How to create an eye-catching startup resume

Some of resume samples in this subcategory of our help center are from people who started their own company. Even if you are not a founder yet, this quick resume guide will help you land the startup job of your dreams!

One of the most exciting and often worrying elements of applying to a startup is it’s often impossible to know what to expect. These workplaces are often fast-paced, dynamic environments where working culture generally thrives on the founders’ beliefs rather than what some might consider ‘normal’.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to potentially want to be part of it. It’s the opportunity to get into a project on the ground floor and to help take it to the next level. These roles perfectly suit those that don’t necessarily want to do the same thing every day, as tasks and challenges grow and evolve on almost a daily basis.

There’s also the not insignificant appeal of financial rewards – as companies grow quickly, compensation packages often do the same!

While startup culture isn’t for everyone, there’s no shortage of applicants that want to make themselves a part of it. Startups might not have much of a track record, yet they attract top talent that’s willing to take a risk and back themselves. Average workers rarely make the cut, so an outstanding startup resume is essential when opening the most attractive doors.

1. Demonstrate you understand the culture through your resume

With all due respect to other industries, startup recruiters often aren’t looking for jaded employees that have been doing something for so long that they’re set in their ways! Of course, they’re appreciative of experience, but those dynamic environments require adaptable employees.

An eye-catching startup resume demonstrates an individual that’s willing to take risks and has the wide-ranging skill set to meet any challenge that comes their way. Throughout the entire resume writing process, you should keep this in mind, as there are always opportunities to show you’ve got what it takes to keep up. Of course, work experience counts and is a great starting point.

However, there will undoubtedly be examples in your education and even hobbies and interests that demonstrate you can be an asset to the company on numerous different levels.

2. Focus heavily on professional accomplishments

Many startup recruiters are less concerned with where you worked, your job title, and when you did it and more interested in what you achieved. For example, someone that spent two years in a role and changed the way a company does business for the better will often stand out more than an individual that maintained business as usual in the same position over a decade.

Therefore, try not to be tempted to view your resume as a box-checking exercise. Startups are often looking for more than someone that turns up on time and does what’s expected of them. Instead, they seek people with comparable skills but use their expertise to make a difference.

They know as well as you do that the business you join today might not be the same company in five years. So anything you can do and prove that helps the business improve will always be viewed favorably.

3. If you’ve started up before, let them know in your resume

Startups fail. It’s the nature of the beast. While it’s somewhat unique to the sector, taking pride in trying is often viewed favorably. Startup culture has its positives, but it’s also a high-pressure environment with unique challenges. Anyone that was willing to position themselves at the center of it usually appeals greatly to founders. It means less of a culture shock in a new workplace and an opportunity to learn from mistakes.

Of course, it’s best not to linger on the ‘failure’ part when it comes to a startup resume. Fortunately, even when things don’t work out, there are undoubtedly successes along the way, many of which will have helped mold you into the prospective employee you are today.

If you’ve been part of a startup before, particularly if you’ve created your own, don’t try to gloss over it if things didn’t go to plan. Instead, pull out the highlights and positives, and give that experience the spotlight it deserves on your resume.

Someone that can recognize when things go wrong, but take positive lessons from experience, can be an integral part of startup culture.

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4. Place equal weight on education and experience where possible

Startups often resolve only to hire the best possible candidates. They’re confident of success but feel they need to attract highly educated or highly experienced individuals – or ideally both! Of course, many jobs favor one or the other, but if you’re the right candidate for a startup, you probably have credentials in both areas.

Of course, this can differ between employees. You may have progressed no further than high school, then made a company millions. It’s an extreme example, but it shows when to focus on more relevant information.

As with most aspects of resume writing, it all comes down to what’s most likely to get you the job. However, if your credentials and experience are both equally valuable to what you have in mind, don’t be afraid to assign them equal weight in your application.

In conclusion...

Startup resumes are often different from many others, but that’s no excuse to forget the professional and expected format or to dismiss what you’ve achieved in the past. Your primary goal in the application is often not to demonstrate that you can get the job done.

Instead, you want to display an aptitude for reaching even the loftiest goals. Personal development and real-world achievements make all the difference, so don’t be afraid to make them the cornerstone of your resume.

Published on May 31, 2022

A journalist by trade, a writer by fate. Nikoleta went from writing for media outlets to exploring the world of content creation with Kickresume and helping people get closer to the job of their dreams. Her insights and career guides have been published by The Female Lead, College Recruiter, and ISIC, among others. When she’s not writing or (enthusiastically) pestering people with questions, you can find her traveling or sipping on a cup of coffee.

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