How to Land a Job the Startup Way

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It’s the morning after the lay-off. Where do you start your job search? Most likely, you sent out status updates to your networks and now your inbox is filling up with leads, recruiters and job searching tools. A moment of reflection sets in, thinking it might be best to work on that resume first. You quickly dismiss the thought and rush a resume over to everyone.

With a sense of great accomplishment, you sit back, relax and think this isn’t so bad.  Before you know it, you are daydreaming best tactics and strategies to negotiate job offers. There’s someone knocking at the door and it’s your “Reality Check” that was delivered FedEx. Here is actually how this scenario plays out after your rushed updated resume reaches its destination:  1) Resume arrives with grammar and/or spelling errors; and my personal all-time favorite is 2) You receive a call from the company that you have not researched or even read the job description.

Now that you know exactly what you should NOT do to get started, let’s launch your job search the right way: startup style in 3 steps!

1. Resume / Online Profiles

Employers Google their candidates.  Feel free to comment on this topic, it’s not the focus of this post, it’s just a fact.  For quite some time, there are leading publications discussing how social media is replacing the traditional resume.  Not convinced on the power of your online profile? Sorry, game over. It’s that simple. It’s proven employers are looking for that personal branding message and your passion.

You will still need a traditional resume. Less is more and the recommended format is dependent on your audience. After you update your resume, have multiple friends or family help you to proofread and check for grammar and spelling mistakes.  Do this multiple times!  Never send out the document until you are absolutely confident it is perfect.  Fact: you only get one chance to make your first impression.

2. Research Company/Job Descriptions

A highly likely first question any interviewer will ask you is, “What does our company do?”  You would be amazed at the number of candidates who have no clue.  If you are not prepared to discuss the company, products, recent press, then most likely you will not hear about next steps in the interview process.

Take plenty of time to research the company on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and of course their website. You will find so many gems of information on all of these resources! The company culture is often described in detail, the blog will often feature employee contributions, and the job description tells you exactly what you need to know to fit for the job. This information will also tell you what the teams are working on, what they hope to work on in the future, long term goals for the products, and most importantly the passion of the team.

Do you fit after reading all of that? Did you check some of the employee’s LinkedIn profiles? Are you confident this is the right job for you? If you answered yes to all of those questions, now is the right time to apply. Pay attention to the instructions on the website on how to apply for the job! Some companies are very specific and disregarding those directions, no matter how great of a fit you are, can send your resume straight to the “no next steps” category.

3. Prepare for Interview

All the work you did in the first two steps paid off! You have been contacted by the company to schedule first steps in their interview process. Most of the time this is done by phone or Skype with their internal recruiter or directly with the hiring manager. Either way, all the research you did in the previous step is not enough.  Now you need to prepare questions. Questions prepared in advance demonstrate a candidate’s interest in the job and the company. Discount this as a knock-out factor and you will quickly find yourself in receipt of a very nice thank-you-but-no-thanks note.

When scheduling a phone interview, keep in mind that you will need to be in a place that allows for the best reception and low background noise.  If you are scheduled for a Skype call, I recommend practicing with a friend to check on background and placement of the computer screen.  If the company is skipping the phone interview and has you scheduled for an on-site, then it’s time to dress to impress!  I get this question all the time “What should I wear to the interview?”  That’s the easy part!  Show up well-groomed and most of the time business casual is your best option.  However, if you are interviewing with a more traditional culture then opt for the dark suit.

Wait! Don’t think that just because you have the right outfit you are ready for the on-site visit.  When you arrive to the company, keep in mind that everyone you meet is part of the interview process.  This includes the person that greeted you at the door! Don’t forget to turn off your phone and bring extra copies of your resume along with a small pad to write notes.  Even if you are just writing down the names of the interviewers, the pad is a small detail that reflects you came to the meeting prepared and ready to work!  Plus, I guarantee that if you are meeting teams and participating in panel interviews, you will forget the names of everyone after you leave.

The on-site interview is over.  Now it’s time for follow-up!  The best thank you note is short and simply thanks the company for their time.  This note is a reflection of your work and needs to be checked as carefully as your resume for grammar and spelling errors.  How many thank you notes have I received over the years with mistakes?  More than you think!

Lastly, don’t forget to check for companies that sponsor events or even open their doors for candidates to explore their culture on-site.  In fact, our team loves to meet new people and has recently started to open their board games and beer night to the public.  Stop by, say hello and bring a friend!  Best of luck on your job search!


Byline: Paula has over a decade of corporate and startup recruiting experience, and her head-hunting prowess puts Mila Kunis’s to shame. Despite less than stellar Beirut skills, she’s persuaded many an ultra-choosy developer to sign dotted lines at AisleBuyer, Cengage, and State Street. Paula holds a BS in Business from Purdue and an MBA from Temple University in Human Resources Management. You can discourse with her about tech, jobs, Boston startups, and where the thrain meet on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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