Each time a story about the tech industry’s incredible growth gets published, another group of smart, experienced and driven people head to the Bay Area to add to the current pool of talent.
For the best jobs, competition can be fierce. This means you need to figure out how to stand out in the crowd.
Standing out is not just important for getting attention and starting the hiring process, but also for making it all the way through to the end.
I lived in San Francisco for five and a half years before I moved to SE Asia to consult and get a more global perspective on startups. The startup scene was intense when I left and it’s become even more so (see $10 Billion valuations becoming the new $1 Billion valuation and many other examples).
Now that I’m back in the US, I’ve started looking for growth jobs.
I want a job that I love and can stay at for a while. Yet, for the jobs I’m looking at, there’s a lot of impressive people to compete with.
So how can I stand out? By thinking beyond my resume and creating something that more effectively proves my skills.
Here are some great examples:
- Margot Leong got a job at YC startup Ridejoy and some nice press when she created a personalized presentation pitching herself to Ridejoy.
- Philippe Dubost received 150 job offers and a ton of traffic with his Amazon resume.
- Loren Burton’s “Loren wants to work at Airbnb” website netted him precious time on the Hacker News homepage with 423 upvotes (especially impressive for 2011) and a nice response from Airbnb.
- The video for Matthew Epstein’s “Google, please hire me” campaign has over 1.3M views(!) Youtube views and got him a lot of press. He didn’t get the job at Google, but he did get a job at a startup and is now running marketing now for the startup rocket ship known as Zenefits.
- On the more recent side, the Chrome extension that Andreas Klinger built for Product Hunt helped him get a job at the fast growing startup.
Tips for your own approach
Whether you’re a designer, programmer or marketer, there are a lot of ways you can stand out. There are also a lot of ways you can put in a huge amount of work and have it not pay off. I’ve provided some tips below on how to avoid the latter.
Take a marketer’s approach (whether you’re a marketer or not)
Good startup marketers don’t put together generic marketing campaigns. Customers want marketing that’s relevant to their interests and needs.
How does this apply to you? Companies don’t want to see someone who wants to work for any startup. They want to see interests and abilities relevant to their situation.
When coming up with your idea, you need to think about what is most likely to impress the startups on your list.
A relevant campaign is an effective campaign
Something else a good startup marketer doesn’t do; market to every possible customer at the same time. This approach would require far more time and money than any startup has. Instead, a startup marketer figures out who their best customers are and only markets to them.
The same goes for you. You only have so much time to work on your project, so you need to use it wisely.
There are jobs you want more than others – think through why you like them so much and pick the startup jobs that meet the most of your requirements.
Going overboard with relevancy
While the bulleted examples above all had a happy ending, they took a huge risk; focusing on one company.
These efforts take a lot of work. Most people will get far less attention than the people I mentioned. What if the company you’re aiming at doesn’t hire you (which actually happened with three of my examples)?
Consider a more general approach. You can still highlight the company (or companies) of your dreams in your project, but make sure your project isn’t something so specific that it loses value with every company you don’t focus on.
How I decided to stand out
I’m looking for growth positions and since growth involves so much more than just marketing, I wanted to come up with something that could also show off my design and programming skills.
I have experience with SaaS, ecommerce, marketplace and mobile startups, and I’d enjoy working for each type. I decided SaaS made the most sense for me overall, though.
An important note: I went a lot farther than most need to because I also wanted to build an actual product.
I just launched my course, so it’s still too early to post job results, but I’m very happy with the interest I’ve seen so far. I’ll update the post once I have a job.
P.S. For those startups who have open growth positions, I’m particularly interested in developer tools and products that use large amounts of data in creative ways. You can reach me at email@example.com.