What to wear to a startup job interview — and other tips for Colorado jobseekers

by Jess Ryan
April 13, 2016

Most of us were taught specific rules for applying for jobs as we entered the workforce: wear a suit to the interview, start cover letters with “To Whom It May Concern,” bring a printed copy of our resumes to job fairs, and much more. Of course, some of the traditional requirements still apply. But when vying for a job at a startup, you can expect a bit of disruption to the usual experience.

We spoke with three recruiters from Colorado startups about their application process, how startups differ from corporate world and what you really should wear to your interview:

 

Answers from Christina O’Berto, Director of Marketing

What is the job application process like at Commerce Sync?

We review applicants for technical/experience fit based on resumes. Next comes a 30 minute phone screen for candidates that fit the initial qualifications, then a 60 minute, face-to-face interview with a hiring manager for top candidates. Final candidates come in for a four-hour interview with select members of each department.

When hiring a new team member, we look for fit with company values, technical skills (as applicable), communication skills, interest and motivation, demonstrated ability to excel in the position based on past experience and how they will fit with our team.

How is applying for a job at a startup different from applying to a more corporate or traditional company?

We look for excitement and motivation. Passion and curiosity for the work, and the ability to demonstrate both of those qualities is very important as well. Strong communication skills are a must and the ability to influence and accept/look forward to change are also a necessity. Things never stay the same for long, so someone who wants to move quickly and can be effective as they do so is always an asset.

What's the most important thing a candidate can do to make their application stand out with startups?

Get ahead of the need. Look for the company you want to work for and engage the hiring manager even when there is no position. Network your way in and to the front of the line by showing interest, demonstrating ability and understanding the business as a precursor to the application process.

How should candidates dress for interviews with Commerce Sync?

They should always inquire with the person they are scheduling the interview with what the typical office environment is and even “what is expected.” Although our office is casual, it’s always nice to see a candidate dress up for the interview – it’s a sign the job is something they’re really interested in and want.

 

Answers from Tim Warson, Corporate Recruiter

What is the job application process like at Apto?

The application process at Apto is fairly straightforward. We have a basic form with questions related to name/contact information, and sometimes specifics around the job you are applying for. The application doesn't take more than a couple minutes to fill out. We are always looking for ways to improve and expedite our interview process, but we also take the time to review all applications by hand.

We look for candidates that have a history of unique and above-average achievements, strong self-awareness, and a clear interest and competency in the job they are applying for.

How is applying for a job at a startup different from applying to a more corporate or traditional company?

Traditional companies are generally much larger, so by necessity, their application and recruiting departments are more siloed and automated. Due to volume of applicants and hiring at these companies, the process tends to be much slower, involve more interviews, and (depending on the job) may require unique steps, such as heavy psychological or job-related testing.

Startup hiring, just like at all startup companies, is variable depending on the size of the company and their recruiting philosophy. Early-stage startups generally hire through referrals, therefore interviews can be less thorough and the process is faster. There tends to be less volume in both hiring and applicants (compared to a large corporation), but there are also less employees responsible for recruiting, so it becomes more important for candidates to follow up and work their network to get a conversation. All interview processes should be somewhat structured to inhibit bias, but startup interviews tend to be more transparent, relaxed, and focused on the individual.

What's the most important thing a candidate can do to make their application stand out with startups?

Because startups carry a certain cachet, we see many candidates that are just looking for a “foot in the door,” rather than being realistic about their long-term career and intrinsic motivations. When candidates find a job that fits their skill set and also matches their career goals, I would recommend writing a personalized cover letter (using personal voice, not boilerplate corporate-speak), and following up in a reasonable amount of time (rule of thumb is 3-5 days after applying).

How should candidates dress for interviews with Apto?

We are a very casual work environment, so in an interview setting, we encourage candidates to dress comfortably yet professionally. Across most startups, formalwear is definitely not required. “Business casual” should keep candidates well enough dressed without making them feel awkward.

I would encourage jobseekers to ask the recruiter about “dress code” prior to an onsite meeting at a startup — some companies take it seriously!

 

Answers from Leilani Rose, Community Director

What is the job application process like at Tack Mobile?

After [a candidate has applied] through our career page, we reach out to anyone we think might be a fit for a brief call to get to know each other. If we both think it's still a fit we'll do a follow up interview in person and then usually a more technical interview for developers. We try to balance being respectful of time with the need to make sure we're both a good personality and skill fit.

How is applying for a job at a startup different from applying to a more corporate or traditional company?

As a small company, it's important to have a positive attitude. It's a very collaborative environment and personalities are contagious — negative ones more so than positive ones. So we're much more likely to give a very upbeat candidate that might have an unconventional background a shot than someone with a great resume who might have a demotivating personality.

What's the most important thing a candidate can do to make their application stand out with startups?

Write a cover letter. That's a cover letter, not a form letter. So few people who apply seem to have taken more than a few minutes to learn about the company. If you don't feel motivated to write anything, it's probably not going to be a place you're going to love to work.

How should candidates dress for interviews with Tack Mobile?

Nice shirt and jeans.

 
 

All photos via their respective companies. Answers have been edited for clarity and length.

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