On the 6th of October over 140 people gathered to Startup Sauna to listen to some advice on how to apply to a startup. So, you want to work at a startup? was the biggest event in the history of Startup Life. We want to thank our amaizing guest speakers Linda, Krista and Antti, as well as all of you who were there with us. Thank you all for making it happen!
Didn’t make it to the event? No worries! We have picked out the best points and advice from all the three speeches, and compiled it into a blog post for you to read an enjoy! Also, stay tuned, because there’s another event coming up in the spring!
Here we go:
Finding the right startup
First of all, startups are not all similar to each other. The characteristics of a startup affect its recruitment and the working environment it hosts, so before you apply, you should do your research on the startups to which you wish to apply.
There are some things you should look into when researching a startup:
1. Get a hold of the startup’s vision: what is the problem the startup is trying to solve? Does the vision inspire you? The startups want to hire people who are inspired by their vision, and there’s no fooling them.
2. One of the most important things you need to know about a startup is their product. Before you apply, test the product yourself, or get in contact with someone who uses it. Get to know the technicalities, gather feedback, and sketch up ideas for improvements.
3. It’s also important to be aware of the economic situation of the startup you’re about to apply to. How much funding do they have, when have they raised the last round, and also, are they profitable? Answering these questions gives you a picture of the business, where it stands and where it’s going, and how quickly.
4. Startups are made of people. Who will you be working under, and who will be your co-workers? Can you see yourself working with those people? Social media stalking is completely OK and even advisable at this point, and it is an incredibly useful way to get to know the startup inside out.
5. Startups, as all companies, have customers and competitors, and it’s important to have an insight on how they deal with them. Who are their customers? Do they have an established customer base? Are they paying customers? How do they market themselves to get more customers? Also, who are their competitors? What role do they have in their field of industry? Are they a leader, a challenger or an underdog?
Once you have found your perfect startup, you can begin to draft an application.
Applying to a startup job is an exercise in value-based selling. It’s not just about your skills, but about understanding what the startup’s challenges are, and what you can do to help them overcome them. In your application you need to show that you understand the present situation of the startup as well as the future it is aiming for, and showcase what you can do to get the startup from the present to the desired future.
Don’t make them read your resume and cover letter where you tell how hardworking and ambitious you are and how many languages you can speak. Startups get flooded with such applications and the cruel fact is that they are looking for the reason to say ‘no’. Your job is to convince them to say ‘yes’.
Things you can do to prove you are candidate worthy of a ‘yes’:
BUILD AND CREATE : Be curious about something on a deep level. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the product, but that doesn’t hurt either. To showcase your curiosity and appetite for learning to the startup – build a trail. Collect a vast repository of projects to show – big and small, interesting and boring, analytical and creative.
THINK ALOUD: When presented with a problem (in an interview, for example), break it into smaller pieces. In a startup, you cannot simply write a power point and show how you have drafted a massive, elusive strategy. Solving problems in a startup means you have to be able to be concise and concrete.
LEVEL UP: There is no career ladder anymore, only a career jungle. No one will take your hand and guide you through your experiences in a startup – you are in charge of your own success. In order to have an edge, you must be a mechanic and understand how things work. If you don’t understand something, figure it out. Remember also, that in the beginning, a lot of what you do is less than stellar, and you can only get better by doing.
READ: Startups are often quite open about their recruiting processes. If you want to get hired, you need to figure out what the people hiring you are thinking. There is a lot of good material available online. You can start with these, for example: ‘The art, science and labor of recruiting’ by Vinod Khosla or ‘Finding Great Developers’ by Joel Spolsky.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t land the exact startup job you wanted. It may be that your skill level was excellent, but you just weren’t a perfect fit for the company’s culture. You will be the talent another startup is looking for.
Tips given by Linda Liukas, Krista Kauppinen and Antti Karvanen, compiled by Startup Life.