Work at A Start-Up
Today’s start-up company is a very exciting place. By its very nature, the start-up is a breeding ground for cutting edge products and technological innovations, and can be very alluring for today’s professional seeking a career change. But it’s not all rainbows and unicorns, folks. Start-ups require hard work, passion, resources and time. They also require solid foundations in their business model and leadership. And on the surface, it can be difficult to gauge these important qualities that can ultimately make or break a sprouting organization.
As a leading executive search firm, we work with many technology driven start-ups. We find it extremely important to do our own due diligence on these companies before entering into any hiring relationship with them. Our candidates can feel secure knowing that we won’t match them with a poorly funded or managed organization, but we still encourage job seekers to do their own legwork. On top of finding your own reassurance, it will educate you in ways that are invaluable during the interview process.
Look At the Growth Stage of the Start-Up
Start-ups advance through stages as they attempt to evolve into an established success story. Each stage has its own challenges, advantages and risks. Your first order of business should be to understand the growth stage level of the start-up. Have they advanced beyond seed money? Are they mid-stage or early-stage? Founding level entry could mean incredible direct access and input. It could also mean early exit if the plan is not strong and the funding falls through. In your interview, clarify how your own role will evolve along with the start-up. A job that doesn’t meet your current needs may exceed them in a short period of time. Then again, one that starts out just right may quickly change into something completely different. Much of this will rely upon projected stability, profitability and acquisition potential. These are all key items to research in advance through press releases, reviews, news and buzz. Come armed with this information and you will show your interest in their success while determining whether or not you’d like to be a part of it.
Research the Start-up’s Management Team
During your interview, you’ll most certainly be meeting with a member of the management team. The same questions they’re likely to ask you can be an excellent starting point in your research to find out vital information about them. The background of a start-up’s management team can be telling of its chances for success. Does their pedigree show experience in the same industry? Experience with other start-up ventures? Is it a stream of short-lived failures or are there building blocks of success? Look through their profiles just as they will yours, and find interviews in the press, guest articles and blog posts. All can speak to their communication style, personality and beliefs. In order to find out if they’re someone with whom you could work well, reach out to your network and find people who have crossed paths with them. Having this knowledge will also give you some insight into their management style and success, and position you to make an impact during your interview and at the company.
Compare Your Values with That of the Start-Up’s
Confirming the stability and growth potential of the start-up and the experience and style of its management team provide the foundation for your income security questions. Discovering whether you buy into the company’s ideas is the framework for determining the emotional side of this match. What values does the start-up vocalize? Do they match your own? How do they plan to distribute their product or service? Is it an approach you can get behind? Think about what your goals would be for their dream. Without a shared interest in goals, the collaborative nature of a start-up could be challenging. The start-up is looking to hire people who are the best at what they do. And on top of that, they want them to share their passion. Coming into your interview with a complete understanding of what the start-up seeks to create will allow you to express your desire to make it happen. It also gives you the ability to share suggestions and thoughts about process with clarity when you are asked how you expect to make a difference.
Due Diligence On Yourself
After all of your research, you need to look within to answer the most important question of all: Am I ready to work at a start-up? Examine your appetite for risk. Even the most stable and promising start-up environment is still a start-up. It comes with non-traditional hours, extreme workloads, expectations for developing new skills on the fly, the possibility of failure and the high potential for reward. Due diligence will open your eyes to the realities of a start-up company, but self-reflection will reveal whether or not a start-up is right for you. Who knows; Maybe you were the perfect candidate all along.