How To Approach Looking For a Job in Startup

Silicon Valley Season 4 is out. 
After graduating from Seoul National, I had one goal in mind; work for a startup. Why? that's simple. Because you literally have to do everything yourself. That can be a very powerful life tool; to force yourself in uncomfortable self-learning path similar to what a Master's degree forces, but with an edge: The product you make is not a thesis research, it's a product and has to be marketable and has to work. It's a step up.

Clearly, it's not for the money. Join Hyundai/Samsung for that. 

If you have, like me, already rationalized and convinced yourself that you want to work for a startup (whatever your reasons could be), then there are a few key things that will help you to have a better edge then other applicants during an interview. I only realized this after failing a couple of them, but now looking back, I can see what went wrong and how that can be corrected for your advantage. 

Write a general format CV. Let's be honest here, almost all CVs are exaggerated, so there's nothing wrong if you do too. The important aspect though, is that you should at least have a base level confidence that you can learn that particular skill in a short time given that it is expected. For example, if you can you can design PCB, you might expected to design a 6 layer PCB instead of the 2 layer PCB you have been designing. Looking at the CV, the interviewer might think that you are capable, which you aren't really at the moment but given the circumstance, you can grind out and make that happen. That sort of exaggeration, if you are getting my point. 

List out ALL the startups in your city or nearby city or the city you plan to work. Proceed to EMAIL all of them. Yep, every single one. After a week, you will have received an email whether or not they are interested. Call each company and tell the HR/Secretary that you have sent a CV. On your list, highlight the one that responded and then proceed again, to send an email to the once who didn't. I will tell you why.

Because unlike chasing girls, persistence in job seeking works.
Imagine you are the head of the company. You receive 100 emails of CV each day. It's difficult to go through each of them. One way to save time is to place them all in the trash. The person who then sends an email again stating "I am not sure if you received this but I am sending my CV again" will most likely stand out because there's only about 10 now who have done so now. As the head guy, there's a better chance that they will take the person who has followed up seriously. 

By about a 2-3 weeks, you will have a list of companies who are interested in you solely because you sent them a CV. Now, it's your turn to hedge out.

How to select a company for yourself:

A. Ask yourself "Does this company solve the problem that I have?"
One question that keeps turning up during interviews is the keyword vision. The company that is going to hire you doesn't have much to money to compensate for your time so they are desperate to find out WHY you want to join them. They often check whether your vision matches theirs. For me, I didn't get wtf vision meant in the first place. I used to show my portfolio, state my skills and let them decide what the company could do with that.

That's not how things work. It's actually the other way around.

The company expects you to find out what you can do for the company. Which brings us back to the word "vision." To rephrase, what they are asking is whether you are trying to solve the same problem that the company is trying to address. It's specific, very personal and that will hit the sweet spot if you figure out the core issue they want to solve. All you have to do that is basically state that because it's what they all are waiting for you to say. 

IMPORTANT: The best way to pitch is to say: The company solves this problem, and I want to solve this problem as well because [tell your story of how difficult that problem was and how it impacted you]. Then bring your CV out and explain what skills you have that can address that. 

One thing though, you will have to truly believe that it's your problem you are solving too. The pay is low and you need motivation to keep going in times when it feels like you want to give up. Selecting  a company that solves your problem is a win-win scenario where both the employer and employee benefit. 

B. Select the company which solves your problem and highlight them
Yep, take a highlighter, highlight the date of your interview and the time. Those are your priority startups. Leave the the others as it is but note down when the interview is. 

C. Go to every interview 
For me, I got comfortable and better with each interview I took. This maybe obvious but going through the process of preparing and showing up on time and talking and convincing can train your brain to become sharper and responsive in interviews that matter. The importance is on noticing the pattern and trying to zoom in on them. The pattern you will most likely notice is how the interviewers are looking for someone who has the same vision. Which used to be really confusing, especially for me. In the beginning I was like, what vision?

There was one company that I really liked in Bundang called XEngineering. The interview went great and the interviewer said he would get back in a week. He didn't. By this time, I had been applying the rule of persistence in relationships; if a girl isn't interested, she won't reply. You move on. However, as I mentioned before, this does not apply for jobs. Since I liked the company, I emailed them after two weeks. They got back saying they were busy but would like to have another interview next month.

Radio silence again. For the whole month. At the end of the month, I emailed them saying whats up. And Wallah! they made time for a second round interview. I did it, went amazingly well. They had CEO, CTO, and a couple of people who looked important. 

Although I didn't eventually go there, I think it's clear that people in startups don't usually have a dedicated HR. The workload could be overwhelming and hiring might have gone as priority number 2. In order to bring the focus to yourself, you have to constantly email the people and get their attention. Sure, their attention span is small but like meditation, you slightly nudge them each time they zoom out. 

My point here is; persist and followup with diligence only on the companies that solves your problem. The only way you can become lucky is by putting yourself out in front of companies where you can provide value. 

Easy. Then open one. Others might have the same problem and might be willing to pay to solve it. 


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