The Beginner’s Guide to Startup Recruiting (Business Roles)

  • Where to start — How to begin my search?
  • What does the recruiting process look like — How do I ensure I am prepared?
  • What to expect in terms of comp — How do I negotiate this? What is fair?

Step 1: Reflect on your career to-date.

  • What you’ve liked: What about your current job do you enjoy? (i.e., team, type of work you’re doing, work environment)
  • What you’ve disliked: What about your current job do you want to do less of, or stay away from entirely?
  • What you want next: Are there aspects that you aren’t getting out of your current job, that you’d like to try to aim for next? What are your longer term career goals?

Step 2: Translate likes, dislikes and wants into startup recruiting preferences.

Here are common startup recruiting preferences that you may want to consider:

  • Money: How much do you care about the money? There’s high-base-salary-rich, and then there’s get-lucky-off-equity rich.
  • Brand name: Is it important to you personally, or for your resume, that people recognize the company you’re working for (i.e., Warby Parker, Square)?
  • Building your network: Certain companies might be more conducive to helping you expand your network than others. How much does this matter to you?
  • Scope of work / Responsibility: Are you trying to solve for increased scope of work? Maybe take on more than someone of your tenure otherwise would have traditionally taken on?
  • Mentorship and Team: How much do you care about mentorship, or working with a team that has a track record of success? Correspondingly, do you care about exposure to the founding team of the startup you’re at?
  • Culture Fit: What working environments do you work well in, and how much of that is critical to you finding success or enjoyment in your job?
  • Industry: Do you want to be working within a certain industry eventually? And if so, how important is industry expertise to that industry?
  • Role Function: Are there specific types of work you’ve enjoyed over others (i.e., analytics, stakeholder management) that you want to keep building on?
  • Location: Do you need or want to be in certain cities?

Step 3: Prioritize your preferences, and be able to articulate them.

Step 4: Start recruiting.

  • Publicly posted jobs: For the most part, startups with active needs will end up advertising their jobs online — whether via Angelist, LinkedIn, BuiltIn, and/or other job boards (i.e., VC job boards, alumni access job boards). This is usually the easiest and most robust way to search for roles that may appeal to you.
  • Network, and networking: Many job seekers also leverage their network in order to come across roles that they otherwise might not have found publicly. I’ve seen networking work really well for helping find early stage opportunities (i.e., if you want to join a <10 FTE startup), for helping catch competitive opportunities as they first pop up in the market (i.e., Chief of Staff at upcoming rocketship startup), and, on occasion, for helping create opportunities (i.e., you’re the hire a company didn’t know they needed).
  • Recruiters: Search firms serve as conduits to job opportunities, and their services are often free for you to use as a candidate. Working with a good recruiter can not only ease the burden of the recruiting process for you, but also ensure that you are kept in the loop whenever something relevant pops up. Many recruiting firms also get access to exclusive opportunities that you may not otherwise find elsewhere, so you should keep your recruiting partner updated of your preferences, in order to get the most value out of that relationship.

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Juliette Lim

Juliette Lim

Co-Founder @ Opus Search. Ex-McKinsey.