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2 Apr

Getting hired at a startup is a different beast.

If you’re planning to leave your role in a McKinsey, a CapGemini, or a Deloitte for a startup, would you be a good fit?

Well, it depends on why you’re leaving.

If you’re leaving because

  • the CXOs of the firm didn’t even know you by name
  • you found your colleagues didn’t match your wavelength
  • you couldn’t make any friends within the org
  • you felt there was too much friction and bureaucracy in implementing impactful ideas  
  • you were stuck in a monotony that killed you from within

then you might be ready for a startup. Or therapy.

But in your startup interview, if you ask something like,

“How often are the appraisals going to be conducted?”

or even worse, say,

“Before starting any work, I need clear requirements and a defined process,”

sorry, no, you aren’t ready for a startup. At least not yet. And especially if you’re an early-stage hire.

Another thing is if you’re within the first 20 employees, as a founder, I should be able to crack jokes with you and have a light conversation over dinner. If you don’t mesh with the founders’ personalities and think you may not enjoy hanging with them outside of work, it’s not going to work.

Generally, the more chaos a group is expected to go through, the stronger their relationship and understanding of each other should be. A startup in its early stages is already a giant overflowing mess. A lack of adaptability and ownership is definitely something founders will not be willing to entertain at that point.

If you need to be told everything that needs to be done, if you need detailed context for every problem and can’t figure your way to a solution by yourself, you aren’t ready for an early-stage startup.

In a young startup, it is better to make a mistake and move forward than to not act at all. It’s the exact opposite of corporate culture.

Your resume is useless. Kinda.

There are very few resumes in the world that tell a founder that you’re ready to run your own company. Look at your own resume. Is there any clear signal there that would tell me that you’ll be great as an entrepreneur?

Probably very little, if at all.

Does it matter? No.

Your resume may help us get started talking in an interview. I might ask you a few questions to verify if what you’ve claimed in your resume is genuine. I might look at your work and see if it matches the bar for quality. But that’s about it.

If I’m hiring an early-stage employee, I would want to know if you fit well with the company culture.

  • Would you be good to work with?
  • Would you create one more problem for me or would you take a problem off my plate?
  • Would you take ownership of your work or would you blame failure on other problems?

That is what I’m trying to know.

Your resume may be a good filter when it comes to satisfying prerequisites, but its role almost totally ends there.

Great communication skills are a must.

Your communication — both written and verbal — is the best proxy for your thinking. And it really doesn’t matter what your role in the company is. You might be writing code, you might be managing finances, operations — any role where you might expect writing skills aren’t very important. Doesn’t matter. You need to be able to communicate clearly.

In a young startup, every employee is a salesperson. And you will be one of the very few faces who represent the company.

  • Would I be willing to let someone who isn’t good at communicating talk to my potential customers or to sell to them? No.
  • Would I be willing to let them set up and manage my social media accounts? No.
  • Would I be willing to let them talk to vendors? No.
  • Would they be fun to interact with on team game nights? Probably not.

Good communication skills are a multiplier in the early stage startup equation. If you don’t have them, everything else goes to zero.

How many of these boxes do you check?

P.S. — If any of your friends are applying at early-stage startups, do share it with them. It will help them set the correct expectations and avoid a culture shock later on.

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