Dream Job at a Startup

How to Land Your Dream Job at a Startup

Small business is the new engine of economic growth in every country. Small businesses stimulate demand, generate employment and create business activity. Statistically, 98 percent of all new businesses registered are small business startups. The key to the success of any startup is talent, but how can talented people land their dream job at a hot startup?

The new culture of innovation

Many startups are owned by Generation Y or the “echo boomers,” who are less inclined to adapt a 9 to 5 office job. As children of Generation Xers, echo boomers have seen and experienced firsthand the effort their parents put into their careers in order to have food on the table. Generation Y belongs to the other side of the spectrum, which favors efficiency. 

Thus, these new startups appear to focus less on technical and fundamental competencies and more on establishing conditions that encourage productive behavior in the workplace. Prominent echo boomers are Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Tony Hsieh of Zappos.

Zuckerberg and Hsieh credit the success of their respective companies to having created a culture of innovation. Zuckerberg has gone to great lengths ensuring facilities are in place at Facebook that help employees better focus on work. Hsieh, who is a proponent of “holacracy,” hires people not on the basis of their qualification, but on whether or not he or she fits the company culture.

Rigid, old school management principles have no place in a hot startup. Startups are all about dynamism; creating synergy in the workplace and offering the promise of a career, not just a paycheck. They are focused on sustainable solutions, meaning the foundations for a productive environment must be in place at the very start.

This is an attractive proposition for the next generation of job seekers who are talented and highly proficient in technology. The question is: how can these talented people land their dream job at a startup, and how do these hot startups find talented people?

The quality conundrum

According to Bejan Douraghy, CEO of Artisan Talentonly 1.7 percent of applicants in the U.S job market are considered qualified for many open jobs, compared to six years ago when there were 6.2 qualified applicants per job. In a talent-driven market, companies are contracting the services of businesses such as Artisan Talent to help them find qualified candidates for open jobs.

For talent agencies such as Artisan, the idea of finding qualified candidates goes beyond the content of their Curriculum Vitae. Of course, technical and fundamental considerations still apply, but the focus is more on finding the candidate with the best cultural fit for their client. Artisan Talent does this by developing an understanding of who the client is and what they do, then identifying the qualities that are a match with prospective candidates.

Douraghy shares that one-third of its candidate roster is composed of freelancers, which mirrors the current manpower distribution of many U.S. companies. It was estimated that in 2014, 30 percent to 45 percent of the U.S. workforce were composed of telecommuters or freelancers. Douraghy estimates that in 2020, 50 percent will be freelancers.

Step by step

First, create an online profile, create or update your resume, select two to three key social media accounts and start a blog. Once you have these components in place, it’s time to get moving.


Startups have limited capital or access to funding. For the startup, contracting freelancers is an attractive option because it offers many benefits, including:

  • Lower cost option: freelancers are paid per hour and not entitled to benefits. Thus, total compensation is much lower compared to hiring a full time employee.
  • Lower cost per unit of production: you do not incur additional costs in Internet bandwidth, rent, power and contingencies.
  • Higher productivity: studies have shown freelancers are 13 percent to 22 percent more productive than full time employees.
  • Greater flexibility: if the candidate referred by Artisan Talent fails to deliver results, Artisan will replace the candidate right away with no extra charge.

Startups often have company accounts in a number of popular online job markets, such as ElanceUpworkFreelancer.com and Guru.comOpen a freelancer account in three to four of these online job markets. Make sure the details are updated, aligned with your Curriculum Vitae and upload a professional photograph. These online job markets offer free accounts and give you around 30 credits or opportunities to apply for posted jobs.


You can network effectively using both traditional networking and social media networking.Traditional networking requires legwork and availability of marketing materials. You can present your skills to prospective employers, including startups, at job fairs, business conventions, job expositions, trade shows and business forums.

Many startups also use social media to search for talent. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when using social media for networking:

  • Choose only three social media networks to manage. This will make it easier to remain consistent on social media. You can use Twitter to acquire followers, Facebook to distribute posts and blogs and LinkedIn to network.
  • Join focus groups. Your prospective employer could be a member of the focus group.
  • Engage frequently with members of the community. Interaction is a great way to be noticed.
  • Publish blogs at least once a week and post to Facebook, LinkedIn and a community blog page that shares your interest.

Targeted distribution

A more direct option to consider is to identify the startups you are interested in working for and then customizing your application to their needs.

To do this, you must research the company and find out their directives, objectives and development projects in the pipeline. Next, review your skill set and emphasize the qualities that are relevant to the startup’s core business. Package your qualifications to include a cover letter, updated CV, referrals and your portfolio.

Make sure your CV is professional and before submitting, always check for spelling and grammatical errors. The cover letter must be addressed specifically to the person in charge.

Keep in mind that these startups may not actively post job openings. You have to be creative and resilient in your efforts. While waiting for your efforts to bear fruit, keep yourself busy by finding ways to improve. If you are not confident of your competency in IT, writing, communication and other skills, enroll in classes or short-term courses.

Given the competitive nature of the job market, it will not be easy to land your dream job right away. However, instead of looking at time passed as opportunity lost, view it as more opportunities to become better.

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