How to land Interviews at good startups?
I am Aditya, a Frontend developer currently building the future of e-commerce at Plaza. In 2019, I dropped out of college and dived into web development. Since then, I have landed multiple high-paying job offers at amazing startups. You can read my full journey here.
In this article, I will share a few ways that have helped me in landing good opportunities in tech and might help you:
Stop the resume game - I learned this from Tanay and Varun and it has been proven a very effective piece of advice for me. Resumes are becoming outdated nowadays because they don't showcase your skills properly especially when you're applying for the role of a designer or a developer. Instead, build a good portfolio website. Put all your projects, designs, case studies, etc in there. Also, start a blog and share everything you learn. It is a very good way to prove that you know how to articulate your thoughts well and can impress recruiters.
Pick the right startup - This is a very important point that most people miss especially freshers. You will be spending a majority of your time working there so don't pick a startup you won't enjoy working at. But then the question arises, how to pick the right startup? Here are a couple of things I would do to make a better choice.
- Doing a background check on founders: What kind of industries have they worked in before? Are they serial entrepreneurs? How long have they been in the industry in which they launched their product? Remember, these are just some of the questions that I personally ask because I believe that a founder-market-fit is as important as a product-market-fit i.e. a founder who understands a particular market well enough is more likely to launch a successful product/service in that market.
- Do a check on the startup: What industry is that startup in? What is the problem they are trying to solve? Are they backed by good investors or are bootstrapped and making profits already? Are you interested enough in their product? Answering these questions is important because if you're not interested in the industry they are in and the problem they are trying to solve then you won't be able to give your 100% while working there and it will slow down your growth. Startups are the Disneyland of learning but they demand hard work.
- Clarity of responsibilities: What will you be exactly working on? Do you have seniors on your team or will you be calling all the shots? Are your roles limited to development only or will you be helping out the design team once in a while too (just an example)? Ask these questions to the recruiter because I believe If a startup can't provide clarity around your roles then that means they are not clear about them themselves and you might end up in a mess. Maybe they don't have experienced seniors or a proper chain of command at all. whatever the case, this is a red flag for me.
Try to stand out while applying - I have seen a lot of freshers who just go through a job portal, upload their resume, and start hitting apply to every single opening they come upon as if it was some kind of lottery instead of a job application. Instead, do everything mentioned in point 2 above and then think about how you can stand out while applying. If the other candidates are applying through job portals, you can try sending cold emails or Twitter DMs to the founders. If the others are doing that then you can create a 2-min video resume and then apply. If the others are doing that also then you can prepare a small presentation indicating the flaws in their products or in-depth market analysis or anything that shows you've put efforts into your research and then reach out. And don't worry about screwing up or anything. Trust me, founders like such quirky ideas.
Use Twitter well - I cannot stretch enough the importance of a good Twitter presence. I landed my first job through Twitter and that was totally unintentional. I used to document my journey, share whatever I learn either through tweets or threads and that's it. Being a good developer is no good if you are not visible to the recruiters and trust me, almost all of them are on Twitter. So put all your excuses aside and build a good profile there. Share your learnings, projects, blogs, etc there and see the magic happening.
Check Crunchbase and other platforms for recently funded startups - This is advice that I picked up from a tweet and I have seen working for many people but never got to try personally so take it or ignore it. The idea is when a startup gets funding, they are more likely to hire new people, and a majority of the time, the openings will be for either of these three roles: Marketer, Developer or Designer (just an observation, might not be a fact) but there is always a delay between raising funding and posting for job openings. This delay is your window. Reach out to the founders with your offering and explain to them how you can be an asset for their company, how you've been tracking them for a while and your interest in their product/service. This not only increases your chances of getting hired (if they were actually looking to hire for that role you're offering) but also goes on to show your interest in the startup and trust me, founders love that in a potential hire.
On the topic of landing Interviews, I'd just share how I landed my current job at Plaza because it's an interesting story. I have been following Soaib for a while since I came upon his profile while searching the Internet to follow some good Indian VCs. Around March, when I started looking out for a new job, I got to know about his new startup and immediately applied but didn't hear back for two weeks. I thought they might not have found me suitable for the role so I moved on to apply at other places. Fast forward to April, I was about to enter the final round of Interviews at smallcase when I received their email. I cleared the Interviews, talked to the team at Plaza, loved their product, and politely turned down one of my favorite companies to join here. Just two months in and still don't see a single reason to regret that decision.
I hope you loved the blog and here are some related links that you will find helpful. Cold email guide by Abhinav and Lee.