I run a jobs list in Boulder, one that is easily found when searching for a job. People send in resumes and about 35 companies welcome them to town.
The list is just under two years old. I read every single resume that comes through, and as a whole, people are pretty bad at getting a job at a startup. Here are some tips.
- Know your specialty. If you are a marketer, developer or designer, list that at the top. List it in the subject line even. “Rails Developer Looking For Early Stage Startup” would be a great title. I should be able to glance at your coverletter and know what you are looking to do.
- Your resume should be named yourname.pdf (no word).
- Be creative. One of the best cover letters I’ve ever read said “I’m amazing at creating buzzwords, drinking beer and finding adventure. I’m also a kick ass Rails Developer, just coming off a long term contract. Early stage startups are a plus.” This sure as hell beats ‘I’m looking for a challenging and engaging environment to develop my talents.’
- In the history of startups, not a single ‘generalist’ has ever been hired. They are called founders.
- Really, if you can’t focus on something, at least in your introduction, you have a <0% chance of landing a job. Specialize! Customer support! QA! Development! Marketing! Intern! Product Development! Design!
- Be a human. The worst case scenario of getting a job is sending out a resume and getting no responses. Be a human, ask questions that can be answered by friendly folks. Keep the discussion going.
- Be clear. You are looking for a job. Cut the buzzswords, what is the best fit? Steady? Fast paced? Live in Boulder? Just say it. Cut the shit.
- Ditch a resume. You really don’t need one to work at a startup. A simple email of ‘this is what I have done, I’m looking to join a team as a _________ to kick some ass’ is a great way to do it. List specific projects and accomplishments. Show that you can be on point, effective and humble.
- Comment on their blogs! Company blogs are largely lacking in comments!
- Easy way to get into the CEO’s inbox is write a post about the company, saying how you admire / like them. CEO’s look at the blogs, and if in your bio you are clear in what you are looking to do (Developer!) you might just get an expressway to an interview.
- Email is a way to see if you are on it. Reply almost immediately. The more out of the usual workday, the more important. Keep them concise. “Hey Sue just got your email, quite late here but I would love to respond, a) b) c) d). Feel free to call if you have any quesitons.
- Have a personal blog. Write posts about what you specialize in. Get people to comment on it. Stand out. You control your personal brand, and if you don’t do this you are showing you don’t care.
- Really, have a personal blog. Today. Now. Get. On. It.
- Not caring is the #1 reason you won’t be hired at a startup.
- Hack on stuff. I like to think there are great fits for people and startups. When you find that special company, do what you do for them. “I know you have processes to do things like this, but I couldn’t help but see your PPC campaign is missing some pieces. If I was there I would help by doing _______” is a great way to do it. Consider it the interview the others were to lazy to do. When getting a job, standing out helps, a ton. Don’t do this for every app, nor spend too much time on it.
- Attend events. Meet folks there. Follow up from there.
Someone sent a picture of them doing an impressive flip as an addition to their resume, which in Boulder, is the best cover letter I can think of. Checking to see if he got a job today :)