To Work for an Entrepreneur, Apply Like One

Posted: January 19, 2014 by Bob Gilbreath in Culture, People, Startup

BobGilbreathAhaMany people advise aspiring entrepreneurs to go work with a startup company before venturing out on their own. This offers a chance to live and breathe this high-paced world and learn from founder mentors while still pulling in a steady paycheck. But to work for an entrepreneur, you must job seek like an entrepreneur.

Over the past six months I have personally been involved in hiring over a dozen people for our startup, and I am surprised how little work most people put into applying. It might be that the shift to digital applications through sites like LinkedIn make it too easy for people to apply by clicking a button. But they forget that it’s just as easy for the hiring manager to hit “delete.” Winning a great job takes hard work and determination, and that’s doubly true when it comes to an entrepreneurial business or startup.

The first step is to put yourself in the shoes of the startup’s leaders. They put in many hours, make decisions at light speed, need people who can contribute immediately, and are passionate about their companies. A single bad hire can kill a promising company, yet the right hire can double or triple sales overnight. Any spare hour that the entrepreneur spends is precious, and she must be extremely choosey on where her time is spent.

To get on the entrepreneur’s radar you must do something to stand out and show that you are a skilled self-starter. This might mean networking to get an introduction, which always helps. But it is more important to have a story that proves you can run at a startup pace. This could be a side business that you launched, a MeetUp group that you have organized, a mobile app you wrote on the side, or a blog that you have been writing in regularly. We want to see that you are working on the nights and weekends on something that you love—which is really what a startup job is all about.

Getting a job with a startup takes patience. Hiring an employee is a significant expense, yet hiring is a key to growth—so company founders recruit continuously and try to “line up” people to pull the trigger on when the big customer order or round of funding comes in. That means you might have a great series of interviews but the company has to keep you on the back burner for some time.

Instead of waiting for the call to come, you must take this as a challenge. Continue doing research on the company’s business and regularly share articles or ideas with the founders. Offer to help out on some special projects on your nights or weekends at no cost. Make helpful introductions to new business prospects or even another potential employee. The more you give, the more you stay on the radar for when the time is right.

Building a successful startup depends on breaking the usual rules of business and markets. This goes for applying to startup jobs as well. So stop hitting the apply buttons and start thinking differently to break in with a breakout company.

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Comments
  1. Marc Connor says:

    Great perspective, thanks Bob! Here are some additional thoughts/builds:

    For applicants, Bob makes a critical point about your application/story – as you seek to understand the vision for the NewCo, get crystal clear on the unique value you can offer them the moment you walk in the door.

    Hiring fast is important for entrepreneurial leaders. Firing fast is also important – always with integrity and respect.

    One last thought – we tend to think of “hiring/being hired” as a short period of time. In start ups, its never over. You must be constantly building and sharpening the team roles and structure and as an employee you must be constantly adding new value and helping to scale the impact and effectiveness of the team.

    Bob, keep up the great work – hope you and the team keep growing and excelling!

  2. Bob Gilbreath says:

    Great adds, Marc!

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