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If you want to land a job at a startup, you’ll probably need to change your job hunt strategy.

With their casual dress codes and quirky marketing tactics, you can see why the traditional approach to job hunting might not cut it when you’re looking to get your foot in the door of a hot startup.

Looking beyond the beanbags and tennis tables in their offices, there is also plenty of exciting work on offer and the chance to contribute to innovative ideas that are disrupting entire industries.

Before we dig into the subject, let’s first define what a startup is:

A startup is a company that is in the first stage of its operations. These companies are often initally bank rolled by their entrepreneurial founders as they attempt to capitalize on developing a product or service for which they believe there is a demand. Due to limited revenue or high costs, most of these small scale operations are not sustainable in the long term without additional funding from venture capitalists.

So how do you adapt your job hunting strategy to meet the new startups standards?

How to get a job at a startup

Your Startup CV

Your CV is still your number one marketing tool when it comes to job hunting and you need to make sure that it communicates the skills, experiences and knowledge that your target employers are looking for. But when it comes to startups, you need to bend the standard rules of CV writing to stand out and show the creativity and imagination they need to bring new and innovative concepts to the world.

Show some personality

Most startup websites ooze personality. Thy go beyond explaining the services they offer and include a video about their founding story and lots of details on what it’s like to work in their offices. So try to reciprocate this in your CV and prove you would be a good culture fit for their team.

moz about us

1| Beef up your interests

Startups have a greater emphasis on team fit and “building a family” rather than just hiring someone to get a job done. So let them know what you’re about by including some unique and interesting things about yourself. Maybe you’ve travelled, maybe you’ve competed in big sports events, maybe you’ve done some great volunteer work… Let them know. If one or more of your interests could be considered work related, then you could even mention them at the top of your CV, in your profile or core skills section.

2| Show your community spirit

With a strong focus on team bonding, most startups put a lot of effort into community learning and social events. If you have experience of organising team nights out for your previous employers or supporting regular training initiatives, then be sure to mention them.


Modernise your CV Design

Slick and minimalistic design have become a hallmark of the modern startup.

So if you want to create an instant first impression on a startup recruiter, try something a little more eye catching than your basic professional CV Design.

If you need some inspirations or tools to make your CV better, do not hesitate to have look a “22 tools to create a beautiful CV“.


Show some entrepreneurial spirit

Startups are born of entrepreneurs so they like to hire people with the same strong work ethic and problem solving attitude.

Add some entrepreneurial flair to your CV by showing some pro-active and innovative things you’ve done in the past. Entrepreneurship can be shown in many forms from running a small side-line business, working as a freelancer, or even setting up and running new initiatives for your past employers.


Demonstrate in-demand skills

Obviously skills required will vary depending on the role you’re applying for and the company in question, but some skills are in constant high demand in the startup world. It’s unlikely that one person will have all of these skills but if you can highlight just one or two, you will look like a credible candidate to a startup. These skills don’t always have to come directly from employed work experience, you can also demonstrate them through education, training courses taken, freelance work, personal projects o volunteering.

Graphic & Web Design

Startups need to male sure they are making the right impression on customers and investors, so clean and attractive design is paramount. Design skills are crucial when it comes to the production of websites, content and marketing material.

Web & App Development

It goes without saying that every startup needs a good team of developers, especially if they are building new websites and bringing complex customer mobile apps to market. Coding is a valuable skills and there are lots of free courses online to get you started these days.


Good writers are essential when spreading the word about a new product or service so copywriting skills are essential for startups. Most firms produce regular blog posts as well writing guest articles for magazines and newspapers, so there is lots of writing work on offer.

Social Media Management

Creating a social buzz around products and services is paramount to the success of any startup. Experience of managing an organisation’s social accounts, engaging fans and driving likes and shares will look great on your CV.

Customer Service

Good old fashioned customer service is still an important part of any business when it comes to retaining customers and building reputation. If you’ve got excellent people skills and have the power to turn customers into fans then make it known.


Search Engine Optimisation is the process of ensuring that a website is highly ranked in search engines like Google and Bing. Even the most basic SEO knowledge can be valuable to a startup as they want to be on the first page of Google as quickly as possible.

Data Analysis

With limited funds and huge growth targets, startups have to watch their figures very carefully. Data analysis of customer behaviour, sales, revenue etc. plays a huge role in decision making and can literally male or break a business.


One thing a startup cannot live without is revenue, if they fail to generate any income in the early stages then they simply won’t survive. Selling a new product or service from a relatively unknown company can be tough, so strong sales people are always welcome at Startups.


Have a social presence

Startups are known for their huge social presence; whether it’s hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers or viral content being shared on Facebook. Social proof is the confirmation we seek from others to decide whether we trust a person or organisation. For example if you’re thinking about booking a holiday in a certain hotel, you will usually check out a few of their reviews on Tripadvisor before committing.

Interviewing at Startups

Interviewing at any firm can be a scary process, but interviewing at a startup can be even more terrifying as you will usually have an interview with lots of people, CEO included (depending on the startup’s stage). Will it be formal? Will it be casual? What should you wear? What sort of questions will they ask?

What to wear

You’ve been told pretty often that you should wear your best suit and tie to job interviews, but you know that most startups have a casual dress code and you don’t want them to think that a corporate banker has strayed into their office when you turn up in a bold pinstripe number.

Startup dress code will differ from company to company, so before making your final wardrobe decision, do some simple online research.

Look on the company website. Most startups love to show off what life is like behind the scenes at their firm, so they often share pictures of their employees at work on their About or Career pages.

But be cautious. Even if you’re 99% sure that all of their employees work in near lounge-wear attire, I still wouldn’t advise going completely gung-ho with the dress code and turning up in a round neck t-shirt and jogging bottoms. It’s still an interview and you want to show that you’re serious about the job. As a minimum, a casual collared shirt/top with smart jeans is a safe best.

Know their story

Startup founders and employees are usually very passionate about their business and the work they do to solve their customer’s problems.

When interviewing with any company, it’s important to do your research but startups tend to put a lot more value in a person who shares their vision and enthusiasm for their cause. Scour their website and search news channels for mentions of the company and their founders to get a complete view of their story and goals.

If possible, you could even try out one of their products or services to gain a better understanding of them, and then mention how you did this in your interview for extra brownie points.

Cover the basics

Once you’ve adapted your interview approach, don’t forget the interview preparation basics. You still need to understand the following:

  • The role requirements and how your skills match them
  • Your weaknesses and how you will minimise their impact
  • Common interview questions and how to answer them
  • What you want to ask the interviewer
  • Why you want to work with the company
  • What your careers plans are


The key to landing a role with a startup is to look in the right places and mirror some of their quirky style while remaining professional and competent. Once you’ve got a foot in the door, you will open yourself to a wealth of opportunities and hopefully have a lot of fun along the way.


Article originally shared on Standout CV

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