How to build a resume targeted for a start-up

person writing resume on laptop

Start-ups are taking over the hiring landscape, never more so than in tech hotbeds like New York and San Francisco. If your goal is to work for a new tech company, there are several steps you can take to make your resume more start-up friendly.

Be targeted

Even though start-ups often require you to wear many hats, they don’t tend to hire generalists. They want talent that is custom-fitted to their vision. Start with a basic core resume, then customize it to each particular application.

“The start-ups we work with want the best people with very specific skills. Analyze job descriptions to find out exactly what they are asking for and position your resume as the answer to their question.” - Simon Bromwell, Managing Director at Robert Walters.

Emphasize the sort of character traits that startups relish: self-motivation, a great work ethic, willingness to go the extra mile to see a project succeed, passion for the subject matter, collaboration, flexibility, and curiosity.

Hone your objective

Make sure you have an objective at the top that is clear, concise, and creative. Don’t just rely on standard resume templates and their dry verbiage; come up with a hook that describes you in unique terms and will catch the attention of a busy CEO, summarizing why you’re perfect for this particular company’s business and culture. Start-up leaders are busy; if you don’t grab his attention, he’s likely to toss your resume in the circular file.

Lose the tired lingo

Start-ups value innovations, so avoid standard resume buzzwords and instead be creative and even humorous with your wording. Treat your resume like a short story; use action verbs, non-cliché adjectives, and synonyms. Instead of “self-motivated engineer, works well with a team,” for example, perhaps write: “Unusually socially competent engineer who thrives equally well in collaborative scenarios as she does in an isolated corner.”

Prove that you get the culture

Demonstrate a passion for the company’s product, niche, culture, and vision. Do your research, including catching up on its social media, then mirror the culture of the company in the tone and vibe of your resume.

“Start-ups are small knit groups of people working together in a small space. Proving that you fit in with the culture is one of the most important things you can do to demonstrate you are the perfect candidate.” - Simon Bromwell.

Flaunt your online presence

If you have a web site, personal blog, or social media profiles specifically geared toward the job you’re applying for or the industry you work in, showcase them on your resume. The best way to land at job at a start-up is to be a thought leader in your field. Twitter is a great place to start seeding your online presence with brilliant bon mots about your intelligence and professional prowess.

Be proud

Don’t be afraid to show confidence about personal successes. Your resume is no place to be modest. And be specific: don’t just list the programming languages you’re knowledgeable in; tell your prospective employer about particular success stories and times you saved the day.

Use a smart file name

Save your resume with a file name that includes your own name. When it’s on your computer, MyResume.pdf makes sense. When you send that to a recruiter or HR person, use your name in the title to make it easy to find.

Be online

In addition to the electronic version you email and the paper version you print out, make sure there’s a comprehensive version of your resume available online on LinkedIn. Also, if you are a designer and have a portfolio, make sure that its up to date and ready for potential hiring managers' inquiring eyes. And beyond your resume, amp up your profile with recommendations, groups, a great profile photo, and regular status updates.

Find out more about landing a role at a start-up.

Analyze job descriptions to find out exactly what they are asking for and position your resume as the answer to their question.

Robert Walters Salary Survey:
Request a free copy, download the US version, or download the new app for Apple or Android devices.

To speak to an experienced recruiter about your resume, please contact:
Simon Bromwell, Managing Director