How to Apply For Startup Jobs Effectively

Whether you’re a recent graduate, looking to switch jobs or took a break and want to get back into the scene, these tips might make your employer prospecting phase easier.

Step 1

Spend a week and make a list of companies you badly want to be a part of . The inspiration for this list may come from engineering blogs, news mentions, articles by the founders, just about anything. If you are getting truly desperate, maybe even some of the cringeworthy quora answers on company cultures. Anyway, keep the list small.

Step 2

Do your research on the company. You don’t necessarily have to demonstrate that you have a deep understanding of their product or space. Show that you have put in your hours to get to know them better.

Make notes for:

  • Their market share/traffic. Useful tools for this are SimilarWeb, SEMRush, AppAnnie
  • How their product evolved over the months or years. Use WebArchive.
  • Their feature set
  • Product updates: Have they have released a new feature?
  • Engineers/Product Managers should get to know the stack in use by the company. Start with BuiltWith, StackShare and Add-ons Detector for their android app. Go through their engineering blog.
  • If they have an Android/ iOS app, read their app store reviews to get an idea of how well loved the app is
  • Any news articles about them. Have they raised funds? Are they partnering with anyone?
  • How the founder conceived the company
  • Their main competitors
  • Their Glassdoor reviews. Take reviews with a pinch of salt though. Disgruntled (ex/present) employees leave damning reviews that may not represent ground reality.
  • Most importantly, use their product. If it’s a B2C app, make a small transaction and get a feel for the experience. If it’s a B2B HR tool, sign up for a free trial even if you know you will never be the end user. If it’s an API as a service, make some sample API calls on their free tier or go through their documentation.

Step 3

Email the founder

Email the Founder/CXO. The irony is that you have a much higher response and turnaround rate when you mail the head directly than mailing the HR. HR personnel get 100s of mails a day, from within their companies, from outside. On top of that, they deal with various employee prospecting tools like HackerRank, Linkedin applications, AngelList applications, etc. You will be one among the 500 applicants.

To get emails, first google ‘[firstname]@[company].com’ and related combinations. If that doesn’t work, use Email Hunter​ or Clearbit. The free tiers for both these services will most likely be enough to get what you need.

​Content Of the Mail

[Subject]

Experiment with unusual subject lines. For e.g. “do you want to hire me?”. Open rate = 250%!

[Body]

  1. Always start by giving context. What is your most recent role? Why are you looking out for new opportunities? If you are still in college or are a fresh graduate then talk about projects you have worked on, organizations you were involved with heavily, anything to add value to your candidacy. Did you buy and sell 2nd hand books and rip off juniors in college? Founders love these kinds of stories.
  2. Link to your Github profile, LinkedIn Profile, Dribbble / Behance Profile. If you are bold, you would link to your social media profiles too. A good employer would vet a candidate by judging his Facebook activity and tweets. If the employer is going to do it anyway, might as well make it easier for them to do so. Show them you have nothing to hide.
  3. End with an action point, prompting a response. For e.g. “Let me know if you are interested to take this forward. I will be happy to share more details with you or meet with you in your office!”
  4. Don’t forget to attach your CV.

Things to Avoid

Disingenuous flattery:

“Your company is so good it is going to become 100x and I want to be standing beside you through this”

They will smell your bullshittery even before they open your mail.

Buzzwords:

“big data”, “machine learning”

Oh really? You built an artificially intelligent bot? Are you sure it’s not just a program with a bunch of nested ‘if-statements’? Link to projects and let it do the talking instead.

Fluff Talk:

“We are 1% done

This one is more for the founders. You know who you are.

In Conclusion

These guidelines will hopefully get you off onto a good start. Your objective should be to look for an employee/founder fit. You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Founders know every single hire is important. Which means even if you’re looking for an entry level marketing executive position, following these steps will serve you better than applying through the traditional channels. No founder will think to himself “Look at this peasant who thinks he is important enough to mail me directly”.

​Be thoughtful, don’t spray and pray. Personalize your email, show them that you handpicked them.​ You could potentially be emailing someone who you will work with for another decade.

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Resources

Tools for emails: Unsend​​, Yesware​, Streak
Tools for tech research:
BuiltWith, StackShare, Add-ons Detector
Tools for general research:
SimilarWeb, SEMRush​, Email Hunter​, WebArchive, AppAnnie

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