Want a job at a startup? Get sh-t done

For many people getting a job at a startup is as compelling as starting one. A panel held in Sydney last week had founders reveal how to secure one, and while not that different from finding any other job, applying for a job at a startup has its quirks.


How do you find a job listing? Katie Hume, marketing director at Airtasker, mentioned how she found her role in an unlikely way. Hume ‘liked’ a posting by 99interns founder Yvonne Lee and someone else saw the like online and sent her a direct message asking if she was looking for work.


Kim Heras, founder of 24fifteen and Pushstart, talked about how applying with a resume is still standard for Australian startups, but it was important the resume reflects the skills needed when responding to a job listing.


“There are baseline skills needed for startups, but you also need certain characteristics,” Heras says.


“Be who you are, since there has to be a good fit.”


He says a job is like a relationship and “you want to be in a relationship with the company that wants you”.


One question from the crowd concerned what to wear for an interview. One of the founders of Tank Stream Lab, Balder Tol, told the story of his first interview at Airbnb.


He didn’t have enough time to research the company so he showed up for the interview in a suit while the interviewer had on shorts, flip flops and a t-shirt. Balder told him, “give me 5 minutes”, and quickly took off the jacket and tie and untucked his shirt.


Kim noted that it was important to “try to put in some effort in your appearance”. He said that what was especially important was “not what you’re wearing but do you seem to care and appreciate the opportunity to come in to interview”.


Dean McEvoy, founder of Spreets and Iconpark, explained, “The reason startups are so casual is they look through the facades that people put on in corporate culture.”


“People are focusing on getting shit done so appearance is secondary,” he says.


Another question from the audience was around the key attributes of a successful employee at a startup. Heras identified one fundamental characteristic was enthusiasm.


“Within a startup there’s always this sense of urgency, so you have to be enthusiastic and follow through,” Heras says.


McEvoy added, “To work at a startup you have to be comfortable with uncertainty since each day you might have to do something different.”


McEvoy mentioned that he sometimes screened potential employees by asking them to follow up at a certain time since only some people would do so, which indicated their enthusiasm.


He also mentioned it was great to put people on the spot in interviews. He mentioned one question he liked to ask was, “do you believe in aliens?” He says you learn a lot out about someone by listening to how they answer that type of question.


Dave Michayluk is a founder at 99interns – connecting interns with startups and startups with interns.


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