Tips to Recruit at Startups
Submitted by Namanh Kapur. Submit your own story here.
If you’re thinking about going into product management (PM), I would recommend looking for opportunities at big, well-established companies. It’s hard to make an impact as a PM when you don’t have much experience and so startups typically don’t hire students or recent graduates for PM roles. Also, since there are so few PM openings at big companies, your best bet would be getting an internship and then converting that to a full-time offer. I’d recommend checking out some associate-product management (APM) programs. Here’s some more information.
If you’re interested in pursuing software engineering (SWE) at startups, read on!
- Search online and look at venture capitalist (VC) portfolios
Often, the hardest aspect of startup recruiting is finding opportunities in the first place. At Rice, our career fair is big tech dominated so it’s harder to hear about smaller companies. The CS Mixer every fall is a great chance to meet some of the bigger startups (think Doordash, Stripe, Lyft, Coinbase).
If you’re looking for somewhere smaller, start by looking online. Here are some links that have served me well over the years: breakoutlist, producthunt, angellist. Then, look at VC portfolios. After all, VCs invest in small, high-growth ventures and those same companies need talent like you! Some good places to start: kleinerperkins, accel. Even better, email someone on the VC team and ask for them to connect you to one of the cool startups you’ve been eyeing. An intro/referral can go a long way!
2. Be creative and shameless
Many times, there are no openings like “Software Engineer Intern — Summer 2020.” Why? Because startups are small and don’t know what they’ll need by that time. They think in weeks and months not years. So, when you find a company you like, get creative. Send an email to someone from the executive team. Sometimes their contact is listed on the site or there might be a general firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com email you can hit up. If not, you can guess or use LinkedIn.
For example, if the CEO’s name is John Smith and the company is Owlocity, his email is probably firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org. There are only so many combinations.
And if you feel like a cold email could come across as weird, remember a CEO’s job at a startup (very simplistically) is 1) fundraise and 2) recruit, recruit, recruit. 99% of the time, they’ll respond and connect you to a recruiter to continue the interview process.
3. Explore the startup ecosystem while you’re in the city
If you’ll be interning somewhere this summer, take some time to visit cool startups in the area. Many times, there will be open houses or fireside chats with free food. The biggest concentration of startups is in the Bay Area, so if you’ll be there this summer, definitely keep your eyes open for events. Coming back to campus with a list of startups and connections are probably your biggest advantages when you recruit again.
4. Ask people you know (or don’t know)
Referrals are the best way to get your foot in the door at startups. So, ask people in your network or friends that are interning/working in the Bay Area/Seattle/Austin/NYC if they know any cool startups. It may be the startup they’re working at; if not, they definitely know someone that can help you out. And even if your contact is working at a big company, simply by being in the city and the tech industry, they probably know of up-and-coming startups. The world is small and the tech industry is tiny (six-degrees-of-separation).
Also, many companies have incentives for referrals, so if you get hired at the company (usually, this means you have to start work fulltime), the person that refers you can get a nice chunk of money. Bottom line: never be afraid to ask.
5. Apply to fellowships programs
Many VCs have fellowship programs to connect you with startups in their portfolios. Check out the KP, 8VC, and HackNY fellowships.
Feel free to hit me up if you have any questions or just want to chat further. Also, if you’re interested in a company and I know someone there, I’m happy to help in any way I can.
I’m really passionate about shortening the information gap in the tech industry and want to level the playing field for everyone. Good luck with your search!