As the CEO of a fast-growing startup, I often receive communications from college students and young professionals seeking my advice. Many of them want to know how they can get hired by a startup.
Breaking into the industry of your dreams can feel like a struggle if you don’t have any prior or related work experience. Maybe you feel like you don’t have any noteworthy achievements to highlight, or perhaps you’re having a tough time getting a referral.
Many job seekers are attracted to startups over larger companies because of their fast-paced environment, the ability to wear many hats, and the opportunity to grow quickly. However, this appeal means you’ll be facing plenty of competition.
Here are six tips to increase your chances of getting hired at a startup.
1. POLISH YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE SO THAT IT SHINES
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and these days, that’s often through LinkedIn. To be honest, I don’t have the time or the desire to comb through traditional resumes. I tend to go straight to LinkedIn, and that’s become even more true during the pandemic. I don’t want to speak for others, but I would imagine many other CEOs and hiring managers do the same.
Frankly speaking, LinkedIn is a space where we judge a book by its cover. That means it’s up to you to create an incredible cover that would catch a potential employer’s eye. I’ve reviewed hundreds of profiles for recruitment efforts across multiple companies. Here’s my advice for making the most of your profile.
• Make use of the tagline: In some cases, a potential employer or recruiter might stumble upon your LinkedIn profile but not know that you’re actively seeking employment. You can show your intention and provide clarity by stating in your tagline that you’re actively seeking a job. I also recommend adding the name of your alma mater in case an alumnus sees your profile.
• Max out your summary: The summary section of LinkedIn is often the most wasted real estate. This is a great space to tell your story. Include messaging to describe who you were, who you are today, and who you aspire to be in the future. You can also use this area to list your results from various personality type assessments, such as the CliftonStrengths assessment and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
• Use my secret: There’s a feature on LinkedIn that allows you to record and display your name pronunciation. My secret is to use this feature as a greeting—similar to a voicemail greeting. Of course, if you have a name that’s tricky to pronounce, by all means, use the feature for its intended purpose. Otherwise, it’s 10 seconds of additional real estate that would allow someone to hear your voice and get to know your personality.
2. GET YOURSELF A TEAM OF MENTORS
A great mentor can encourage you in your personal development, help you gain clarity on your career goals, and provide you with the wisdom and accountability you might not be able to get elsewhere.
I suggest you develop a team of mentors instead of just one mentor. One mentor who’s great at helping you refine your resume may not be the best person to approach about your finances. A team of mentors can provide you with a strong support network—a personal board of directors if you will. You’ll have someone you can go to for finances and another for relationships, career decisions, and so on.
3. KEEP CONTINUING YOUR EDUCATION
I can’t stress enough the importance of continuing your education. The job market is ever-changing, and employers are always looking for talent with the latest skills and know-how. Feel like you could be more confident in your Excel skills? Wish you knew some basic computer programming? These are perfect examples of marketable workplace skills that aren’t necessarily taught in college. You can polish and expand upon your skill set by taking online courses, such as those offered through LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, or Skillshare.
4. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF COLLEGE INTERNSHIPS
Employers look for relevant skills and experience, so it can be tricky to get a job if you don’t have any prior experience. If you’re in college, I highly recommend taking advantage of college internship programs. These programs don’t typically require prior experience or skills; rather, employers know they’re taking on inexperienced interns so they can be groomed. This is a great opportunity to try different internships to not only gain work experience but also start getting a sense of the type of company you’d want to work for.
5. TRY FREELANCE OR CONTRACT WORK
If applying for jobs the traditional way just isn’t working out, consider applying for contract positions or freelance gigs. These positions are often less risky and less costly for employers. They do not have to invest in onboarding, training, or benefits for outsourced workers, and they can easily terminate such relationships when necessary.
Not only will you likely have an easier time getting hired, but you’ll also be getting your foot in the door. Because you’ll have a proven track record of producing good, timely work, you’ll significantly boost your chances of getting hired permanently.
6. DON’T DISCOUNT THE POWER OF NETWORKING
Last but not least, don’t discount the power of networking. Recruiting and hiring is a timely and expensive process for employers, so they often prefer to hire internally or through a trusted referral. Because of this, it’s getting increasingly harder to hear about a job opportunity or get an interview without being referred to by a current employee.
Although you can expand your network by attending networking events, know that people you meet in your daily life are just as important. Friends, former colleagues, and alumni from your alma mater are individuals who will be the most likely to provide you with a referral. Stay in touch through personal means of communication and through LinkedIn.
Cody Barbo, Founder & CEO, Trust & Will.