How to Get a Job at a Startup

The startup world is filled with exciting new businesses that can evolve into the household names you know and love. From inspiring entrepreneurs to roll-up-your-sleeves team members, everyone in a startup is driven by big dreams and causes, which makes it an ideal place for people to work. With small teams comes big responsibilities, but the upside of growth and success makes a hard day’s work worth it. In this article, we’re going to share how to get a job at a startup.

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Before Applying to a Startup

1. Be an active customer

Startup founders are very well aware of who their biggest customers are. The people who’ve stayed on the platform the longest and those who pay the highest subscriptions are often recognizable names. Founders who are committed to their business will connect with those customers to build and strengthen relationships with them. If you want to get a job at a startup, you need to be an active customer. By knowing the pain points of the product, what you love about it, and how to use it you’ll be better equipped for a position at a startup. Being an active customer also gives you a competitive advantage over someone who is merely applying for a role without any context. You’ll be better able to speak about the product when you have experience using it. And since most interviews at startups are directly with founders, you’ll be talking about something they’ve personally built, giving you an opportunity to make a meaningful, positive connection with them.

2. Engage with their posts on social media

Before applying for a job at a startup, you’ll want to build yourself up into a recognizable name. You can do this by engaging with their posts on social media. Founders typically manage social media accounts for startups, especially in the very early stages so they’ll notice your regular engagement. You should leave positive comments, respond to the content of the post, and just spread positivity on their social media channels. You don’t want to spam them with posts about how they should hire you or giving critical feedback about the product, being positive is an important character trait of a startup worker. So, use your social media posts to showcase your positive energy and enthusiasm about the brand, its product, and the content they create.

3. Reach out to the founders

You can connect and network with the founders of the company you hope to join. Adding them on social media and engaging with their social media posts is a great way to build relationships with them. You don’t want to go for an ask immediately as it’ll be off-putting to them, especially if they don’t know you. If they’re not currently hiring for the role you want, you just want to spend your time with relationship building. You might send them a direct message telling them what you love about the product and general feel-good feedback. If providing feedback on how to improve the product, write the note gently and in a way to inspire them to be excited about the opportunity of improving it by highlighting a feature or improvement’s potential for growth. If the founder is actively hiring for the role you want, you can send them a positive message telling them you’ve applied and you’re excited about sharing your ideas with them.

4. Have a side hustle

Having an entrepreneurial spirit is crucial in a startup culture. To bond with other founders, you need to be a scrappy kind of person who’s dabbled in entrepreneurship before. If you’re a developer, you might have a bunch of interesting projects or tools you’ve built as passion projects. If you’re a marketer, you might’ve created a blog, marketing campaign, YouTube channel, or something along those lines to showcase your ability to build an audience online. You basically want to tie your entrepreneurial experience to the skill set you’ve built on your own. The difference between a person who has a side hustle and one who has standard 9 to 5 experience boils down to capital. When you have a side hustle, you’re probably bootstrapping it because you don’t have as much money to invest. It requires more creativity and hard work to build something from literally nothing. That’s the difference that makes a potential startup founder hire a job seeker for their startup.

5. Go to startup events

You can attend startup events to potentially network with interesting founders or startup employees. If you search for “startup events” in Google, a list of local events in the startup space will pop up. You might find startup investor events, startup networking events, startup help groups, and things along those lines to help you meet people in the startup community. Go to these events willing to give more than take. Offer to help people with no strings attached for the sake of relationship building and networking. Maybe the person you help knows someone who will hire you down the road, you never know how the path to a job at a startup will end up.

6. Be a self-motivated generalist

A jack of all trades is the ideal hire at a startup. All startups want people who’ll roll up their sleeves and get the work done. They’re looking for people who are excited about learning, growing, and mastering their craft. Specialists aren’t ideal for the startup world. So, if you have a niche skill set, you’ll want to broaden your skills before applying for a startup job. If you’re a marketer, you want to showcase all the ways you can build an audience for them by having a diverse skill set. You have to be able to motivate yourself to do the work. If you like easing into things, the startup culture will be a rude awakening as it’s often action-packed. Being a go-getter who’s able to execute and produce tons of work is the ideal fit for the startup world. The opportunities are endless, you’ll want to have a clear focus while still being able to do some unpleasant or tedious tasks if needed.

How to Get a Job at a Startup

1. Use startup job boards

There are various job boards that are ideal for finding startup jobs. For instance, Startup.Jobs, Y Combinator, and Wellfound are popular job boards you can use to find startups in your city. Of course, you’ll still be able to find startup jobs on traditional job boards like LinkedIn or Indeed, but those can be harder to sort through. Using job boards that specializes in startup jobs will be an easier way to sort through jobs looking to make some of their first few hires. You’ll likely be applying to jobs with company sizes under 10 employees. The most common types of jobs for startup job boards are: marketing, sales, engineering, and operations. If your skills are in one of these areas, you’ll find tons of startup jobs you can apply to. These are typically the most important hires a new company makes to either build their product, manage it, or help it grow.

2. Create your resume and cover letter

Your resume and cover letter should be tailored to every startup job you apply to. Unlike a big corporation that gets hundreds of applicants, startup companies don’t get as many applications, so they’ll notice your resume when you put in a bit of added effort. Tailoring your application to highlight startup experience, scrappy from the ground up accomplishments, or a growth mindset are all ways to appeal to a founder who’ll read your job application. You can use a tool like Huntr to tailor your resume using editable AI. Adding a personal touch to your application while mixing it with a bit of AI will help ensure your resume gets through AI filters while still showcasing your unique personality. In a cover letter, you can mention what excites you about the role, why you’re a good fit for a startup job, and the big accomplishments you’ve had either creating something or growing a small business with a limited budget.

3. Apply for positions

To get a job at a startup, you’ll want to apply to many startup companies every day. You should aim to apply to five jobs per day to put yourself out there while ensuring each application is tailored. It can be hard to remember which jobs you applied to and keep track of everything, so using Huntr’s job tracker can help you organize your information. When applying to a job, you can add job details to your kanban board in one-click, making it easier than doing it manually. Having an organized job search will help ensure you get hired faster. It’ll prevent you from missing interviews or losing job descriptions from taken down listings. You’ll have access to all the information you need at your fingertips all in one centralized place.

4. Practice interview questions

When trying to get a job at a startup, you’ll need a lot of interview practice. You should consider practicing questions based on talking about your experience and your ability to fit in a startup culture. For the most part, you’ll want to prepare your answers with a growth mindset attitude. A growth mindset is one where you’re open to learning and you believe you can get better with time, dedication, and practice. Throughout the interview, you’ll need to showcase your ability to get stuff done. When aiming to get a job at a startup, you need to understand how small the team size is and how much work is involved in the day to day. You can’t delegate responsibilities to other team members, most of the time, you’ll be given all the responsibilities for an entire discipline, which means there’s a lot of work to be done. Being a well-rounded person, who’s willing to do the hard work, and achieve fast results is crucial to be considered for a role at a startup. On small teams, positive people are more likely to be hired. Since hiring one person will drastically affect team dynamics, founders will often hire people who are easy to get along with. You should be practicing interview questions for hours each day, going over them, writing down examples of stories, and rehearsing non-stop to present yourself well when the interview slot opens for you.

5. Be open to doing presentations

Most people refuse to do free work to be considered for a role at a startup. Often, to test your skills, you’ll be asked to create something, such as a presentation, a plan, or a simple tool. This can work well in your favor if you choose to take the initiative to create something for them, since most people will choose not to do it. If you put a lot of thought and effort into your presentation or project, it’ll show. If given an interview to present your ideas, showcase potential opportunities to get founders even more excited about the possibilities your role can bring them and how your impact mixed with those opportunities will deliver results. The cool thing about doing presentations for a startup is that you can engage the founder with questions or make it conversational overall while sharing big ideas and possibilities. This is the kind of rapport that’ll make you stand out from other job seekers looking to work in a startup job. If your ideas line up with theirs, it’ll be an easy fit. If you're thinking about doing presentations, consider coming up with ideas for a business proposal for what you'll do if hired for the role.

6. Ask engaging questions in interviews

You’ll want to cater your questions to the interviewer you’re meeting with. If interviewing with someone in the same work background as you, you’ll want to ask craft-related questions regarding the company’s processes, strategies, and goals. If interviewing with someone from another discipline, such as a culture fit interview, you’ll want to ask them questions about their own interests or how they’d like to work with you, just to get to know their style and interests. If interviewing with the main founder, you’ll want to talk about goals, roadmaps, or questions about the broader company. Get them excited to open up to talk about their business because they’re probably genuinely passionate about the work they do. By talking shop with them, it’ll be more organic and you’ll build better rapport with the person hiring you.

Looking for jobs at startups?

The startup environment is such an exciting and fast-paced environment, making it such a fun kind of job to have. If you’re currently thinking about applying to startup jobs, you can use Huntr to build your resume and cover letter online, auto-fill job applications, and organize your job search with a kanban board that imports all job details in a single click when you apply for a job. Sign-up for Huntr today!

Nicole Martins Ferreira

Nicole Martins Ferreira

Nicole Martins Ferreira, Senior Writer at Huntr, brings a rich background in marketing, tech, and ecommerce to craft insightful content on job search strategies and career advancement. With experience from Super Magic Taste to Shopify, she excels in creating engaging, actionable advice for job seekers.

Nicole's expertise in SEO and content marketing, honed across diverse roles, enables her to effectively guide individuals through the complexities of the job market. Her contributions at Huntr are vital, offering readers valuable tips and strategies to navigate their professional journeys successfully, making her work an invaluable resource for job seekers everywhere.

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