Applying for a job in a startup and applying for a job in a corporate, are qualitatively different things. Demands of both are different and the mindset you’d require to perform well at both of them is different.
If you have already decided to work for a startup despite all the hurdles that may await you on your way, here are a few tips about things to avoid saying and doing during your startup job interview process.
Using generic phrases
Phrases like fast learner, strategist, initiator of new initiatives will not work for a startup, at least not for a good one – A good startup will expect people who can communicate clearly what they have done and what past result and achievement makes them eligible in less than 140 characters. If you are still left with space to explain your personality, be my guest.
Jump straight to why can you deliver on that particular job they are advertising? Because you’ve done it before? Because you got the network? Because got the figures? Show them the figures.
“Managing” a team
No startup ever has use of managers people who hope to get things done delegating to others. In a startup everyone ships and there is no hierarchy but a flat hierarchy. Everyone is in the field and everyone delivers something at the end of the day – whether code, content, or customer support calls.
Saying how cool and necessary their startup is for the society
Even if that’s true no good startup will ever hire you for flattering.
The better way is to decide what specifically they are call about and address that particular need. For example – I saw your downloads getting to 10,000 in just 10 days, I can help it jump to a 1,000,000 in 30 days. Or your interface is so cool, I’d love to work on some extra things that will boost your conversion in another 3%.
See? Flatter + actionable in the same pitch
Being a “people” person
I don’t know why people use this so much, what exactly do they try to convey and what will it take to remove it from their dictionary. You say you are a people person who knows how to make it win-win for everyone? Well perfect, in other words you are a great salesman. In that case sell my product to someone in a way he is so happy and delighted with the value he gets for his money that he refers 10 more people to buy. That’s a real people person if you ask me.
Being remorseful about 9-5 jobs
This won’t get you selected, not only because it is cliché nowadays, but because no one works 9-5 anyways. Our smartphones and 3G have permanently taken that privilege from us. Therefore both, the average and the great performers work beyond 9-5 but the difference is what they deliver.
If you can’t showcase what you have achieved even within those hours, your rebellious mind will not sell you to the opportunity. It is not about the 9-5 job and it is not because you are forced to do the same thing every single day. It is rather because you are lazy and unwilling to challenge yourself. Contrary to what the folklore says, no company ever forces people to do the same thing or forbids them to innovate within their own context.
You are looking for more challenging role
No you don’t. Get to the point. Be honest, you will be appreciated for that and save many people’s valuable time. What you need is more money.
If you were looking more challenges you would have found some already. The world is not short of challenges. The very fact that you haven’t shipped or built anything in the past few years is a living proof that challenges is not what you are after. Cut the nonsense.
You have already failed in your own startup
Thank the startup folklore again for making it sound cool for people to brag that they have failed a startup, hence being more powerful and experienced as a result of it. That blog you were running? That doesn’t count as a startup unless you found way to monetize it.
What matters more to those who’d hire you is not the mere fact that you failed in your own startup but that you understand the nature of that failure and why exactly it failed. Demonstrating clarity around this will earn you extra points on your startup job’s application.
Have you read Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why?” If you haven’t, check out his TED Talk, but get the book and read it. It should be required reading for anyone involved in shaping or deploying a company’s messaging. (Which is really everyone at a company, when you think about it … more on that later.)
In the book, Mr. Sinek explains that people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. In addition to surrounding yourself with clients/customers who believe your WHY, you also need to build a team of people who believe your WHY.
We’re in growth mode here at Geben, which means I’m constantly looking for amazing talent to join our team. But, there are lots of people who are possess the right skills. That got me thinking about who I’m hiring and how to tell if someone is the right fit. Truth be told, if a jobseeker is looking for a company that can offer the best salary or benefits package, we’re probably not going to top their list. While our lax vacation policy, 401k, profit sharing and bonus programs are more than fair, I also understand that larger companies can offer other perks.
In a tight job market, it’s not easy to be a teen.
Inexperience and youth have made it difficult for teens to land extra cash at the mall, when older laid-off workers are competing for the same jobs.
Rock Your Block LLC hopes to level the playing field. The Minneapolis-based start-up is developing an online and mobile app to link teenage job seekers with neighborhood employers.
The idea came to founder Sarah Young two years ago when she was a senior at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. There was résumé website LinkedIn and job listings onMonster.com for adults. But she saw few options for teens searching for work.
“The youth are so much more technology literate. Why is there no service?” Young said. “I thought about what I was like when I was a kid. Had I had a service like this, I would have been online all the time, looking at opportunities around me, versus going door to door.”
Rock Your Block is for teens ages 13 to 17. To apply for job listings, teens will need to pay a $45 annual fee and list a sponsor, whether it be a parent or a community group like the YMCA.
Rock Your Block does not charge neighbors to post jobs, but there will be a fee for companies that want to hire teens. All job posters will undergo a background check, Young said. Jobs can be chores around a neighborhood, such as yard work, running errands or dog walking.
This may sound a bit hard to believe, but I predict we will see genuine bipartisan legislation in Congress this year that will do wonders to revive economic growth and create jobs — even though bipartisanship is an endangered species in Washington, and even though this is an election year. Miracles do happen, and we are going to see one.
Several bills backed by Republicans and Democrats would rejuvenate the spirit of entrepreneurship – creative people taking risks to bring new products and ideas to market. This is our country’s strong suit, and a critical element in our economy. Research by the Kauffman Foundation indicates that firms less than five years old have produced 40 million jobs over the past three decades, essentially accounting for all of the new jobs created in that period.
But over the past five years, new startups are down 23 percent, and firms that are being launched are adding fewer new jobs than in earlier years. Public offerings have fallen. Part of this is due to the overall weakness in the economy, but at the same time entrepreneurs are finding that raising capital and finding talent are much more challenging than in years past. And as the creative spirit ebbs on our home shores, it is picking up among our foreign competitors.
At PeerIndex, we have gone through an incredible roller-coaster in building our Development Team – finding some of the best talent in Europe. We’ve brought them together using the tools that eliminate (okay, maybe not completely) time and distance as we press on. Our efforts will build a solution that enables anyone to find, manage and OWN the value of their social actions or “influence” on the web.
PeerIndex’s vision is about bringing you the power and control to own your own social influence to your benefit.
How? We have taken a simple concept of figuring out who was the best source of a particular topic (e.g., who do you listen to to learn about <fill-in-the-blank>?) and migrated the insights into an algorithm that focuses on understanding how you impact the social web with your conversations. Rather than listening from a single point of view, we watch how you converse with others and the ripples you create. From those ripples, you can see how people respond and react to you – getting a better understanding of your influence.
Our team has grown in skills and experience by moving from a simple website with a few easy web services and queuing mechanisms to a global infrastructure supporting enterprise-sized caches, extra-large Hadoop clusters and scalable API services. Our websites are focused more on the development of engagement with information for the user’s benefit and away from the standard data wonk’s Excel table.
And we are still growing.
Are you one of the few that wants to come along for the journey? This is not a journey for the timid or the mild – this is about taking bold steps and really making a difference in the growth of a new company. One that has the potential of being the “Paypal of Influence”. If you want to know what that means, ask me at the event.
Come join us this evening – we are ready to change the world.
We are always on the look out for excellent Graphic Designers and UI/UX talent – especially once with an enthusiasm for infovisualisation.
– Sanford Dickert Chief Technology Officer at PeerIndex
When new employees are able to become productive team members, your company receives the best return on its investment in personnel. However, companies face the challenge of providing performance standards so that their new hires understand what the management expects of them and support staff, such as trainers and managers, can provide the information new hires need to succeed.
TIPS FOR CREATING PERFORMANCE STANDARDS
Customize Standards for the Job
While managers and executives will need to have concrete standards and measures in mind for a particular job, the most effective performance standards should be developed alongside new employees. This will ensure there are no misunderstandings and the employees are invested in the process.
In fact, collaborating to create a custom set of standards for employees can pay off. Arnold Anderson writes at the Small Business Chronicle, “When employees participate in creating their own performance standards, they have an increased feeling of responsibility for reaching, and even exceeding, those standards.” That isn’t to say that you start from scratch every time. Rather, you build a performance plan based on what the job requires and then modify it in light of the specific talents of each employee.
Use Quantitative and Qualitative Measures
As you develop a performance plan, take into account the outcomes and key result areas that are easy to measure and those that require more feedback. Sometimes the most important aspects of a job, such as customer satisfaction, are difficult to quantify.
Eve Ash of the training firm Seven Dimensions suggests a use of quantitative and qualitative measures in setting performance standards: “Quantitative standards relate to things that can be counted – amounts, errors, time, cost, percentage of visits, number of complaints, output etc. Qualitative standards – which relate to how well something has been done.” Consider qualitative measures such as the ability to explain customer service procedures, customer feedback, or manager evaluations.
For a new capital-light web startup I’m a big fan of a two person team comprised of a product manager with domain expertise and a lead developer. This type of team can move quickly towards finding product/market fit. Now, as the team grows from there the third hire should often be another software engineer. Software engineers, especially in the early stages, provide great leverage and economies of scale with their time.
At some point the product rapidly approaches the needs of the market, which are being coordinated through customer driven development by the product manager, and it ‘s time for that fourth hire. That fourth hire should either be another software developer or a jack-of-all-trades with a marketing/sales/service focus to start building a sales and marketing machine.
Launching the first phase of a startup business – or for a business angel, preparing to invest in one – requires an assessment of three things – product, market and team.
Equally, it is well understood that the first stage of product development is a prototype, a beta version, or more recently, a minimum viable product.
But, does the same apply to the market and the team too?
So what would a minimum viable market look like?
Steve Blank is the person who came up with the concept of ‘customer development’. This was because he used tech developer concepts of agile development to argue that the product needs to be developed rapid and quickly and that equally customers need to be developed too – quickly and rapidly.
In effect, Steve Blank argues that customers are developed through a series of contacts or product developments or iterations.
So, what would count as a minimum viable market (customer) or minimum viable team?
Let’s start with the minimum viable market. Steve Blank says that this is not a focus group. In other words, it is not about collecting desires or wants from potential customers. Instead, it is about selling a product.
The best description I’ve heard is; one product sold, one happy customer, one referral.
… and the happy customer can’t be your mum (or dad). Instead, it has to be a real / non-family / customer without vested interests who pays and is willing to provide a referral (ie a lead to another potential customer).
The referal bit is critical, as it confirms that the customer is still happy after they’ve bought the product. Hence, slick marketing and a poor product won’t deliver a happy customer after the event.
Whenever I invest in a new company, I send the CEO my customary email with advice on how to work with his or her new board. I’ve spent 24 years in the software industry—including holding operating roles at three early-stage software companies and board seats at 12 startups—so I thought my “Top 10″ list on the care and feeding of board members might be helpful to other CEOs and executive as well.
So, without further ado, here it is:
1. Have a plan, and get your entire company and board to understand and support it.
A company’s business plan and strategy is the map of where we are going. The plan almost certainly will change, but the best CEOs keep everyone informed about where we said we are going, where we are currently going, and why we changed plans if we did.
The plan should not be that complicated. Too many business plans use multisyllabic adjectives and adverbs—the plan should be simple even if the products are complicated. The essence of the business plan should be simple enough for a six year-old to read and understand.
We should agree on a plan that describes our target customer; the company’s product; and competition. This plan informs the product roadmap (including timeline and hiring requirements, such as how many people you need to build, market and sell the product) and P&L (revenue, expense and net income) broken out by month and quarter and by R&D, sales and marketing and general-and-administrative expenses. The sales and marketing plan goes with this, including a product and pricing model.
The preference is to approve the above and then stay out of the CEO’s way—the opportunity
cost of your time is incredibly high.
Start It is a documentary series on how Order SM, an early stage mobile commerce startup, is approaching the launch of their company. It is intended as a helpful guide to anyone looking to build or grow a startup in today’s fast paced technology space.
What you read may counter “generally accepted” startup practices in Silicon Valley or elsewhere but that’s what happens when you are a bit different. We are not Stanford Grads; we are not ex-Googlers; we are located in Seattle, not San Francisco; and we did not start off with a large network or initial funding sources. We are 21st century entrepreneurs and this is our story. It’s a good bet most of you are none of those things either so we hope this may help you get off the ground. Please feel free to reach out with comments or questions. This is the second of many posts in the Start It Series.
In the previous post How To Establish A Vision Worth Pursuing we covered how important vision is to the success of startup. You really need to know where you are going before you start the journey. But once you figured that out, the next question to ask is Who will go with me? Or more importantly, what do I actually need to get done and who are the right people to help make it come true?
The story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey team can teach us a lot about leadership and team building. The movie Miracle details how the coach Herb Brooks (played by Kurt Russell) led the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team to victory over the seemingly invincible Russian squad. For many reasons Miracle is one of my favorite movies and Herb Brooks has been a great example to me of how to approach building a team. His leadership approach is astounding as he prepares the team to take on what seems to be an insurmountable odds. One moment in the movie stopped me right in my tracks. Herb picks his team by bringing together a bunch of random players – young players and no-names – going against the wisdom of his assistant coaches and team advisors. The conversation went something like this:
Herb’s assistant: This is the final roster? You’re kidding me, right? This is our first day, Herb. We’ve got a week of this. What about the advisory staff? Aren’t they supposed to have a say in this? You’re missing some of the best players.”
A Chief Financial Officer (CFO) means different things at different times in a company’s history.
The CFO at Apple, for example, will spend most of his time on investor relations (keeping Wall Street happy) and overall strategy.
- designing/implementing systems
- developing a library of forms (employment agreements, outbound software license agreements…)
- administrative matters (employee benefits, liability insurance, leasing an office…)
- negotiating customer agreements, designing commission plans
- producing/reporting on financial matters (including board packets and commissions).
I call this “keeping the trains running on time”.
In most startups, the founders are “idea people” who have superb marketing, sales and/or engineering skills; but they usually don’t like spending time on admin/finance/HR.
Thus, having someone take care of all this “admin/operations stuff” lets the founders focus on building value, while being confident that their CFO is taking care of the details.
A good CFO is the right hand to the CEO. Think of Tom Hagen’s role as consigliere in The Godfather: Don Vito always sought Tom’s advice, even though the advice wasn’t always followed. That’s why the CEO sits in the corner office (or… cubicle…or Ikea desk): to make the final decision. But the CFO wants to be sure that the CEO is aware of the ramifications of her decision so the decision is carefully thought out and there are no surprises later. Having a CFO as Devil’s Advocate is handy.
If you are a non-technical person ready to put together a startup, there are some very important things you must do before you start to look for a technical co-founder, though in fact, you can launch your tech startup without one.
One of the first things I did when I left my job at Goldman Sachs was to start looking for a technical co-founder. I read multiple blog posts and commentaries about the difficulty of finding a technical co-founder. Some were nicer than others. But the less encouraging ones put zero value on being a business co-founder. The comments section for many of these posts were filled with “How could you possibly think someone will want to join you?”
But then I realized why.
So many of the calls for technical co-founders went something like this: “I have a great idea – please come be my technical co-founder.” The non-technical founder only had an idea and had done no work to back it up. If you have done any research at all, you would find that ideas are worth nothing without execution. That is startup lesson number one.
One of the most important things I did was be honest with myself when deciding whether I had the skill set necessary to successfully lead the type of company I was trying to launch. My first idea was for a travel startup, but I had no technical expertise to solve a very technical problem and no relevant industry experience.
There is a code of silence among entrepreneurs when it comes to personal ruin. The irony, though, is that most entrepreneurs endure personal ruin — it’s what makes entrepreneurs special. They bring this on themselves in the name of seeing their ideas to fruition.
In case you have any doubt about the craziness of entrepreneurs, there are two, seminal articles about the topic. One comes from David Segal in the New York Times. The article is titled, “Just Crazy Enough,” and Segal explains why VCs like CEOs who are a little crazy — but just short of mental-ward crazy — when they pitch.
And there’s another aspect to the craziness of entrepreneurs: Jeff Stibel, writing in the Harvard Business Review, calls entrepreneurship a disease because you are not likely to make money — you are likely to die broke. And you work insane hours — longer than any other job — and you do it over and over and over again. This is not sane.
So it’s ironic that everyone knows that entrepreneurs are insane, but entrepreneurs try so hard to hide what’s going on. It’s hard to sound crazy and also sound worthy of running a company. But if you are a CEO of a startup you need to bridge that gap.
Here’s why: Saras Sarasvathy, professor at the Darden School of Business, did a study on the traits of successful entrepreneurs. Andshe told me that the only trait that is reliably there through all sorts of successful founders is the ability to network. Successful founders can understand their weaknesses and fill those gaps with people from their network.