Blog post by ELP Fellow Alex Bascom (Earth Science | Class of 2019)
What Makes Startup Recruitment Unique?
Startup recruiting can be challenging for many students who have traditionally sought internships from larger businesses or are new to the recruiting process. This is due to the fact that there is no clear path to getting a job at a startup. Internship recruitment seasons for most business and engineering students follows a standard path; hearing about an opportunity or knowing an employee, apply, pass the first and second interview.
With a startup, the path the path is much more elusive. There is more than one path to get the desired offer which can make the process seem more complex. Although this can be true, it also gives you more ways to succeed. That being said, a company will always show more interest in a candidate who has shown interest in them.
Networking, Networking, Networking
No matter how you approach a startup opportunity, leveraging your network is key. Most startups do not have the resources or the recruitment pipeline that large companies have. It is the key for the company to see the candidate in the best light. The easiest way to do this has a mutual connection connect the candidate with an employee working on hiring or in the same field of the candidate.
Doing this single step will set any candidate apart from the rest who only applied. This is because startups are especially busy and think highly of a candidate who takes the initiative. It instantly sets the tone that this candidate is willing to do more than their the others in the interview pool.
The other side to this is that many startups are always expanding and will potentially hire for positions that they may not have been recruiting for, especially in the case of an internship. I have learned over the last few years that no does not always mean no. Having a strong network gives any candidate the ability to open doors that can be closed to other less aggressive candidates.
When approaching networking, always go through a mutual connection and not around them. This is because many see it as rude or spam-like to connect directly with someone they do not know. Also, a mutual connection will likely be happy to help, and your relationship with them will likely grow from the favor. So again, it is always better to go through a mutual connection than attempting to connect directly with the intended individual.
Building a Strong Plan
It is extremely important to have a plan before reaching out to employers and applying! Without this communication, it can become complicating and errors are much more likely to occur. This is an easy way to build confidence and coherency regarding a strategy before executing.
Building a simple spreadsheet to track companies and gathering intelligence on a company not only gives you confidence while reaching out to companies, it also helps you organize your thoughts. Simply listing the company, industry and a few metrics will help build a map of the companies. Some helpful resources include CrunchBase, Angel.co and LinkedIn. A simple Google search can be helpful to find news about what the company has recently achieved. Knowing this, later on, can give the interviewer confidence that the candidate is truly interested.
It is also very helpful to prioritize the companies by interest. This gives the candidate a frame to look at the companies as a whole and decide the top 3-5 that really spark interest. That way, these companies can become the bulk of the effort.
When it comes down to it, execution is key. A successful candidate conveys their interest for the company and what value they will both give, but also gain. This is important, especially in the internship process because companies want to see their interns succeed. By finding a role that works for both parties, the company is going to get more value from their hire, and the candidate will grow that much more as well.
The interview process can seem daunting, but it really comes down to is ensuring that the interviewer likes the candidate as they will likely be working with the candidate if hired. If the candidate cannot build strong rapport or ends the interview and did not like the interviewer, the company might not be the right fit. It is much better to figure this out over a 30-minute phone call or in-person interview rather than after accepting a position. It is important to be yourself in this role, but also highlight the best parts that you bring to the table.
Following up after an interview seems like a no-brainer, but what is less talked about is following up on an offer and the period in between accepting the offer and starting the job. If there is a block of time more than a few days, it is important to stay in contact with the point person weekly. This shows continued interest in the position and helps avoid any early misunderstandings that could surface.
Be strategic with this. One way to easily following up could be connecting on LinkedIn and also adding a comment. This also can help alleviate any anxiety of the side of the candidate about what is going on. Almost any employer will appreciate the strong communication and feel more confident in their decision to hire the now-employee in the first place. Good luck on your future startup job hunting!