Welcome back to the View from the Monolith! I’ve spent the last few years siloed in a monolithic organisation, but now I am adventuring in the world of start-ups. In this blog, I share the learning I glean along the way.
One of the great things that happen here at The Shortcut is the Startup Minglelunch, where representatives from various start-ups come and talk about their companies to people who are actively looking for work. It’s a great opportunity to bring people together, and several people from our group have already found internships through these connections.
As I’ve talked about before, the ethos of the start-up is quite different from more traditional companies, and nowhere is this truer than in the start-ups’ approach to recruitment. Today, I’m going to share what I’ve learned so far about how different that is.
They always need developers.
A common theme from all the tech start-ups who have visited The Shortcut is the need for more developers. If you are an experienced UI (user interface) or UX (user experience) developer, or whether you work front end or back end, there’s a start-up looking for you.
At the core of it, there is a simple principle: everybody at a start-up needs to be either making a product or selling product, preferably both.
Start-ups recruit people like themselves.
When the start-up is two founders and they are looking to expand the team to three, one of the most important elements is that the team gets along. It is likely you will be working closely together for many hours, so having shared interests and attitudes will greatly smooth things along. One founder who spoke to us used an off-colour joke as part of his recruitment; while he suffered some Twitter backlash from that, he knew that the people who got it and responded would at least fit in with their team.
Attitude trumps skills.
Working at a start-up is often a scramble with everybody taking on new tasks and learning new skills on the job. So, finding someone with the right mindset and attitude is more important than finding the exact-match skillset.
There are diminishing returns here — no matter how enthusiastic a person is, they won’t be hired as a lead developer if they’ve never coded in their life — but a basic principle is that skills can be learned.
Recruiting the wrong person can be catastrophic.
Every time a start-up recruits, they take on a huge risk. If a team expands from three to four people, the hopes and ambitions of that company now rests 25% on the new person. And if the new person is not a good fit, for whatever reason, that can sink the company there and then. Even if it doesn’t, it can take years to recover from such a misstep.
Start-ups are bad at recruiting.
Despite the importance of successful recruitment, it remains a challenge for many start-ups. Their teams are small, so there will typically be no dedicated HR staff. Their processes will tend to be ad hoc, and even if they have a team member who understands the importance of recruiting, time is always an issue. Taking time to sift through a hundred CVs or conducting even a handful of interviews means spending less time developing, selling, or building customer relations.
So, how do you get a job at a start-up?
That’s a journey I am on myself and can’t even offer anecdotal advice, yet. But for what it’s worth, here are the conclusions I am working with.
- Make connections. Be this through networking events, public forums, or working your contacts. Make it easy for the start-up to recruit you, by letting them know you.
- Be ready to contribute. If you can present yourself as a solution to a problem the start-up has, they will snap you up. Work out an internship or offer help with a specific project.
- Be yourself. Just as they need to know they will be comfortable working with you, the reverse is true, and you’re helping nobody by putting on an act!
Thanks for reading. If this has piqued your curiosity for networking and start-ups, The Shortcut is a great place to start, with events and training to help bridge the gap into the start-up community: for more information check out the website.
I’ll be back in the new year with further views about start-ups, next up, a talk about why working for a start-up can be great.
By Rob Edwards – December 18, 2018