What Startups Look For When They Hire

Working in a startup is a different experience and with good reason – they work very differently from traditional corporates. But it isn’t as if the people working there come from a different planet – they’re human beings like you and me. The difference is they have attuned themselves to working in startup environments. So, if you’re wondering if working in a startup is for you, this piece will help.

While different roles require different skillsets from you, this piece by STOA will focus on the broader things startups look for.

a) Proof of work

Traditional jobs tend to hire you on your CV. Startups prefer proof of work. It can be a side business or a project, or even a serious hobby. This shows them that you are passionate about something and will make the effort to bring it to life – something you’ll need to do a lot in startups.

b) Self-starter

While this term has many connotations, startups look for someone who doesn’t need to be prodded to take action. They are looking for someone who can spot opportunities, take decisions, ship work and iterate based on results. Founders in startups are running at full speed and don’t have time to weigh in on every decision. They need people to take charge.

If you’re someone who always wanted to be your own boss, a startup can be a great launchpad.

c) Functioning in uncertainty

In a big corporate, change and decisions take time. The reason is that many people weigh in on things, and this inevitably leads to delays. But startups can change course overnight. If there is a change in the market and they need to change direction, they’ll do it. If they face competition, they will change strategy quickly to counter. All of this means things can keep constantly changing. You can work on a plan only to have it totally overhauled the next day. What you’re working on today can be totally different from what you’ll be working on next week. If you’re someone who can adjust to changes quickly, you will thrive in a startup environment.

d) Putting structure to things

While ambiguity is a given, the structure also has its place. Startups look for people who can put processes in place quickly to ensure that work gets done faster.

e) Mission focussed

If you’re joining a startup, it’s a good idea to choose one which is solving a problem you believe in. Working in a startup isn’t a fixed job where you clock in and clock out at a fixed time. You’ll be expected to bring solutions to the table, solve problems and take decisions. This becomes easier when you believe in the problem being solved.

A startup environment can be chaotic and unpredictable. But it can also be a great learning experience if you sink your teeth into it and see it as a learning journey.

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