Looking to join a tech startup but worried about your lack of startup experience? You shouldn’t be! There are other ways to land a job at a tech startup aside from what is or isn’t on your resume.
To learn what a few of those things are, we spoke with Travis Baker, Talent Acquisition at Kinnser Software, Mario Espindola, Managing Director at Betts Recruiting, Christy Childers, Employer Brand at Dropbox and Cathy Guthrie, Vice President of People at Sparefoot. Read on to see their advice for landing a tech startup job.
Apply to roles you're actually qualified for
According to Baker, the key is starting with something you’re actually qualified for, and not trying to make a big leap.
“As a recruiter, we treat each and every application with equal optimism. Reviewing applications is one of our most time-consuming activities. When we receive 100 applications and 75 of them are majorly off target, that's frustrating and time-consuming for everyone involved. Do us all a favor, don't apply unless you're truly qualified for the role.”
“I love receiving emails and In-mails from candidates interested in working for Kinnser,” Baker said. “A couple pointers: it helps if you've submitted an application before reaching out, make it clear what you're interested in (even if it's just to network for the future) and don't call — email.”
Espindola agreed, emphasizing how leveraging your network can help you find the best ways to break into tech. "Get a warm introduction if you can," he said. "It can be really helpful if you're switching industries or trying to get into tech straight from school."
Build a relationship with the recruiter
“Most organizations have a Talent Acquisition group dedicated to the hiring process. Building relationships with people (both internal and external) is our most important responsibility,” Baker said. “Make it easy for us. Many candidates look at Talent Acquisition as a barrier to being hired. It couldn't be further from the truth. We want you to be a fit, whether now or in the future. Approach our interactions like you're building towards a long-term partnership, because it probably will be.”
Create and define your digital image
It’s not uncommon for an employer or recruiter to google you before offering you an interview. Your digital presence is more important that ever, so make sure what shows up online represents you in the best way possible. To test it out, google yourself in an incognito window and see what comes up. Still have a MySpace page from 10 years ago? You might want to delete that. Is that epic photo of you winning a beer pong contest the first one on Google Images search? Eliminate what you don’t want your employer to see and make sure your social media profiles won’t be off-putting to a professional.
Now that you’ve cleaned up your online persona, it’s time to make it geared toward the job you want. Be specific about your interests and aspirations on Twitter, LinkedIn and Built In Austin and target your words to your industry of choice. Make sure your strengths and skills are clearly outlined and reference your personal website or blog if applicable.
"Make sure you have everything updated at all times," Espindola said. "Don’t underestimate the power of Google."
Sharpen your skills
If you’re not as experienced in your ideal position, it’s time to take advantage of the free workshops, meetups, and online resources available to you. Check out tech classes happening around town or attend a webinar or online workshop. Meetup.com, General Assembly, Capital Factory, and Built In Austin are all great places to start.
Espindola recommends translating skills you gained at the university level or doing volunteer work into a technical role.
"Anything that can help you stand out from the bigger group is going to help you get to that next level," Espindola said. "Be prepared to talk about your process and how you’d translate your experience into a tech job."
The tech world is small. Strategically attend events so you can reach those in your target industry. Once you find companies you’re interested in, research events they’re directly apart of.
"Know the ‘why’ behind why you want to work in tech," Childers said. "Come prepared to speak to your interest in the company and its product. Otherwise, if you’re just looking for free food and shuffleboard, it’ll be difficult to convince a hiring manager you’re the best candidate for the job."
With so much information online, there’s no excuse to be ill prepared for an interview or even meeting people at networking events. Read up on the company, the culture, the industry, the competitors and their hiring process. Sign up for newsletters and other tech news sites and get familiar with a company’s product and how they’re positioned in the industry.
"Do your homework," Guthrie said. "Know who you are talking to, why you want to be a part of their business and why this particular job is a fit."
Childers echoed Guthrie "do your homework" statement. "Research the company, its product or service, and its competitive landscape. This will help you determine if the company is a good fit for you, and it’s a great way to prep for your interview."
Be positive and excited
Ultimately, recruiters and founders want to see that you’re passionate about the mission of their company. They want to see that you have a vision for your role and that you’ll be representing the company in everything you do outside of work as well.
"Be ready to ask thoughtful questions about the company and its product or service," Childers said. "This will demonstrate you’ve done your research and showcase your critical thinking skills."
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