How to Land an IT Job With a Startup – 5 Things We’ve Learnt Through Recruiting

How to Land an IT Job With a Startup – 5 Things We’ve Learnt Through Recruiting

Have you been considering a tech role at a startup? Then here are 5 pieces of advice we’ve learned the hard way while grafting for startups and candidates alike on hard to fill IT jobs.

What are Employers Looking for When Hiring for a Startup?

Most tech startups tend to hire workers a little bit differently to the bigger, more established tech giants. We’re not talking about conducting the interview over a game of table football, or even getting the pizzas in while skills testing.

While big corporations look to find IT talent in the shape of a specific cog for a certain wheel in a one-off machine, startups are looking for a player; someone who can improve the team, bring on or develop new talent, challenge the status quo and ensure the startup promotes and competes in the big leagues.

And quickly. Like yesterday already.

Joining a tech startup is a much more fluid arrangement. Yes you still need to be a tech whizz, but you can’t be a wallflower either – you must have something about you.

What’s your value in business terms?

When you interview for a tech role with a startup you need to be acutely (if not explicitly) aware of tech as a business. How do your skills, talent and stature translate into business efficiency and profitability?

You really need to view your skills in terms of business viability; can you write clean code while marketing the productivity of the software to potential investors?

No doubt you are going to be joining a limited team, so your skills are going to be interchangeable.

Key takeaways:

  • Consider IT as a business
  • Play well with others

Revise your perception

Imagine a team where you are the only one with any idea how to code, the only platform engineer, the only IT Project Manager. 

Lets face it, when you work for a startup, you might be the only one of your kind. And this makes you unique. Special even.

But you have to prove your value in terms of project delivery. The startup environment is fast-paced, and your creativity and communication are going to be valued more than your kanban certificate. So be prepared to exchange ideas freely, act quickly and adjust to shifting business goals.

Key takeaway:

  • Rethink your work/life balance concept

Flex your transferable skills

Whether you are a Full Stack Engineer or a Back End Developer, you’ll need to have a pretty varied hat stand, because be prepared to wear a different one at the drop of a…well you get the picture.

Embrace job diversity, because working at a startup is a fast track education in multiple skill sets.

During the interview you will need to frame your key skills but don’t shy away from highlighting other non-developer skills you can bring to the business.

Just like the startup you want to work for, transferable skills are malleable, dynamic. Software coding or business analysts are finite job descriptions, but they can also mean being adept in UX, marketing and communication. 

Key takeaways:

  • Transferable skills
  • Go with the flow
  • Don’t be a square peg in a square hole

Establishing boundaries and limits

It’s easy to say that when working for a startup you need to be the all-singing, all-dancing,  multi-talented jack-of-all-trades. But when the pace is fast and on-time delivery means the release of next-round funding, striving for perfection needs to be balanced by a product that works, coding that delivers and clear scalability.

This can lead to potential burnout or stress which is no good to anyone.

You will need to be able to identify and outline clear boundaries and limits to what is possible and what is probable. Being realistic about how much you can give and what is the size of the circle of influence you have will stand you in much better stead than being a yes-man.

Everyone can be a yes-man, but few can actually get the job done.

Key takeaways:

  • Know your limits
  • Understand the difference between ‘yes’ and ‘how’

Unleash the leadership beast

A big aspect of your job will be to navigate through the potential minefields of rapid development, both from a software development perspective and a product delivery one too. Timescales are often short and small teams will operate in a pressure cooker environment. 

Success often relies on balancing a can-do attitude with leadership qualities; being flexible yet decisive; having vision but being able to listen; taking ownership of a project.

Key takeaways:

  • Take ownership
  • Be flexible
  • Positive mindset

So, are you ready to work for a startup?

Can you deliver on time? Can you motivate? Are you able to lead a tug of war against time and still get everyone to pull in the same direction?

If the answer is yes, then there’s a startup somewhere near you that needs your skill-set, experience and drive.

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