Getting a job at a startup is not a straight ahead process. There really are secrets to how to do this.
I know this from running startups but also because this month marks the three year anniversary of Inside Startups. When we started three years ago we (Ali Nicolas and Dan Porter) were working at OMGPOP with a very clear mission. People would ask us how they could find a job at a startup. Usually, they didn’t really know how to begin. At the same time, whenever we posted jobs for OMGPOP, we would be underwhelmed by the candidates.
How could so many people be interested in working in a startup but not find or apply to the jobs we were posting at our startup? We decided to solve this with the simplest approach possible.
Every Saturday Ali sends out the official Inside Startups email with a list of jobs we have sourced. All the jobs are formatted exactly the same, with need to know information, and oftentimes our subscribers see the jobs first in our mailing. We also have a website (www.insidestartups.org) that lists startup companies from around the world, and we hold live events where we invite NYC’s best startups to present and answer questions in a small group format. You can sign up for the newsletter on the website.
This simple goal of enabling more people to find jobs at startups has helped us grow, and on our three year anniversary we are proud to say we have found jobs for hundreds of folks. Our mailing list in New York City alone has organically grown to reach over 25,000 people. On our anniversary, we decided to share the following pro tips with you:
5 Insider Tips to Break Into Startups
Of course you should subscribe to our free newsletter and others as well. And don’t subscribe the week you decide you want a job. It’s a lot of luck and timing and educating yourself about the market, so give yourself at least six months lead time.
2) Understand what you do.
The more focus on your skill set and what the company needs, the more luck you will have. At all startups where I have worked, I have turned down more people for the sole reason that it wasn’t clear exactly what they wanted to do. If I am looking to hire a product person, then it could mean a number of really different things. I could want someone to focus on UX or UI, or I could want someone who is a creative market driven product designer, or I could need someone who is mostly focused on making decisions based on analytics. Those are three different people all under the job description of product. Figure out which one I want and which one best describes you. And don’t say that you can do all of them, because no human has that diverse a range of skills.
3) Use the product.
This sounds like a pretty dumb suggestion, but at OMGPOP I used to start off by asking people their favorite game on our site. More than half couldn’t answer and many more played only one game and couldn’t remember the name of the game they played. True. And lame. Every startup is passionate about their product(s). Don’t bother writing an intro email or showing up for an interview if you aren’t passionate as well. And if you are super pro, have a great question handy or even an idea.
4) Show off your personality.
Startup teams are typically pretty small. And we want to hire people we like. I love music and I love interviewing people who play and love music. It’s not hard to learn about the people who work at the company in advance. If it looks like your personality is a good fit from what you know, then show it.
5) You can get to the top.
CEOs and company leaders for startups always speak at various events and give classes and so forth. You would be crazy if you didn’t determine where you want to work and find a way to see an executive speak. You can often chat with them afterwards. Even if you can’t speak with them afterwards, what you learn from that speech will give you an advantage over many other candidates applying for the same role. Sending emails to email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org can sometimes work but not like sending an email to the CEO saying, “I heard you speak and loved the story about your first funding. I’d love to work for you. Do you have 5 minutes?”
Sometimes it is the little things. With these simple tips you should be able to increase your odds of finding the startup job of your dreams. Good luck!