Working at a startup is quite different from working a 9-to-5 job at a corporate entity. Unlike corporate jobs where your roles are extremely defined, startup roles can be all over the place. This is why working at a startup is not for everyone. You should be a person who can thrive in chaos and be capable of multitasking in order to survive the first year at a startup.
Due to the expectations of the startup environment, startup recruiters look for skillsets that are often not in sync with what is expected at a corporate job. Startups look for applicants who are passionate about the technology or the industry that they work in, and do not necessarily want candidates who have the best GPAs in relevant courses. Also, since startups are often bootstrapped, recruiters look for the smartest candidates, not necessarily those who have graduated from the Ivy leagues.
This makes applying for startups tricky. How do you demonstrate your passion and smartness to a startup recruiter? Here are a few tips to make your resume attractive to a startup recruiter.
Less Theory – More Practical
Startups want candidates who are passionate about the technology they are working on. This means people who go beyond coursework to tinker with the technology and tools themselves. Are you interested in working on robotics? Your hobbies should include building tiny robots in your free time. Interested in working for an internet startup? You must have built and run your own websites.
This may seem like too much work to just get a job. But the point is that only one in a dozen startups even survives beyond the first year. The number of startups that actually grow to make millions in revenues are extremely small. Such startups have limited openings and there are always candidates with such practical exposure waiting to work at these startups. Your job application may stand no chance against someone who has been building robots since they were twelve.
Corporate jobs often come with an elaborate onboarding process that trains the new recruits on the various aspects of the job as well as the culture of the corporation. Unfortunately, startups do not have the bandwidth to onboard their new employees. In effect, you are expected to hit the ground running. Internships are a great way to demonstrate this ability to your startup employers. Startups find a candidate who has successfully interned at several businesses in the industry quite attractive to the position they are filling in.
Experience with Technology
Unlike what you are taught at schools, you don’t have to build each and every tool and product from scratch in a real business. Startups routinely make use of third party tools and services to reduce the turnaround time for their various projects. A candidate who has experience using various tools and technologies can help the organization find quick ways to solve a problem. Start with immersing yourself in technology tools that are commonplace across all industries — this includes working on various project management tools. It also helps to know what tools are used in an agile work environment and what’s popular in Scrum. Once you are familiar with this, you may go ahead and identify the various web frameworks and coding platform tools that are unique to the startups that you are applying for.
Most technologies and platforms in the market today are SaaS based and offer free trials to their customers. This makes it easy to sign up and test out the product. Not only does this help immerse you in the startup world, but it also helps in your interview since you could demonstrate the depth of your knowledge of the product.
At the end of the day, your resume needs to reflect more than your goal of securing a job at a startup. You must also realize that the reason startups hire someone with hands-on experience is because the work at such organizations can be brutal. As an applicant, you must be ready to enjoy such a work culture that expects you to handle multiple challenges at the same time. In short, you must really be obsessed with the technology and industry you are applying to in order to survive the startup lifestyle.