Last Thursday Startup Life organized the event So, you want to work at a startup? for the second time in it’s history, and compiled the experience and wisdom of three alumni of the program to give the audience an idea of what it’s like to apply to work at a startup.
The event brought on stage a business alumna, a design alumna and an engineering alumnus, who have gone through the Startup Life internship program, all the way from applying to the interviews and to landing an internship at a startup overseas. The speakers served the audience with concrete tips and advice on how to find the right startup for yourself, how to make your application appealing to the recruiters, and how to rock your interviews.
The next three blog posts compile the best tips from each keynote.
Our first keynote speaker was our business alumna Nelli Lähteenmäki, one of Startup Life’s first interns. Some of you might recognize her from the cover of the latest Aino magazine. She’s the CEO and Co-Founder of the YOU-app, a micro-action app that was launched for early access last month with none other than the successful celebrity cook Jamie Oliver! Back in 2011, Nelli interned as a Startup Lifer in the sales team of a company called Eucalyptus.
How to make yourself appealing to a startup? – Tips by Nelli Lähteenmäki
Let’s start from the beginning. The first thing that you normally see of a company you’re applying to is their job description. You should read it through very carefully and highlight the most important parts, so that you get a clear picture of what they are looking for in an employee in both skills and attitude. At this point, you should also do your research on the startup itself. What product do they work on? Who are the people working there? What about their vision and values?
This is the time to stop and think: can you truly see yourself working in the company? If the startup doesn’t seem right to you or contradicts your values, do not apply, and move on to other job descriptions. However, if you can see yourself working as a part of their team, do not hesitate, but apply! Before you apply to a startup (or any other company for that matter) you should have familiarized yourself with the requirements of the job description and the needs of the startup. However, it is equally important to do some research on yourself as well. Find out what you are and what you are not in terms of their job description. Figure out your strengths and what you still need to learn or work on.
When writing your application, focusing on answering to the requirements in the job description and addressing the needs of the startup is of paramount importance. The startups are way more interested in hearing how you can bring value to their team and how your skills can be utilized in their work, than reading a generic description of you. A big no-no is to use trite adjectives such as open-minded or hardworking, since they don’t make you stand out from the crowd. Also, resorting to stereotypical expressions makes you seem lazy and uninterested. Spend time and thought on your application, and show why the startup shouldn’t even consider interviewing other applicants. Boldness is good – the American startups are expecting it from you!
Even though your skills in your own field of expertise are playing a very important role in your application, don’t limit yourself to them. Apply as a complete human being, not just as a “sales guy” or an “engineering talent” – the things you do on the side are what differentiate and define you! You can mention things that are not relevant to the job you are applying, if they help show that you are passionate or if they demonstrate a quality in you that is needed for the job. If boldness is one key word in applying to a startup, then passion is the other. They love the passion in San Francisco, so make sure you show it!
Oh, and one more thing. Make sure your web footprint is in place – keep in mind that the companies will look through your internet presence – your linkedin, your twitter, even your instagram!