Taking a Personalized, Multi-Channel Application Approach

Startups consist of a small group of people who are highly passionate about what they’re doing. Unlike bigger companies with established HR and recruiting staff/departments, most also operate with limited resources and bandwidth.

What’s the best way to cut through and stand out for these companies?

It starts with the application process. For the handful of opportunities that you are most interested in AND where you meet the company’s hiring criteria, we suggest you consider the following approach when applying for these positions:

  1. Submit your resume via your university career system (assuming the position is posted)
  2. Apply to the position on the company’s website. This usually provides an opportunity to include your cover letter as well.
  3. Send a personal email to the hiring manager. You will need to figure out who that is. Some ways include checking out the job posting or the company’s website, connecting the dots via LinkedIn, or simply making a best guess. You can lift your cover letter content for the email message. Be sure to also attach your resume.

Step #3 is important. Companies can be inundated with online applications. You also don’t know who’s receiving them or how they’re being processed. Your objective is to make sure your interest reaches the manager who will be hiring for the position.

In addition, the most compelling startups are not interested in individuals who are simply “looking for a job.” They want people who are passionate about their field, share their excitement in what they’re doing as a company, and can actively contribute and add value to the team.

Some resumes stand on their own in getting this across. For the majority though, a resume alone does not provide enough context to make it easy on the company to figure this out.

Your secret weapon is the cover letter/email to the hiring manager. It needs to:

  • Be highly personalized and relevant to the company. This requires you to invest the time to understand their business, early company story and a sense of their culture and values.
  • Communicate why you’re excited about the company/opportunity. Touch on what you’ve learned is important to them. Startups love to see that you share their passion.
  • Articulate (and support) why you would be a terrific fit. Discuss your interests & experiences, what you can bring to the table, and why this is a perfect fit for you and the company.

Your objective is to passionately resonate with the team, show your excitement and fit for the company & opportunity, and be perceived as willing to throw yourself 100% into the opportunity at hand.

Granted, it takes additional time on your part to take this approach. That’s why you should limit to those companies/opportunities that you truly aspire to where you can make a strong case.

However, if done well, the additional bar will make you unique and create the one thing that can help you stand out: differentiation.