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.