7 tactics to get hired in a startup
Maragadamma R profile

Maragadamma R, Career Coach

12 Jul, 197 mins read

##“Startups are like fingerprints. No two startups are the same”

-Amit Ranjan, Digilocker

If you ever plan to move to a startup, then it’s time that you read this article which will enhance the probability of you getting engaged. You need to step out of the traditional, mojo-sucking approach and will need to stand out dramatically.

But before that, you need to have a thought process in your mind and see what fits you well. You need to break it down to your domain, interests, and experience. If you don’t think, the wrong choices will break you down!

First, start by determining if you really need a career change and if it is a yes, are you the one who will blend thoroughly in a startup?

Ask yourself the following:

1) Do you embrace chaos and don’t mind being in a constantly changing environment? 2) Are you the one who will proactively take up work and not follow the “agenda for the day”? 3) Have you ever been inspired by an entrepreneur or by a concept, which is why a startup company exists? 4) Will you thrive in the most inventive and ever-learning environment?

If you are not charged by the points mentioned above, then maybe a startup is not for you. And if you feel following the “agenda for the day” is not your cup of tea, then go on.

Pick the best-fit startup using the pointers below


  1. Select a domain
  2. Choose a city
  3. Pick a startup stage
  4. Select a winner

1) Domain

Domain (or Industry) is the area in which your company is working. For e.g. Healthcare, Food tech, Automobile, Banking, etc.

Start by questioning am I a B2C or B2B type person? Should I serve the needs of large businesses or small businesses? What are three of my favorite apps on my phone? What’s my favorite product? What brand do I admire the most? What’s my favorite online service? What’s my favorite company?

If you take an example of a foodie who is a developer then he has all kinds of opportunities at startups like, Swiggy, Zomato, Fassos, etc.

2) Look at what content you fancy to indulge yourself in:

What blogs do you read? What articles in the TechCrunch capture your attention? What Wall Street articles do you skip and what do you read? What you record is always a manifestation of what you’re intellectually interested in... If you skip media business headlines and read about Pokemon Go - then maybe gaming and augmented reality are your thing.

3) Break it down to Sub-domains:

For example: In the food sector, there is healthy food or tech and supply chain in food, designing, etc. Under health care - there is IT, services, telemedicine, diagnostics, biopharma, etc.

4) Picking a City

Choosing a city for yourself, spouse, family, is not easy. So pick a city for a set of jobs, as your networks will be for that company and that city. Hence think of the values of the city and kind of startups, etc. and a future too.

Let us focus on the startup hubs in India i.e., Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Pune.

Prepare an analysis of the kind of companies and offshoots, for example, Chennai is a SaaS hub, Pune is an IT service and SaaS hub, Hyderabad has USA/India centres, Delhi is known for its b2c and Bangalore as you know it well, is tech focussed.

Points to remember while choosing a city:

Choose a city where there are similar companies which has great growth opportunities that suits your domain, commuting cost and time. If you are married, choose a city where your spouse will also have a good future. Which city’s weather and lifestyle appeal to you?

5) Picking a Startup stage

  • Highway - Pre IPO/Post IPO.
  • Dirt road - Some Product-Market Fit (PMF) where there is movement from product/tech towards scaling and putting some systems in place.
  • Jungle - Total chaos, figuring PMF and seed or series A type funded companies.

There is a 10x equity jump between jungle and highway. But, there is also the risk and your risk appetite will define your choice. Always remember, financial rewards and appetite are inversely proportional.

Sometimes people join a highway and move slowly towards a dirt road, etc. (vs) some go to the jungle and then dirt and figure they’ve learned a lot more for the next gig. Priorities and Non-Negotiables(Job Preferences) matter here: By having stability, you then know where to go.

6) Picking a winner - (The toughest- by God!)

  • Ideally great momentum
  • Ask insiders

7) Positioning yourself well

If you need a job in a startup you will need to position yourself in such a way that you get noticed. Times have changed, you are not going to stand out by making it to the HR’s Inbox by applying from their career website and wait for their automated reply and keep waiting for eternity. There was an automated reply that I saw a couple of days back- "If we want to hire you, you'll hear from us, but don't hold your breath! - Do not wait for the company to call you. “

Make sure you do not hold your breath, go out and network like a boss, it’s time to turn the tables. When you are job-hunting, use the business pain approach, your message to a hiring manager will no longer be "Hire me! I'm an expert in my field. I'm a great employee. I'm smart and capable and work hard. Hire me pleeeeease!!". But instead, it should be “I’m passionate about what you build and would love to know how I can use my skills to contribute to the company” or “ I'd love to hear about your 2019 plans” As you know, competition is fierce in this startup world, so going the extra mile is the only way around.

Ways that you could stand out:


  1. Aim high - startup community is much more accessible and helpful. In several cases post, 10 pm meetings are what you will have to bear. Have a point of view about the company and how you can contribute?
  2. Before going into a meeting with an entrepreneur (remember the credibility of being introduced to you and even for more intros)
  3. Prepare and read everything online
  4. Try their product/service
  5. Sign up for newsletters and try to see patterns in product, design or messaging and have a point of view (be relevant, not random)
  6. Engage rich principles of the company in rich content dialogue, attend open events and converse on good email blog topics ideations.
  7. Come with a gift of hearing (vs) asking something

How can I help? What are your challenges? What are you looking for? Any introductions? Can I help with hiring? This should be the 21st-century hiring interview process

The bottom line is this: If you can prove you have what it takes to go above and beyond the typical job description, take risks, thrive beyond your comfort zone, and exude unstoppable drive and curiosity, you’ve already set yourself apart from the pack. And you're that much closer to getting “your” job at the door of a fast-rising start-up.