With the unemployment rate hovering at 8.3%, there’s a lot of competition for jobs. You know you’ve got the right attitude, the right qualifications and the passion a young tech startup needs. So how can you convey that to a company? By standing out.
Engineer Loren Burton created a website to show Airbnb how much he wants to be a front-end developer for them. The Airbnb gig didn’t pan out, but Burton is “happily employed” elsewhere. And his website went viral on the web, getting a lot of eyeballs and eliciting website to explain that her photography and dev skills deserve a spot on the Instagram team.
Alice Lee’s Venn diagram of interests
But not everyone is applying to be a dev, like Burton and Lee. Nonetheless, there are various unique ways to catch a startup’s attention and nab a sweet gig.
1. Go The Extra Mile in the Interview Process
Jason Shen and his co-founders were hiring a community manager for their Y-Combinator startup, Ridejoy and Margot Leong was one of many candidates who applied for the position. Like the other potential employees, she spruced up her resume, wrote a solid cover letter (titled “Are You There, Ridejoy? It’s Me, Margot (Your New Community Manager!)“), submitted five ideas for developing the Ridejoy community and combed through her social profiles to make sure everything was kosher. But the other thing Margot did — and the others didn’t do — was create a three-minute long slideshow explaining why she should be hired. This wasn’t some boilerplate slideshow — it was perfectly personalized for Ridejoy and even poked fun at the co-founders’ hairdos. “It sounds cliche, but I really did enter into the application process with a ‘go big or go home’ mentality, with the understanding that if it didn’t work out, I still learned a lot in the process,” says Leong.
“It took two weeks to research Ridejoy extensively, conceptualize and then create the presentation.”
So, yeah, she seemed cool and passionate. The Ridejoy guys put Margot through a rigorous interview process, including a weekend of work. “After deciding she was the real deal, we sent her back our own slideshow with an offer,” says Shen (see below).
The anecdote of Leong’s antics has been tweeted more than 500 times, and the slideshows have garnered more than 26,000 views, says Shen. More importantly, Leong accepted the position, and Shen says she’s been “kicking butt for us” as the Ridejoy community manager since January.
2. Make Yourself Indispensable
Back in 2002, Craig Creuziger was looking for a job in Denver. “I had 50 resumes out there, and I was working with the career counselors at the college, but there was no response,” says Creuziger. Frustrated, he took a three-week hiatus to clear his head. He returned to his job search with vigor and a greater sense of purpose. He knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy at Thought Equity, then a 10-person startup in Denver. Creuziger went in for an interview, which went well. “In term of quality and skills and go-getterness, he was perfect for a startup,” says Holly Haman, a Thought Equity alum who was on the team when Creuziger interviewed. Haman is now on her sixth startup and knows what kind of person does well in the fast-paced environment — and Creuziger was it. “It takes a special kind of person to excel in a mach-5 startup, so we really liked him and wanted to hire him, but were still in startup mode and didn’t have the resources.”
So at the end of the interview, the HR person told him, “You’re exactly the candidate I’d love to hire, but we don’t have the budget to hire you.” Not surprisingly, Creuziger was upset.
“At that point, I felt a little deceived — if I’m doing it all right, what else is there to do?” says Creuziger. But instead of banging his head against the wall or giving up on his job search, he offered to work for free. Thought Equity couldn’t pass up that offer, and Creuziger “needed to be doing something.”
“He would show up every day in suit and tie, and we didn’t have a desk for him, so he sat at a conference table in the middle of the office, cold-calling customers for a product that hadn’t truly completely launched yet … and he was doing that in front of the president of marketing, the VP of sales and the CEO,” says Haman.
“For me, I treated it like I actually did land a job, even though I wasn’t getting paid,” says Creuziger. “My mindset was that I’d do this until they hired me.”
And it happened. He worked for free for about six weeks, then was a “low-paid intern” for three months. On January 1, 2003, Creuziger was officially hired. His position spanned three departments and was a continuation of what he’s done in previous months — but with pay. Creuziger says of his strategy: “I burrowed myself in, and I added value to become indispensable so they would say, ‘Let’s make sure he stays.’”
“It was my first job, so I went at it a little blindly,” says Creuziger, looking back on his time at Thought Equity. But it paid off. He was with the company for eight years and climbed the ranks, leaving as a senior sales manager in 2011. “I was able to gain a lot of experience.”
Creuziger has advice for others who are having a tough time finding a job. “I think you have to go in and demonstrate your value, give them an opportunity to test that value out for free at low risk,” he says. “They have limited resources, so if you position yourself in a way that allows them to get value for free, it’ll make it painful for them to get rid of you.” But be sincere. “The approach works if you’re genuine about it, otherwise it comes off as an act of desperation,” says Creuziger.
3. Start Small
Cocken had big dreams for Fitocracy
“We spend quite a bit of time reaching within our networks and spamming out job descriptions to recruit, but every single one of our employees was originally a user who was incredibly passionate and fell into our laps,” says Richard Talens, co-founder of gamified fitness app Fitocracy. So when someone told Talens and his co-founder, Brian Wang, about a user named Jared Cocken, they perked up.
Cocken was the creative director at the Wonderfactory, and Talens was told he was “the most brilliant designer he’s ever met.” Cocken was a Fitocracy user who was extremely passionate about fitness and became increasingly involved in the Fitocracy community. Talens and Wang took note, but “never thought” Cocken would come work with them.
“Brian, Dick and I met over (a macro-balanced) lunch to chat about what they were doing with their ‘little fitness site,’” recalls Cocken. “We hit it off instantly. Smart, driven, charismatic and friendly, with a deep and practiced understanding of their market; I could tell these chaps were going places, and fast.”
Cocken felt that Fitocracy had the power to change lives and true meaning. “In less than a year, Fitocracy had used an incredibly simple mechanism (the dopamine response you get from ‘push button/get treat’) to build a network that was littered with success stories of people individually losing hundreds of pounds, changing their lives; staving off weight-related conditions like diabetes, or having the energy to play with their kids for the first time in years,” says Cocken. “Suddenly my mind was racing with the potential. Government-issued education on health and fitness is severely lacking in almost every country. What if Fitocracy could work with the world’s top nutrition and fitness experts to help corporations, schools, and governments to raise awareness? To create an unbiased and efficient system for tracking and improving your health; the health of a nation?”
Cocken says he wanted to be a part of Fitocracy, but already had his hands full at the Wonderfactory. He signed on an adviser so he could help with the app’s mobile strategy. “One thing led to another … a few weeks later, my metaphorical bags were packed,” says Cocken. And just like that, Fitocracy had a Dick, a Wang and a Cocken.
What have you done to nail a job? Let us know in the comments below.
Social Media Job Listings
Every week we post a list of social media and web job opportunities. While we publish a huge range of job listings, we’ve selected some of the top social media job opportunities from the past two weeks to get you started. Happy hunting!
- Social Media Manager at Escalate in New York City
- Social Media Marketing Intern at Likeable in Boston
- Senior Operations Engineer / Senior Sysadmin at New Relic in San Francisco
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