4 steps to find a great startup job

Working at a good startup is a life changing experience. I am an example of that.

I started my career at Infosys and had never thought about entrepreneurship earlier. But when I joined a startup after spending 14 months at Infosys – I discovered what I really wanted to do in my life. The energy, the purpose & the job satisfaction was such that I ended up working for 3 more startups before starting my own.

If you too are looking to get a job at a good startup in 2017,  here is a general action plan for you.

Why do you want to join a startup?

There are various reasons – you need to know yours. Is it learning, promotion, job switch or money?

Knowing this is important to focus your job search correctly. Else you will be just wasting your – and the startups’ – time.

Step 1: Do your homework

  • You will likely have one shot at each startup. So prepare well. Unlike a big MNC where you can “fake it”, it’s hard to fool a startup. They check their practical knowledge and will see through any false claims.
  • Whatever is your area – tech, design, marketing or whatever – you need to actually know stuff. Bookish knowledge won’t impress the startups so make sure you have tried to implement things. If you’re an engineer – build applications and put them up on GitHub, if you’re a designer, upload your portfolio on Behance. Hope you got the drift.

Step 2: Find the startups that are hiring

This part is actually the easiest. Check out CutShort or AngelList to find the startups that are hiring.

But hey – don’t apply just yet. You will need to customize your pitch to each startup if you want to hear back from them in hours, not months.

Step 3: Make personalized applications

Yes, it’s unfortunate but startups get hundreds of half-hearted, irrelevant applications every day. (As an aside – this is why we built CutShort – to deliver a more personalized experience to job seekers and employers).

So the only way you will get noticed is by customizing your approach for each startup. Here are some pointers:

  • Study their website carefully – their product, their team, investors and so on.
  • Try their products- Most products have a demo or free trials these days. Check them out and note down your observations. What did you like? What can be improved?
  • Make yourself useful – Here’s a secret – no matter how big a startup is – it’s always facing a resource crunch. Offer to help them solve a specific problem you noticed in the steps 1 and 2 above. It’s hard for them to say no – if you have already researched them and offering to be helpful.

Here is a great example of personalized messaged I received recently:

Hi Nikunj

I believe CutShort has entrepreneurship in its DNA. A start-up yourself, you connect aspiring professionals with other start-ups. All this requires people who are proactive, keen on thinking out of the box and hungry for growth – personal, professional and organisation. That is the same attitude with which I always work.

Second, I’m a fast learner. A newly set up company like yours needs open-minded individuals who are eager to learn and grow so that they can go beyond the job description to truly add value. I think I can do just that.

Third, I’m not afraid to try new things. Only risk begets reward. You took a risk when establishing SocialHelpouts, and it’s been rewarding.

Fourth, I have an eye for detail which is what you would expect from a content marketer. For instance, did you know that one of the questions on your FAQ page has a missing ‘v’, making it ‘improe’ instead of ‘improve’?

Step 4: Give your best and be professional in interviews

If you have followed all the steps above, then you should have some startups interested in you.

Now is the time to nail it. Most startups these days will give you tests, exercises or call you for interviews. While your success will largely depend on your capability, here are some tips to not screw-up:

  1. Be punctual: Don’t show up late or miss the telephonic calls. 10 am means 10, not 10.10.
  2. Honor your commitments: Don’t commit if you can’t complete an assignment. If you have a genuine problem, set the expectations well ahead. Nothing turns off startups than seeing people who don’t fulfill their commitments.
  3. Be professional: This sounds stupid – but I see this all the time. If you have decided to not consider a startup anymore – just tell them politely. Not responding to emails or not picking up phone is immature and unprofessional. Remember – the startup world is small – you may run into the hiring manager sometime somewhere soon.

Hope this will help you find a great job at a good startup. Do share your experience in comments so that we can improve this post.

All the best!