Need a job? 32 top entrepreneurs tell you how to get one in a startup (& they’re hiring)

Get Startup Job

Why go vanilla, when you can go startup?

Baskin Robins’ got nothing on these guys. Who wants a boring vanilla, corporate job, when you’ve got 32 flavors of startups right here? From a startup that hosts in-home lingerie parties (a la Tupperware circa 1974) to a startup whose job is to get people jobs. They’re all here.

And they’re telling you exactly how to get the job. Not just their jobs, any startup job.

Because if you want a job with a startup–and why wouldn’t you since that’s where the jobs are–you better not be using the same old, tired tactics your dad used twenty years ago. Cause you know where that will get you? Sitting on the same couch with your old, tired dad. (No offense Dad.)

So grab a big spoon and dig in, cause here’s the definitive scoop on how to get a job with a startup. ( Denotes a startup hiring today!)

Stalk Me

Entrepreneurs are busy. Don’t have time to go to the bathroom, busy. So if you want to get their attention, you need to get in front of them. Know where they live on-line. Attend the conferences they attend. Get in their face. Repeatedly. Sound like the beginnings of a restraining order? You’d be surprised; check out what these five entrepreneurs say about it. (And note—each one is looking to be stalked right now.)

Steven Sashen founder Invisible Shoe - Feel the World

Steven Sashen – CEO, Feel the World, Inc. 
Keep beating down the door until they say YES. In fact, we won’t hire anyone unless they repeatedly ask to work for us. Begging is even better. And if you don’t fit what we’re looking for, we’ll find something for you… if you ask often enough. Enthusiasm is the most important job skill that we look for. Evangelism 
is an even better one.

 

Caroline Callaway President Bolt PR

Caroline Callaway – President, Bolt Public Relations 
Follow me on Twitter and RT what you find interesting; like my company on 
Facebook and comment on interesting posts; connect with me on LinkedIn; 
leave comments on my blog; send me a handwritten note, maybe 
congratulating me on the startup or recent success; find out what 
organizations I’m a part of and attend the events; drop me emails with 
interesting articles; and personally deliver your 
resume to my office (if I have one). If I know someone is hungry for a job 
at MY start-up, not just a job, he or she is going to have a really good 
shot with all of the above.

Jay El Kaake CEO Sweet Tooth Rewards

Jay El-Kaake – CEO, Sweet Tooth Rewards 
Engage the company/entrepreneur on Twitter, and make commentary about what they do (make it positive). Once the company responds to engagement, ask for a meeting over coffee. We don’t have time to go over resumes and applications. We hate it.

Brooke Braswell Principal Can We Network

Brooke Braswell – Principal, CanWeNetwork, LLC 
The applicant aggressively pursues me, is persistent and brief. A three line email: Hey Brooke, Saw your company on techcrunch.com, I have incredible success in x or y (or I will work with the same passion and tireless effort as you ) – can I have three minutes of your time, I don’t need much notice. Here is my linked in profile. (Tip #2: we are always hiring someone great.)

Pamela O'Hara CEO Batchbook

Pamela O’Hara – CEO, Batchbook 
Engage. Startups are small, fast-moving, and socially adept companies. 
Spend some time getting to know the founders or key employees on Twitter. 
If possible, go to the same events as startups and meet the founders first 
hand. Strike up conversations and build relationships. When there is an 
opening that you are a good fit for, you will already be halfway in the 
door. Engaging has the important side benefit of helping you identify startups you would want to work at. Getting along with co-workers and feeling 
the vibe of the culture is extremely important, 
so when you already know each other, even a little, it really helps.

Show, Don’t Tell

When you’re trying to get into a startup, it’s not about your resume. Forget what you’ve done in the past, and show what you can do today, for this company, in this moment. In this moment, all seven of these entrepreneurs are looking to be impressed.

Jake Cohen, co-founder of Privy

Jake Cohen – Co-founder, Privy 
Do a funny stunt that is relevant to the business and attention getting. Example, for us (we help businesses publish and sell custom offers from their online properties), design something that says we just bought a promotion for the greatest (enter your desired job title) ever. Send it to us and make it look cool. We’ll notice and if your skills match your desired job, we’ll hire you.

Sandip Singh, founder GoGetFunding

Sandip Singh – Founder and CEO, Go Get Funding 
Solve a problem for a company that they didn’t know existed. For example, tell 
them why you believe specific changes to a landing page will improve 
conversions. If you’re a coding specialist, provide them with a snippet of 
code that fixes an unusual CSS issue you’ve spotted. By doing this you 
prove that you have a genuine interest in the company and the skills to 
solve problems straight away and on your own initiative – something all 
busy startups are looking for.

Raj Sheth, co-founder and CEO Recruiter Box

Raj Sheth – Co-founder & CEO, Recruiter Box 
The one thing that will make me turn my head: Tell me something about my business that I do not know. That will tell me that you will be immediately valuable in taking some load off, and making a contribution.

 

 

alex schiff co-founder of Fetchnotes

Alex Schiff – Co-founder & CEO, Fetchnotes 
My favorite hiring story thus far was when someone signed up for our beta, used our product and then emailed us a list of feedback (positive AND negative), and then mentioned he was a web developer and would love to work with us. We responded with a request to interview him that day, and now he does most of our front-end work!

 

Kenny Kanar founder Night Tap

Kenny Kadar – Founder and CEO, Night Tap 
One tip that for gaining employment at a 
startup, is to immediately offer ideas to improve the 
company/expand the revenue stream. Startups are not looking for order 
takers who are going to do exactly what the founders want, and nothing more. 
Startups want independent thinkers who can dream outside the box and have 
the ability to take a vision and build upon it. We need people who are 
going to hit the ground running and demonstrating that you have ideas to 
immediately help the business will get a startup’s attention more than 
anything else.

Anthony Feint - founder, Pen.io

Anthony Feint – Founder, Pen.io 
My one tip: Code speaks louder than a resume. A link to a portfolio or a Github 
profile tells me more about the candidate then any resume can.

 

 

 

Larry Kim- founder and CTO Wordstream

Larry Kim – Founder and CTO, WordStream 
The job searcher should think about the pain point of the startup and seek to fill it. This tells me that they are startup minded, ready to present their skill, and a problem solver.

Love Me (and my company)

Nothing will get you a startup job faster than being in love with the startup. Not the perfect skillset. Not the perfect references. Nothing. Prove you’re passionate about what the company is doing and they’ll be passionate about hiring you.

Ryan Woodall Pinnancle Tutoring

Ryan Woodall, TK – Pinnacle Tutoring 
As the owner of two businesses, I can tell you that the biggest fear I have with employees is that they will simply not care as much about the company as I do. My recommendation is to show your willingness to commit to the project beyond a paycheck. This doesn’t simply mean saying, I’ll work overtime. On your resume and cover letter, I’m looking for some evidence that you go beyond the stated minimums of your position. Show additional projects, exceeded standards, volunteered expansion of your position. Startups are hungry, and need hungry people.

Patrick Brown founder Occam Education

Patrick C. Brown – Founder, Occam Education 
Passion. Startups require passionate employees even more so than larger 
companies because the hours/responsibilities are not always justified by the salaries. Producing a mock marketing plan prior to an interview or 
volunteering services on an internship basis to demonstrate your value are 
two ways candidates distinguish themselves as *truly* passionate candidates.

Yael Levy founder DreamBigly

Yael Levey – Founder, dreamBIGLY
My one tip would be to demonstrate passion from the get-go about the problem the startup is trying to solve. The most impressive candidates are those that have applied off their own bat, many times without an open position even being advertised, and who make a strong argument for why my company and our problem needs them to come on board. If this is demonstrated up front, and I can see that the candidate understands what we are trying to achieve and is passionate about wanting to help solve that problem, then I’ll always call them in for an interview.

Bryant Quan CEO of Slickdeals

Bryant Quan – CEO, Slickdeals, Inc. 
Every single person that we have and will ever hire has to be familiar with 
our company. During our earlier years as a startup, the greatest advantage 
we had was being the pioneers in our space and if our employees didn’t 
believe in our idea, then we would not have been as successful as we are 
now. Our employees are our biggest assets and innovators and we had to know 
that we were all on the same page in terms of goals for the company and our 
users. So, my top tip for getting a job with startup is definitely knowing 
and truly believing in whatever startup it is.

Tiffany James CEO Undercover Wear

Tiffany James – CEO, UndercoverWear
The One Thing that would get my attention immediately is: Passion. Passion about MY Company and MY vision. Their Passion MUST equal My Passion!

 

 

 

Mike Astringer founder CEO of Human Capital

Mike Astringer – Founder and CEO, Human Capital Consultants, Inc. 
Prove that you get the culture. Most Founders and people working in startups can see right through someone who is just talking. You have to fully commit that you want to work in a startup, that you understand both the sacrifices and potential long-term rewards and that this is what you really want in your career. You have to be willing and able to live it and express that passion to the Founder and his/her team.  Even if your technical skills are not right on target prove to the Founder that you get it, that you are the right cultural fit for a startup and that you are committed and chances are you will be successful landing a job in a startup.

Be Flexible (And look good in hats. Lot’s of hats.)

If you’re looking for a job with a clear job description, start looking somewhere else. In a startup, everyone does everything. Prove you understand that, and that you are up for the challenge.

Dana Marlowe, Principal Partner Accessibility Partners LLC

Dana Marlowe – Principal Partner, Accessibility Partners, LLC 
Flexibility is without a doubt one of the most important characteristics I 
look for when I’m looking at new employees. A lot of job seekers are 
looking to fulfill a specific niche or need in a company, but I need 
someone who can fit a bunch of roles. Within a startup, you don’t have an accounting, billing, or HR department at your disposal. I would 
highly recommend that a job seeker specifically state they’re willing to 
adapt to new roles at any whim and demonstrate their ability to wear a lot 
of hats. This goes a lot further than listing competencies with generic 
programs or other things that are nice, but not useful in a fast-paced 
startup.

Brett Brohl, CEO Scrubadoo

Brett Brohl – CEO, Scrubadoo 
Candidates should always emphasize that they are eager and willing 
to help out and work in every area of the company, not just the area they 
specialize in. Our finance person always has to pitch in during marketing 
meetings etc. It’s all hands on deck for everything here. We all wear a 
lot of hats.

 

John Max Miller CEO GrandSlam Alley

John Max Miller – CEO, GrandSlam Alley, Inc. 
Vertical in talent, broad in desire. In order to get a job with a startup, you need to possess the talent needed by the startup but be willing to do anything and learn anything. Startups do NOT follow a specific path. In today’s fast-paced world, products pivot many times once they are released and an employee needs to be open minded to going with that flow of change. (And, there will be days you need to mop the floor and take out the trash.)

Jennifer Ryan Founder Create New Order

Jennifer Ryan – Professional Organizer & Motivating Force, Create New Order, Inc. 
The number one tip that will get my assistant his/her new job is to assure me that anything I need them to do, they will do. I need a person who can catch and throw at the same time with the positive energetic attitude a fast-growing business like mine needs. If attitude, loyalty and resiliency walks through the door, the rest is simply training.

 

Robert Rose founder AIM Tell-a-vision

Robert G. Rose – Founder & Exec Producer, AIM Tell-A-Vision Group 
Here you go…it’s very, very simple. Startups are looking for people with entrepreneurial skills…the kind of person who doesn’t look at a gig as a 9-5 responsibility, but one who will pitch in and do whatever is needed; from taking out the garbage to contributing to a marketing plan to helping to write a human resource manual. Startups are chaotic and usually don’t have built-in policies and procedures, or if they do, they quickly outgrow them. They need employees 
who are flexible and willing to do whatever, whenever to make a company 
succeed and ideally treat the business as if it were their own. A person 
should have done their research and come in with ideas on how they 
specifically can contribute to a company’s success.

Shara Senderoff co-founder CEO of Intern Sushi

Shara Senderoff – Co-founder and CEO, Intern Sushi 
To get noticed by a startup, you have to rise above the stack of resumes piled sky high on the hiring manager’s desk. Sure you’re a young, creative individual, ripe with ambition, fresh ideas and unseen talents—now the trick is to communicate that to employers. Startups rarely have the resources for quantity so they focus on quality; they are looking for candidates that can wear many hats so showcase your versatility and ability to problem-solve. Describe an experience where you succeeded despite all odds. Startups also hunt for creative minds, so think outside the box and present yourself in a way only you can. If you don’t, enjoy the view from the middle of the daunting pile of resumes.

Stand Out and Stand Up

Getting the entrepreneur’s attention is half the battle. The other half is proving that you ‘get it’ and are willing to do it.

Kari DePhillips The Content Factory

Kari DePhillips – Co-founder, The Content Factory 
My one tip for getting hired at a startup is this: stand out from the 
crowd, because you’re probably competing with at least a dozen other people 
for the job. I’ve seen people put images in their resumes, write quirky 
cover letters and even demonstrate their social media prowess by hounding 
us on Twitter until we finally caved in and granted an interview. If you 
don’t stand out, you’ll be lumped with everyone in the more of the same 
pile (and none of those people ever get hired).

Brennan White co-founder Pandemic Labs

Brennan White – Co-founder and Managing Director, Pandemic Labs 
Email the founder out of the blue. As a founder, he/she will always check 
emails (they could be incoming leads!). So send an email directly to them. 
In your email be less formal, more honest/direct/interested. Founders of 
companies are generally brutal prioritizers and will delete your email if 
it feels boilerplate or boring in the first sentence (or even in the 
overall look/size of the email). Make the email short and sweet. If you 
can, immediately make an offer of some type (Upon hiring I’ll be happy to 
help connect you with the decision makers at my last position etc). 
Alternatively, as most startups are cash-conscious, offering to prove your 
worth before being guaranteed anything will work massively in your favor.

Craig Bloem founder FreeLogoService

Craig Bloem – Founder & CEO, FreeLogoService.com 
Tip: Knock on the door and show ambition, passion and a get it done 
attitude. I had one intern who literally drove 45 min to the office 
knocked on the door and nicely asked if she could trouble me for 15 
minutes of my time. Obviously, it would be a problem if everyone did 
this but in a world of email and social media this young woman made an 
impression and received 15 minutes of my time.

Mike Scanlin CEO of Born to Sell

Mike Scanlin – CEO, Born to Sell
Explain that you know that in a startup there is nowhere to hide and 
everyone has to pull their weight. You are excited about the fact that your 
personal, individual contributions will have a direct impact on the success 
or failure of the company. And, don’t ask about the vacation policy during the interview.

Todd Davis of LifeLock

Todd Davis – CEO, Lifelock 
Demonstrate the ability to be disruptive in a previous organization. Do not try to sell yourself, but discuss more what your experience has been and what traits you have developed from it.

 

 

Justin Palmer founder & CEO MedSaverCard

Justin Palmer – Founder & CEO, MedSaverCard
At startups, hiring is crucial and risky because every person matters. 
Help take the risk out of hiring you by offering your services to them for 
free or at a low-cost. If they’re a growing company and they like your 
work, odds are they’ll find a position for you very quickly.

Martha McCarthy co-founder The Social Lights LLC

Martha McCarthy – Co-founder and Managing Partner, The Social Lights, LLC 
We recently posted a new position and are getting flooded with resumes and 
cover letters. Most of them get a mere glance, but those that have clearly 
done their homework get much more attention. Applicants that pull 
information from our tweets, blog posts, client list and case studies to 
pepper their cover letter (and demonstrate that they actually know what we 
do), in addition to why they are a great fit for our company, get to the 
keep pile (or in our case, dropbox folder). Creative email subject lines 
get bonus points!

Suki Shaw, co-founder and CEO Get Hired

Suki Shah – Co-founder and CEO, GetHired 
Entrepreneurs at startups are looking for fresh perspectives — and for candidates who can quickly look at a company, determine what that company 
needs to be successful, and then do it. Even an employee with no formal 
training, but solid transferable skills, can drastically improve the 
productivity and innovation within your organization. And so, create a 
multimedia resume that fully encompasses your past work experience to help 
differentiate you from other job seekers. Apply for jobs that you are 
interested in and passionate about . . . often entrepreneurs will hear you 
out of you can talk about a specific problem that needs solving in their 
industry, and how you are the person to solve it, despite formal training.

So Here’s the Scoop

Interested in these startups? Start stalking them–right here, right now. (Cue Jesus Jones, please.) Pitch them in the comment section. Ask them questions about their startups. Or just flatter them; tell them how much you love their company. Don’t be shy. Get in their face. Get the dialogue going. I’ll make sure they see it. I can’t guarantee you a job, but I can guarantee I’ll get you noticed. And who knows what other entrepreneurs might notice you as well.

And check back over the next few weeks. I’ll be posting in-depth video interviews with a few of these hotshot entrepreneurs. Giving more info on the jobs, how to get the jobs, and other juicy stuff. Like what business buzzwords make them want to pour acid in their ears. Always good to know before sitting down for an interview.

I’ve already interviewed Arjun Dev Arora from Retargeter. (Not even on this list, but he’s hiring!) And Caroline Calloway from Bolt PR and Brennan White from Pandemic Labs listed above. Dying to learn more about one of the others? Tell me in the comment section. We’ll get it done.

So good luck. And go get ‘em!

Photo credit: Magone via Shutterstock  (Baskin Robins is a trademark of BR IP Holder LLC)

About the author: Kathy Ver Eecke works with startups in the early stages, where the good stuff happens. Download a free copy of her ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Getting Any Startup Job, if you’re trying to break into a startup or if you’re hiring employees for your startup.

33 Comments

  • Amy

    Reply Reply April 4, 2012

    I’m interested in going back to work after staying at home with kids. Would a big gap in employment history bother any of these CEOs? Thanks for the post!

    • Steven Sashen

      Reply Reply April 4, 2012

      Depends on the job. If it’s something where being up to speed on current contacts is required, then maybe. But for most of the jobs a start-up needs, unlike being on the Tube in London, we don’t mind the gap.

      • Jennifer Ryan

        Reply Reply April 5, 2012

        Gaps in employment are not that important and if you have been raising kids your catching and throwing ability is proven. The best part of landing the entrepreneur as your employer is that flexible hours are now the trend. All you need to do is get it done . . . start looking!

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply April 4, 2012

      I agree with Steven. Not every startup job would require you to be totally current on all things. Go prove you’re excited about the company and ready to get to it.

      And good luck!
      Kathy

    • Kari DePhillips

      Reply Reply April 6, 2012

      I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but I can say that it wouldn’t bother us at all – with things like writing and design, your deliverables are all that matter.

    • Chris LaBrado

      Reply Reply September 20, 2012

      Five 9’s. It’s what I do….99.999% quality. Need a team….done. Need a plan….Ive got 2 or 3 already in the works. Need new services? I have plenty to bring, and if I don’t, I’ll get them for you.

      http://www.linkedin.com/in/chrislabrado. My profile says it all.

      Chris.labrado@gmail.com. Ready when U are.

  • WordStream

    Reply Reply April 4, 2012

    Thanks so much for the mention Kathy! In case anyone was wondering, we’re aggressively hiring here at WordStream.

    http://www.wordstream.com/jobs

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply April 4, 2012

      No problem! Glad you participated. And you’re not kidding, just clicked your link…SEVEN current job openings. Congrats on your growth!…and, nice hat.
      Kathy

      • WordStream

        Reply Reply April 5, 2012

        See why I had to check? Things are crazy in the office… and that’s actually a helmet with steel bars in front ;)

  • Sam

    Reply Reply April 5, 2012

    What if you are just graduating? Without much business experience? Or none. Want to get in somewhere where I can do something vs. just sit at a desk. Any chance?

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply April 6, 2012

      Well you certainly won’t be glued to a desk with any of these startups. Several of them have entry level jobs posted like:
      –Robert Rose has two startups with entry level positions: http://www.PunkOutlawRecords.com and http://www.RawTravel.tv
      Craig Bloem’s company has multiple internships open (product mgr, content mktg etc.)
      Brett Bohl has a Communications Associate position open that he says “will do a little of everything. The goal is to get stuff off my plate.” Sounds like a spectacular entry level job for the right person.

      Go get ‘em.

      • Kathy Ver Eecke

        Reply Reply April 6, 2012

        And Sam, check out Kari DePhillips from The Content Factory above. She just told me that most of their jobs are entry level “from PR Coordinator to writers. We pretty much have to train people from scratch anyway, and it’s almost better if they don’t have traditional agency backgrounds because then we don’t have to un-train bad habits.”

  • dayana

    Reply Reply April 7, 2012

    with this kind of work i think that if you show excitement and interest in the company and show that youve researched them and have new ideas to improve the company then i think that`ll put you in better stead that anything

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply May 4, 2012

      Yup – as almost every entrepreneur said, it’s not about your resume. It’s about showing them what you can do for them, right now.

      thanks for the comment,
      Kathy

  • Chernee Vitello

    Reply Reply April 9, 2012

    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful article. Passion, skill, determination, and problem-solving seem to be the magic formula for startup employment success!

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply May 4, 2012

      Chernee – You’ve got it. The magic happens in a startup job search as soon as you prove your passion to the startup founder.
      Kathy

  • mdenise

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    This is a great compilation of smart minds and useful pieces of advice, not only for those who want to join startup but for anyone who is ready to rev up their careers. Another good thing about this is that these are words from young people to other young aspirants; there is a similarity in perspectives.

  • head_exposed

    Reply Reply April 29, 2012

    I would like to thank the generous minds who shared what they know and want in a potential employee. There are indeed many brilliant people out there who just need the right kind of opportunity to show companies what they can do.I;m sure they will take your words as valuable pieces of information that can help them presently or perhaps in years to come.

  • Travis

    Reply Reply May 4, 2012

    Thanks for the post. The group of entrepreneurs had some great feedback. I have been a part of 5 start ups now and now what it’s like to try to stand out of the crowd, and also the work that needs to be done during a start up. I fully agree with Mr. Rose about being willing to do ANYTHING. During a start up, you must be hands on. It is the most important part of the future of the business. A lot is at stake. In essence, its the theory of sharpening the saw. If you put in the hard work in the beginning, it will pay off in the long run.

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply May 4, 2012

      Travis –
      Thats a fabulous analogy! True for startup jobs searches, and for startups in general.
      Kathy

  • Chris LaBrado

    Reply Reply September 20, 2012

    Five 9’s. It’s what I do….99.999% quality. Need a team….done. Need a plan….Ive got 2 or 3 already in the works. Need new services? I have plenty to bring, and if I don’t, I’ll get them for you.

    http://www.linkedin.com/in/chrislabrado. My profile says it all.

    Chris.labrado@gmail.com. Ready when U are. :)

  • Willard

    Reply Reply December 23, 2012

    Would you mind if I quote a small number of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources returning to your webpage:
    http://workingforwonka.com/32-tips-get-startup-job/. I am going to aslo make certain to give you the proper
    anchor text link using your webpage title: Need a job?
    32 entrepreneurs tell how to get one in a startup
    (& they’re hiring). Be sure to let me know if this is acceptable with you. Many thanks

  • Jatin Solanki

    Reply Reply March 13, 2013

    Amazing article Kathy! Smart piece of writing with really great suggestions. I wish I would have read it before my first start up job search. I’m currently in my second switch phase and surely this article will help me lot. Thanks a tonne.
    Jatin Solanki

    P.S: Would like to connect with you on linkedin (http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=2473285&trk=tab_pro)

  • Darcy

    Reply Reply April 28, 2013

    This article is awesome, extremely informative for getting your foot in the door, will definitely spread this article around especially to those who are looking for their next job.

  • Kathleen Beier

    Reply Reply March 2, 2014

    Superb blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or
    go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally overwhelmed ..

    Any tips? Kudos!

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