How to Join a Startup Right Out of School
I didn’t work at a startup after graduating from college, but am currently in the ongoing process of recruiting, reading resumes and conducting phone screens and interviews for Pulse. In the ongoing talent crunch for engineers, graduating students provide a fresh pool of talent for tech companies. I thought it might be helpful to list some tips and things to avoid for graduating students who want to get a job at a startup.
Getting the Word Out
You can look at job posting sites, but the reality is a lot of startups hire by word-of-mouth. The quality of candidates that come in through friends and friends of friends is much higher than the flood of resumes that come in through jobs sites and recruiters. If you are personally recommended to a startup, you already have someone vouching for you.
Let your friends know you’re looking for a new position, and try to go to some new events/meetups with friends and meet more people. Some people are natural connectors. You never know who will pass your name along down the road. Likewise, help connect your friends with the right people.
If you are a recent college grad, make sure your resume is relevant for the job you want. If you’re bringing a bunch of resumes to a career fair, this may mean bringing two versions targeted toward different types of positions. Including some extracurriculars can bring a more personal element to your resume, but try not put everything you’ve ever done all the way back to freshman year of high school. If you work on any relevant projects outside of class (open source, mobile apps, webapps), highlight those–startups want to see that you are self-motivated.
Startups want employees that are self-motivated and don’t need a lot of hand-holding to get things done. Projects outside of class show that you can learn new tools and technologies independently, and that you like to do that. Especially if you don’t have very relevant summer internships that add experience to your resume, having some personal projects can give you a dramatic boost. Develop a small Android or iOS app if you’d like to work in mobile, or contribute to an open source project.
Having an online presence can make a difference. At career fairs and recruiting events, startups leave with a stack of resumes. Even if you had a great conversation with someone at a startup, they may have forgotten to jot down details about you on your resume, and now you’re just a resume in a stack. If you have a twitter account or blog that’s not just about your personal life, but include some insights into your interest in startups, by all means put that on your resume. If you don’t have those, even a simple about.me page can help startups remember who you are.
Preparing for the Interview
Read up on the startup. If you’re interviewing for a position, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with the product. Read the startup’s blog, press about the startup, and think critically about the product. What could be improved? What excites you about it? Startups don’t expect you to have tons of experience straight out of school, but if you’re passionate and driven, that counts for a lot.
Interview/Meeting the Team
I won’t go into too much detail about what to do at interviews, but try to be comfortable. Startups are not just testing your technical ability, but also whether or not they can envision working with you on a daily basis. It’s a two-way process as well–you may only meet them for a few hours, but if you work there full-time, you’ll see a lot of these people; make sure you like the team dynamic and office culture. If you receive positive feedback, but can’t tell from your interview whether you’d like working there, see if you can stop by for lunch and see what the team is like in a more casual setting.
Keep in mind that there are many different types of startups out there. It may take some time to find one for which you’re passionate about the product and excited about the team, but once you do, it’ll be worth it. With everyone looking for engineering talent, it’s an exciting time to be a newly available engineer on the job market. And as always, if you think Pulse might be a good fit for you, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- How Effective are Technical Interviews?
- Work/Life Balance at a Startup — Just a Pipedream?
- Thoughts about School and Work
- 99 Days at a Startup
- Are All Engineers Better Off Joining Startups?