Unlike working for a huge company, there's never a dull moment at a startup. These fast-moving businesses appeal to rock stars invigorated by doing innovative work in hip offices with the prospect of someday reaping insane perks and incentives. But landing a job at a startup takes finesse. For one thing, the job you want may never hit a job board because the hottest talent is adept at landing interviews for positions that may not even exist yet. If you play your cards right, that could be you, says Chris Giordano, CEO of MiMedia, the next generation personal cloud for photos, videos, music and files that's gunning for Apple iCloud, as well as several Google platforms that house people's music, files, photos and videos.
As someone who has hired and fired dozens of people in the last three or four years, Giordano says a candidate can have incredible experience and education, but not turn out to be a slam dunk. "I'd say it's the hardest part of my job," he says. "I'm not going to say I'm an expert by any stretch, but I've learned through my mistakes." Here's what he says you should do if you want to land a job at a startup.
1. Cultivate a robust network of people who like and respect you.
Startups generally prefer to hire by referral, meaning they're taking the word of someone they trust that a candidate is worth talking to. "That's to get in the door," he says.
2. Convey an attitude of positivity and persistence.
This kind of mindset will keep you in the door. "Positivity is a key because it's contagious," he says. "[I'm looking for] persistence, because this is a war. In some part of the world someone is competing with you, so you have to never stop climbing the hill."
3. Know that your resume won't get you hired.
That's not to say you don't need to have a perfect one at the ready, but for Giordano it's all about finding out a person's real story--where he grew up, what she's passionate about and what kinds of commitments the individual has made in the past--the kinds of things which can't be communicated via bullet points on a page. "It's about that positive energy that they're bringing beyond the resume and you really can't prep for that," he says. "It's not something you can fake, either. You either have it or you don't and I can tell that pretty quickly in an interview."
4. Prepare by thoroughly studying the company and its industry.
If possible, it means actually using whatever product or service the startup is working on so you can be prepared to share ideas about how it rocks, and in which areas you can see areas for improvement. "I'm far more interested in what I can do to improve the product than I am about hearing that it's amazing," he says. "When you're saying things like that it shows me that you actually care about how to make this company better. I want and need that in my company."
5. Rehearse your story.
Before an interview, think about concrete examples you can give about how you've handled problems in the past, or how you have demonstrated your leadership skills. "Did they take a project from start to finish? Maybe it's not successful, that's OK. If it wasn't, I want to hear why it didn't work and what they learned," he says.
6. If you don't know the right people, get out there and meet them.
Be proactive and start attending meetups centered around the industry you're trying to penetrate. Or, sign up for conferences which will be attended by companies you want to work for. "You can either buy a pass or you could be clever and ask for someone's pass as they're walking out," he says. "Just try to get in and introduce yourself."
7. Be persistent but not annoying.
Use LinkedIn to identify people to target. If you have to send a cold email to these people use it as an opportunity to tell your story and how it relates to that business, without writing a novel. These people are busy, so keep your emails as direct and short as possible. "If someone emailed me and said 'Hey, Chris, here are five things about your app that I don't like, and five things that I like,'" he says, "that would get my attention."