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How to Land a Job at a Startup

How to Land a Job at a Startup

So, you’ve checked out our Startup vs Corporate blog post and decided the startup life is for you. But, how do you actually get a job at a startup? It’s not often that you see these jobs advertised on Indeed, so it can be difficult to know where to begin. There are a few key resources that can help you secure a job at the startup of your dreams!

Method #1: AngelList

I can’t speak highly enough of this website, because it’s actually how I got my job at ClickUp! AngelList is by far the easiest way to land a job at a startup and getting started is super simple! You just upload your resume, input your skills and what type of job you’re looking for, pick your ideal location, and express your interest in a couple of companies that you could envision yourself at (if you’re not sure how to make your resume stand out, check out Venngage’s Resume Maker)! The process of applying to a job on AngelList is very similar to getting started on Indeed or LinkedIn, but there is one key difference: every company you see on AngelList is a startup.

Another difference is that startups are normally looking to hire now, as small companies have an immediate need to fill their openings; they simply don’t have enough employees to cover openings through a long hiring process. Say goodbye to waiting weeks on end to hear if you got another interview or got a job. Startups will normally let you know right away, which I think is awesome! The key takeaway here is that you shouldn’t apply to jobs at startups until you are ready to start working. This is a plus if you’ve just graduated college and forgot to look for a job senior year. Big corporations have probably already filled their openings for recent grads, but there’s plenty of startups looking to hire right now!

Another great thing about AngelList is that companies can express their interest in you, and trust me, plenty of companies will! This is great because it gives you the time to vet a company before you decide to apply. Once you “match” with a company you are essentially guaranteed a phone interview, so it’s an excellent way to get plenty of information about a company. I had one week where I had 7 different phone interviews, and I felt like I really had the ability to decide for myself which companies I wanted to move forward with. I didn’t have to accept interviews out of desperation, and this was an awesome feeling!

In my opinion, AngelList is the perfect example of a company that understands the service they provide and knows how to deliver results to their users. I’ve explored a lot of shiny job-hunting websites in my day where I was asked to create sound bytes and diverse portfolios for every job I applied to. In the end, none of these sites led to promising opportunities, and they required a good amount of busy work just to get started. With AngelList, I was able to quickly develop a profile, upload a resume, and connect directly with hiring managers at a variety of startups.

On Indeed, I often noticed that I would apply to a company and never hear anything back– this doesn’t happen on AngelList! If you express interest in a company, you will hear back very quickly whether or not they are interested in you as well. I only had one instance where a match “expired” because the company took too long to respond, so this was a total rarity.

Tips for AngelList:

  • Do your research before you have any kind of interaction with a company. Startups are normally very in-touch with their product and message, and it’s important to them that you do your research. For example, if you are interviewing at ClickUp (or any other company with a platform) I highly suggest you play around with the platform prior to your interview and get a basic idea of what the company does. They will definitely take note of this and it will help you be more genuine during your interview. Use all resources possible to find out more about the company. You should check out their website, social media, LinkedIn, online reviews, and the product itself. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to crush your interview and get the job!
  • Be ready to explain how you can be an asset to the company, and don’t just rely on your education or experience to prove this! From my experience, startups are a lot more interested in what you can do rather than where you went to school or have worked in the past. If you went to school for design and can create wonderful websites– great! But be ready to prove that during your interview, and don’t expect your degree to speak for itself.
  • Make sure the companies you apply to have been active on AngelList recently. Sometimes they haven’t been active in months, and these are the companies that are unlikely to get back to you.
  • You can see how many people have applied to the companies in the past week– utilize this feature! As you might expect, you are far more likely to get hired at a company that has had fewer applicants recently. However, be wary of the fact that the number shown is for all job postings across the company. If a startup has many jobs listed, there may be fewer applicants than you think for the particular position you’re interested in.
  • This was touched on earlier, but don’t apply to jobs until you’re ready (or almost ready) to start working. It’s rare that you’ll find a startup that isn’t looking to hire immediately, and you might let opportunities slip away if you aren’t able to start working once hired. AngelList is not the place to go September of your senior year if you are looking to secure a job for June. If you’re super interested in a company, it is likely that they will have new openings when you’re ready to apply. A successful startup is always growing, and growth means new job opportunities.

Method #2: LinkedIn/ Connections

As is true for any company, startups fill many of their openings through word of mouth. If you have a friend or acquaintance who is loving their job at a startup, don’t hesitate to ask them for a referral. They will probably be happy to do so and can give you insider info on what it’s really like to work there.

Tips for LinkedIn Connections:

  • Don’t expect your connection to do all the work for you. You still need to be qualified for the job and do your research. You’ll put your referral in a weird place if you apply for a job and do a bad job interviewing. Getting referred should give you even more motivation to crush your interview.
  • Feel free to reach out to a connection just to find out more about their job. They’ll have you in mind in the future even if the company is not hiring right now.
  • Sign up for the LinkedIn premium plan free trial! This is the absolute best way to expand your job hunting horizons. Your profile will be accessible by more important people in the startup world, and you’ll be able to apply for a wider variety of positions than you would on the free plan. Plus, the trial is on the longer side (30 days), so you’ll have plenty of time to bust out some apps.


Method #3: Direct Apply

If you know exactly which startup you want to work for, an excellent method of choice is directly applying through their website. Many hiring managers will be impressed by this because it shows that you sought out their company and became interested in your own. Be ready to explain why this startup is so interesting to you.

Tips for Directly Applying:

  • You should actually be passionate about the company you’re applying for. This method takes a lot of work and research so only do this if you’re extra excited about a company.
  • If you can find the contact info for the hiring manager, reach out to him or her directly and introduce yourself. The company may not be advertising for the type of position you want, but might still have a need. At the very least, reaching out will allow you to form a connection and get on the hiring manager’s radar should a need arise for the type of position you want.

General Tips for Startup Job Hunting

  • Be ready to “wear a lot of hats”. At most jobs, you will be doing the same thing every day and know exactly what you’re getting into. To be a valuable startup employee, you have to be ready to take on many roles. Little hobbies will become actual aspects of your job. For example, I’ve always loved social media personally, but ClickUp has given me the opportunity to do social media professionally. It’s great getting to work on things you actually love to do, while still growing professionally.
  • Don’t lie about your skills in interviews! This is important for any company, but especially at a startup. Startups are “quick to hire, quick to fire”, so don’t pretend to have a skill just to get a job.
  • A lot of the typical things you worry about in an interview, such as wearing the perfect attire, are not a huge deal for startups. Most startups allow casual dress day today, so your clothing is not what you should stress about the day of your interview! It’s so much more important to focus on knowing the company and fine-tuning your best skills so you’re ready to show them off.
  • Make sure you’re ready to work at a startup. There are a lot of unique characteristics you should check for in yourself before you decide to work at any startup. One of the biggest ones is that you need to be a self-starter. There’s no one at a startup to hold your hand every day. You have to be willing to do things for yourself and learn on your own. You also need to be willing to step into a lot of roles depending on what’s needed and not know exactly what you’ll be doing every day.

No matter what type of startup you’re applying to, make sure to do your due diligence before committing to a new position. The world of startups presents plenty of exciting opportunities, but you need to be ready to put in the work and ensure that the company you join is ready and able to further your professional goals.

In the end, I accepted a position at ClickUp for a few key reasons:

  1. I knew that it would provide plenty of challenges and genuinely help me to grow professionally.
  2. ClickUp gave concrete examples of how I could participate in a wide variety of fields within the company.
  3. I felt that the hiring managers not only had a clear roadmap in mind for the company’s growth, but also for their employees’ corresponding development.

Not everything you’ll do at a startup is going to be sunshine and buttercups. Yes, you may get some awesome free snacks and be able to wear jeans every day, but these perks come with an expectation that you will put in good work. Be ready to say “yes” to new tasks, work long hours when needed, and support your colleagues when things get busy. In exchange, you’ll get the incomparable opportunity to help form a company in its infancy, while building a diverse skill set along the way!

Other ClickUp posts you may like on job hunting and interviews:

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