Guest Blog by ELP Student Tyler Ringler – Mechanical Engineering – Class of 2018

Recruiting for a company is unlike anything that you have learned during your educational or personal lives. It requires more personal skills than gained from giving a presentation. More smooth talking than flirting with your crush. More effort than your final report. In addition to the struggles of recruiting with a normal company, recruiting with a startup has its own rules of engagement. When recruiting for a large company such as Ford, 3M, Apple, Nike, etc., the recruiters are more or less looking for a particular range of GPA’s and certain extracurricular involvement. They are looking for someone who expresses the intellect and personal skills sufficient to work for their company. When recruiting with a startup, things change. Startups are looking for all of the things listed above – some with less importance and others with more. Startups are also looking for other traits that a big company wouldn’t look for. 

At a startup everything is about the team and the culture. If either of these are not perfect, the success of the company is in danger. Startups focus on the person during the recruiting process over pure ability, so make sure to show them how awesome you are! In order to make sure you put yourself in the best position to be hired, it is essential to display a few key traits.

Passion: Passion is the most important trait you can display in order to boost your stock. You must be passionate about the startup’s mission, goals, and future. You must show that you are passionate enough to put in the long hours, stay up late reaching the milestone. You come in early to make sure everything is working properly before a presentation. You do not give up when things are looking difficult or unsure. When a startup sees this in you, you are already on another level compared to others who approach recruiting for a startup like a large company.

Initiative and Drive: Since startups aren’t looking to hire many interns, it is essential to put yourself above the competition. A great way to accomplish this is to reach out first and reach out frequently. If you have your eye on a company, email them before the career fair. Say who you are, what you are looking to do for them, and that you look forward to talking to them at the fair. This shows that you have the initiative to start the process on your terms. That you already know about their company and have made them a priority. It will put your name in their minds before the career fair, putting you a step ahead. Reach out again after the career fair. Reference some of the conversation you had, some insight you gained. Make sure to show that you were paying attention to what they were saying and that it resonated with you. This continued contact demonstrates your drive to be the top candidate for the position.

Personality: Since most startups only have a small amount of employees, it is crucial that an intern is part of the family and not just another person in the office. When talking with the potential employer, it is essential to try to express your true self. Startup recruiters are good at spotting when someone is not genuine. Relax and be yourself. Display your capabilities while holding that intellectual conversation. Let them see the person they could be working with on an everyday basis, talking through problems with, and working towards the common goal of the company. This is one of the biggest differences between recruiting for a startup and recruiting for a large corporation. Recruiters for the large companies are usually not going to be your boss or working with you every day. When a you can show a startup that you are someone that they can easily converse with, and be friendly with, you are another step closer to being hired!

Capabilities: As with any company, show that you have the knowledge and skills that they are looking for. Intangibles are going to be what sets you apart from the others. Examples of this are being a part of an organization that is involved in the same field as the startup, having a role in a program that reflects what you would be doing for the startup, or showing that you learned about other areas and have other passions as well. The main point of this is to show the startups that you are unique, and are willing and able to do the work they require.

This post is not a “be all, end all” of startup recruiting. Hopefully it shines a light on some of the differences between conventional recruiting and startup recruiting. With that being said, there is nothing better than experience. Go out and start talking to startups, show the passion, initiative, and capabilities to become their next intern. Best of Luck!