thumbnail image for 4 Ways to Stand Out for a Startup Job With Just Your Resume

Finding a job is not an easy task- and that can go extra for startups. With online applications at an all-time high, hiring managers are seeing hundreds of resumes, so standing out can be difficult. Add that to the fact that most of them glance at a resume for an average of 6 seconds, and pretty soon, the job hunt is gonna start feeling pretty bleak.


But it doesn’t mean that getting a job at a startup is out of reach -- you just need to sell yourself right. Here are a few ways to get your resume separated from the pack.


#1 - Show Your Drive

If you’re looking for a job that involves clocking out exactly at 5pm and only doing exactly what you’re told, then working at a startup is probably not the right fit for you. Sure, there is stability in well-defined hours and established roles and hierarchies, but if you’re the type of person who at least questions the status quo, you might start to feel a bit stifled in a strict environment.

Startups love to see that you are a person who not only has a passion, but who also takes initiative with that passion. New companies in particular need people who can use channel those positive energies to help grow the startup -- so sitting back and simply doing the bare minimum just will not cut it.

Leslie Knope has severe tunnel vision

Channel that Leslie Knope. Via Giphy

How to Do It:  Continually invest in your passions and upgrade your skills, and then add them to your resume. Curious about web development, even if you’re a designer? Take some online classes (we’ve got a list of awesome resources that are both paid and free). Passionate about writing short stories, even though you’re an accountant? Organize a writing Meetup group for your neighborhood.

A resume that has more than just a listing of your responsibilities from your past jobs is already likely to stand-out. Show your eagerness to improve yourself, and the rewards will follow.


#2 - Show Your Adaptability

Landing a job at a startup takes a different set of skills than working in a corporate environment, and your resume will have to reflect that. Startups value self-motivation and adaptability in their teams. Your capacity to adjust to a new task quickly and change directions in strategy is vital in an environment where job descriptions are often shifting and expanding. If you’re the type of person who gets upset when you have to do something that’s outside of your original job description, then startups might not the place for you. But if you’re the type to wear multiple hats in one day -- then startup life might be calling your name.

Adaptability isn’t only about how well you can shift from one task to the next though. It can also be shown by how you’ve reacted when a project or campaign was failing, and if you handled it in a way that minimized the damage, if not recouped losses.

How to Do It: Show off that versatility from past experience in those bullet points. Listing a job title doesn’t always convey the complexities and range of work that you did, but if adaptability is important to the job you’re applying to, you’ll want to show off how you had to juggle a wide array of projects.

Honey Boo Boo Juggles

Like this, but better. Via Giphy


#3 - Apply Where You Know You’ll Fit

Startups are picky about who they hire. Unlike much larger organizations that can afford to absorb the costs of hiring someone who isn’t a great fit, a small company can really suffer from that  mistake. Startups need people that will fit in with their team, do their fair share, and pick up the slack when needed. Because the teams are much smaller, every contribution counts.

Your team will notice if you’re not enthusiastic about your work, or if you’re not inspired by your projects. Since startups don’t have that many people, your attitude and demeanor will amplify or degrade the culture of the workplace in a noticeable way. Don’t be that person.

If you know that you need a more flexible work schedule and prefer a much more casual setting, then trying to ingratiate yourself in a place that is overly formal and strict will cause you nothing but heartache. If you know you’re not going to be a good fit, just keep looking. There are other places out there that also love what you love.

How to Do It: Make sure you do your research on the company before sending out your resume. If you know think an opportunity is a good fit, look through your resume again, and tailor it to match that job description. Make sure you find the key skills the hiring manager is looking for, and make sure they’re on your resume (if you do have those skills). Taking that extra time to ensure that you’re the perfect fit will give your resume that extra “pop” it needs to stand out.


#4 - Show Your Problem-Solving Skills

Tracy and Jenna from 30 rock are Problem solvers

Say it with confidence! Via Giphy

Startups rely on problem solvers to take on challenges they didn’t know they had. Unexpected things pop up often, and they need someone who can identify pitfalls as opportunities to grow, rather than a setback. Thinking outside the box is vital with startups; since they tend to be more experimental, less traditional, and less formal, you’ll have an easier time proposing a new, different way of doing things.

Just being smart is not enough. You need to be able to take action -- and do so without hesitation. Can you use that intelligence, add a bit of resourcefulness, and get results? If so, then there’s a startup out there that needs you.

How to Do It: You need to be able to backup your skills with proof -- and the best way to do this on your resume is show how your problem-solving skills actually helped to...solve a problem. Rather than, say, “Helped Company X increase their sales” you need to tell tell them exactly how much you were able to increase those sales. #humblebrag By giving metrics to backup your skills, it’s much easier for hiring managers to understand not only what you’ve done in the past, but how you can bring that same efficiency into the job you’re applying for.


Job searching can be an exhausting and draining experience, but having a stand-out resume can help you get that foot in the door. Startups are often great places to work, and can offer you great opportunity for growth in your career. Ready to jump in and land a great job at a startup? Join Planted and get the in with all the cool startups in town.


Laurah Mwirichia is a UX Designer and freelance writer raised in the midwest and currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. She can’t afford a mortgage because she once had avocado toast at brunch in June 2015. You can follow her on Medium or Twitter.