Applying for Internships and Jobs at Startups

Why People Apply to Brand-Name Companies

Big players in the tech space lure the best talent by offering everything you can possibly think of as work-related perks. The likes of Facebook, Google and Apple offer not just six figure salaries (plus stock options!), gourmet meals on campus, sleeping pods, flextime, and even dry cleaning and car maintenance services free of cost to all employees, but some of these companies even go so far as committing to taking care of your family for as long as ten years in case of accident or death!

It’s no wonder, then, that these companies are the dream organizations of thousands of people who join the workforce every year, both techies and non-techies alike. Not to mention the fact that having Google or Microsoft on your CV is sure to springboard you to a successful career, regardless of the field of work you are in!

Why Join a Startup?

Photo by Philippe Lewicki, used under CC BY / Desaturated from original

Although joining an established company has countless perks, there are many different reasons why joining a tech startup can do wonders for you. Here are a few reasons you might want to consider applying to a tech startup.

  • Dive in the deep end. If you are having a hard time landing a position at a big company because they require you to have experience before you can join, you might be better off testing the waters and getting your hands dirty with a smaller company and working your way up.
  • Bite off more than you can chew. In addition to having a better shot at being selected at a small outfit compared to a big player, you will also be exposed to a bigger variety of work and job functions, giving you a better handle of all the hard work that goes into tech services provision. Fewer employees at startups means not just access to more varied work, but also greater recognition of your contribution in whatever it is you are tasked with.
  • Learn on the go. Because you are less likely to be pigeonholed into one specific role, you can interact with and learn from different departments, workers, or dig deeper into different aspects of the business on your own. This can prove to be a wonderful education for you going forward because you will have seen things first-hand while they developed, as well as projects or services that went from scratch to successful launch.
  • Carve your own path. Startups are generally not burdened with the red tape and structures characteristic of big companies, and policies and procedures may not as yet be adequately documented. This is your chance to develop things for the company, establish a blueprint for others to follow, and learn what works and what doesn’t. A small company is also more likely to be open to experimentation than a big company that already has processes and procedures in place.
  • Culture. As is true for developing systems and processes, you as an individual can have a much greater impact on the future culture of the small startup company than on a large corporation where you are closer to just being a statistic than an individual. The ability to meaningfully impact the culture your company adopts can dramatically improve work satisfaction, and isn’t that what it’s all about at the end of the day?

There are so many great reasons to join a small tech startup than a large company, so doing so is definitely a path worth considering.

How to Land a Gig at a Tech Startup

Ok, so let’s assume you’re convinced about joining a startup. How, you may ask, should you go about doing this? Here is what you should do to land a great placement at an up-and-coming tech venture.

  1. Get technical. Show the company that you are passionate about whatever it is they are building. If they have developed some code or have an API, make something interesting or useful using it. Or hack on the company's code to demonstrate knowledge of their business and the technologies they are using by suggesting code improvements and highlight weaknesses to the team.

    Things boil down to showing the startup that you care about what they are doing and that you can add measurable value to their team.

  2. Tailor your resume, and make it stand out. In this world of graphics, images, and reliance on visual information over all other information types, making your resume stand out from amongst the hundreds of other applications to any given internship opportunity is a real challenge. There is a limit to how creative you can be with words, so it is extremely important to look into other ways of making yourself stand out.

    The simplest way to do this is to add graphics, images, links, portfolio information and additional content in your resume. However, this is not as easy as it sounds, and it is not a matter of simply pasting info on to your resume. How can you creatively display all information relevant to you to recruiters with your best foot forward so that they quickly see the best you that you are on their first (and only) scan of your resume?

    Enter CakeResume. This is a service that can help you to build a highly visualized resume instead of having to rely on a traditional resumes format. You cannot leave things to a standard resume template anymore, and you need to have an edge over your competition from the very get-go. Students all over the world struggle to do just this: they lack the skills or the creativity to create well-crafted, innovative resumes that stand out from the rest.

    Instead of resorting to low-level tools to develop choppy graphics and images, CakeResume provides an easy, intuitive way to develop highly creative resumes. Built-in templates, drag-and-drop editing, and dozens of options will allow you to create unique and vivid resumes within minutes.

    Having links to GitHub repos you worked on, including photos you’ve taken or images of projects, and even embedding videos to convey a true sense of your abilities (for example, if you have hands-on experience with tools, developing controllers, doing work with circuitry, or the like) are all part of the new way of doing things, and CakeResume allows you to do all these things, and more.

  3. Show up, reach out, and sell your value. Comment on the company’s blog, Facebook page or other social media outlet. Attend happy hours, networking events, or any other event they host. And reach out to the team. This will help you be remembered whenever openings are posted, and you may even discover internships that aren't posted at all, or that have just not opened up yet. You can most certainly find info on the founding team online as well, so give them a call or send them an email and tell them about yourself and what you can bring to the table. And while doing all of this, convey to the team why you care about what they are doing, and explain that you won't require a lot of guidance to take on projects. A real win-win for both of you!

  4. Do your homework. Be careful about reaching out blindly to a bunch of companies requesting an internship, though. Ask specific people in the know for advice, and research different companies and consider your fit for them, and their fit for you. Find employees on LinkedIn, reach out and introduce yourself, and be casual. Reach out with the intention of striking a conversation, and once they've gotten to know a little more about you, you can ask about the internship. But it all starts with finding companies you care about. Use services such as CrunchBase or AngelList to find a good company that you are interested in, and then just find a way to communicate your interest or passion to an actual team member to substantially improve your chances of landing a position.

  5. Be active online. Know what’s up in the social media and web services related to the space you are interested in. Regularly visiting sites such as AngelList,, and even Reddit, LinkedIn, and the company listings pages of WeWork and other tech incubators are great places to find great leads on company job announcements, resource requirements, and other opportunities.

Finding a job or landing a placement is a systematic process just like anything else. There are certain things you can do to improve your chances, and doing things better each step of the way will further boost the likelihood that you will be made an offer. Get things right by doing the right things at the right time, and follow the steps above to send in the most impactful application you possibly can to your employer of choice.

Good luck! Share comments below on what has worked well for you, and contact us at [email protected] for further information or queries.


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