincere.

After: Send thank you letter and inquire about returning to find out more.

Got it: Jump for joy when you get the job offer.

Contributors: John Burkhauser from Bolt On Technology

#16 Personal Achievement Is King

Considering the very nature of a startup is generally doing something that hasn't already been done, it would be incredibly difficult to find someone with the exact skills needed. So in order to gauge whether someone is suitable or not, we turn to their own personal achievements.

We're not necessarily looking at someone who was handed a promotion for doing a good job. Instead, we're looking for people who have worked hard on a personal level and can show a good example of personal growth. There are a number of ways this can be represented, even outside the office. A good example would be someone learning a second language, particularly native English speakers. This is a fantastic example of personal drive and desire to push yourself to be a better person.

If you can convey that drive and desire in an interview then there's a good chance we'll actually believe you when you say you have passion and desire to do a great job in our company too.

Contributors: Jon Hayes from Authority Hacker

#18 Willingness To Learn

There is nothing worse than encountering someone who believes they know everything. Nobody knows everything about a given subject. Not even us in our own field of work.

Being able to identify that and having the correct attitude towards learning is extremely important. We can tell you how to do a job, that's not a problem. What we want to see is how you'll take the knowledge and run with it. If there's a better way to do something we want you to be able to work that out because you'll be the one working in that area on a daily basis. Your input will be far more valuable than ours here and we understand that.

A common question we'll ask is Are you a leader or a follower?. The fact is, this is somewhat of a trick question. We want people who are capable of doing both. It's when people take it to the extreme that alarm bells are raised. When someone says with absolute certainty they are a leader and go on to boast about their achievements and perfection we start to question whether we can trust them to own up to their mistakes. We are all human and mistakes happen. We don't want people to hide things when they go wrong as this is incredibly damaging to our business. Instead, we want someone who is willing to admit they aren't perfect and can work through things as a team to solve issues.

Contributors: Jon Hayes from Authority Hacker

#19 Show Off Your Breadth of Knowledge

An important aspect of working at a startup is that you need a broad range of knowledge. One of the most exciting aspects of working for a startup is that you will have a lot of opportunities to wear multiple hats. Having the confidence to solve new challenges that you have not previously faced is essential. You need to conduct research to really understand the market you're in. This will help you build the confidence needed by studying your market, audience, and competitors. You won't be an expert right away, but you'll be able to build a foundation of knowledge needed to handle the uncertainty and roadblocks you may encounter, which is essential to convey in the interview.

Contributors: Britt Armour from Kibii

#20 Be Early To The Interview

In person meetings. This can be one or a series of multitudes over a span of a few weeks. Always show up 15 minutes early. Bring pen and a small, fresh notebook.

Dress nicely but gauge the culture and situation. If it's a fintech startup where you notice after creeping on instagram that the company comes to work in button downs and slacks with dress shoes and no visible tattoos, don't roll in wearing cut offs and sandals showing off your upper arm sleeve.

Even if the startup has team members that come to work with holes in their jeans, nose rings, and band tee shirts, that is their culture and you are

trying to make a best first impression. Dress a level up, but then it's probably a good idea to not show up in a custom tailored suit. Gauge the situation.

Contributors: Cindy Mallory from JAKT

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Written by Nathaniel Fried

Co-founder of Fupping. Busy churning out content and building an empire.