Start-ups and small businesses are a global success story; they constitute over 90% of the employers in most of the largest economies in the world, and account for nearly 50% of the GDP in large economies too.
An FT article tells us that start-ups and small businesses account for nearly 85% of new jobs created between 2002 and 2010 in the EU. As well as this, some research from the Federation of Small Business in the UK tells us that employees of small business are more satisfied than their counterparts in medium or large sized businesses.
So, there is no doubt that start-ups and small businesses are the place to be, and if you look down the typical jobs list on monster, careerbuilder or totaljobs you will find that the majority of jobs advertised will be for start-ups and small businesses. The thing is however, these small businesses are in fact a breed apart from larger employers, and so you need a very targeted job application/interview strategy if you are to land a job in a small business. Yes, you need to find out what small businesses want in particular and then give it to them by demonstrating these qualities in your job application and interview.
So, what are these key skills that entrepreneurs want to see in candidates? Well, last year, workingforwonka asked 32 entrepreneurs (who were at that point hiring and may still be now), the simple question, “How does a candidate get a job in a start-up?”. You can find the raw qualitative results on the workingforwonka website, however, thay is a 3,000 word article, and so for your convenience, I have summarized the key skills needed below in a shorter piece.
5 Job-seeker Qualities That Impress Entrepreneurs
1. Don’t take no for an answer
In general, the research showed, that the entrepreneurs and small business heads were extremely busy, e.g. ‘barely have enough time to go to the bathroom‘ type busy. This means you need to break through the myriad of information that is being thrown at them and create a space/time period when you know they are focused on YOU – and no-one else. The amalgamated advice here was to pretty much stalk them; well, OK, not stalk, but to pester them, in a good way, which means showing enthusiasm, hunger and passion for their brand and business and to engage with them through multiple channels. Such ways of engagement included following them on-line, connecting with them on Linked-In, re-tweeting their interesting news, commenting on their blogs, join forums and groups they frequent, attend conferences and events you know they will be at and engaging with them.
2. Fix a problem for them
Start-ups are less concerned about what you have done in the past, because, their mission at that stage of their business life is time critical, and, therefore they want know what contributions you can make to their success, now, today, this minute to be precise. The overwhelming most effective way to show what you can do for them was to solve a problem for the business; there were bonuses points if you solve a problem that the company didn’t know existed. For example, tell them why some aspect of their products and services or website design is deterring customers and revenue – and tell them how you’d fix it.
3. Love their business as much as they do
Overwhelmingly, entrepreneurs loved what they did and also put their faith in employees who: loved, dreamed about, obsessed over and even evangelized their brand, as they know these employees will be most passionate – which is the heart and soul of a start-up.
It is hard to manufacture passion that doesn’t exist and entrepreneurs will see through manufactured enthusiasm. The best way to be naturally passionate is to research for start-ups and businesses that create things that you love and work in a way that you love too. If you do this, your passion will be undeniable and irresistible. You won’t even have to try.
4. Be Flexible – not to be taken for granted
This is the Holy Grail of start-ups and all the entrepreneurs overwhelmingly stated that flexibility was one of the most crucial qualities of a start up hire, because the path of the start-up is so unpredictable. Being prepared to be flexible is closely linked to loving the business as mentioned in the last step. If you find a business that you love, it will be easy to be flexible. Even so, always be specific in your cover letter and interview that you are prepared to be flexible and adaptable and ‘muck in’ and take on other roles as needed to help the business.
5. Stand out from the crowd
There is no secret formula for doing this, but standing out from the crowd was a crucial quality voiced by most of the entrepreneurs. Why? Because it may be the only way to grab their attention. But, also because the entrepreneur business model is about being disruptive and standing out from the crowd, and, if they are to achieve their goals entrepreneurs know that they need invent employees who know how to stand out from the crowd. I can’t tell you how to do this, because, then everyone would do it and it would no longer be innovative. Its up to you to invent something. You decide.
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