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Startup Hiring: Get Noticed, But For The Right Reasons

Startup Hiring: Get Noticed, But For The Right Reasons
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“Visionary. Innovative. Ambitious. Open Minded. Big Thinker. Risk Taker.”

Such were the qualities that Aakash Neeraj Mittal mentioned in his resume he designed specifically for Flipkart. To be very clear here, he did not sell himself on the website. He just created a resume that mimicked the Flipkart product listing page, with his own image, ‘product features’, ‘customer reviews’ and a ‘price’ of Rs 27,60,200. An IITian with a GPA of 6 and a published author, Aakash was able to grab attention all over the the internet. However, his 70 hours of photo shopping seemed futile when he was unable to grab the attention of the only people he wanted to – Flipkart’s hiring team.

Hiring in startup is still a vague and indefinite process, as each startup has its own values and the work culture differs, based on what the startup is about. They don’t follow the regular pattern like every other company in the world. Flipkart is still India’s largest e-commerce company and has a hiring team. However, on a very initial stage, before these start-ups are just ideas waiting to expand as an organization and they can actually afford a HR team, these founders are beginners themselves. Mostly engineers or people from academic background with little to no experience of working with a firm, let alone hiring. So, what does one prepare for? We have some ideas.

What startups look for?

Stratups begin as lean teams with each person multitasking like a boss. People are few and a little too much work to do. These are innovative people and respect other people with innovative ideas. But that is not the only thing that will get you hired in a startup. Something is made very clear -raw talent is welcomed but a startup will hire you for the job it wants you to do for the company. They have an idea and they need your help in executing it. It is not a skillset trivia.

The ideal startup worker is said to be “T-Shaped”. They want you to have knowledge about a different spectrum of disciplines, but you have to be good, if not an expert at what you do. Expect to play a plenty of roles in a lot less time. Apart from these, start-ups look for accountable, hard working and reliable people who when given a task will not stop until it’s achieved. Strong social media presence is appreciated and if you had a failed startup, you will be given slightly more attention.

Zomato came up with an interesting hiring process where they the selected candidate can work at the company for a trial period of a week. It works two ways and the candidate can leave anytime in that week or can be asked to leave by the company given the compatibility. New as it is, it seems reasonable from both ends. This is the startup culture and it’s always in a state of constant flux.

Where did Aakash go wrong?

If we see innovativeness and idea, Aakash scores a solid 9 on 10, if not full. Yes, it was creative and yes, it did attract a lot of attention. But why was Aakash was not even called for an interview, let alone get hired? Well, Flipkart did not answer the question and honestly, they don’t need to. Whom they hire is their business alone. But what we can make out of this is, when applying, be creative, but make sure your creativeness does not stand in between company’s values. The idea might be great but don’t make it a desperate attempt to sound cooler than you really are.

Aakash tried something new. But at the end, Flipkart is an e-commerce company. They aren’t looking for someone with crazy photo shopping skills. No doubt it was creative, but it was also useless. He might have received a little more attention than applicants usually do but what will get you hired is what relevant work experience you hold and you can bring to the company.

Very similar to this is Avi Lichtschein, who, when Square denied him an interview, took it upon himself to sign up 10 merchants in one day on the east coast. He was later hired. Chris Putnam got hired by Facebook in 2006 when he hacked the site and made thousands of profiles look like MySpace. It all comes down to the quality of work you do.

No more regular hiring       

Flipkart never ceases to amaze. Where on one hand, Aakash with a resume internet claimed to be the definition of awesomeness was rejected, a month back Flipkart hired three graduates from Udacity’s Android Developer Nanodegree program without interviewing any of them. (Udacity is an online education platform that offers an amazing set of learning courses.) Interviews doesn’t seem that important to them and that’s damn true. What you might reflect about yourself on that particular day of the interview does not in any way determine the kind of person you are.  Peeyush Ranjan, Chief Technology Officer at Flipkart ha similar view when he said, “The kind of disruptive work that we do at Flipkart demands a world-class talent pool and we are constantly on the look-out for experts who can solve the problems of Indian consumers. The conventional hiring process often comes down to the performance of the candidate on that specific day, which may not be a true reflection of their skills and temperament. This is where a partner like Udacity comes into the picture. The shortlisted profiles provided by them and the in-depth data we received were very helpful and allowed us to assess the candidate’s competencies in a much better way.”

Dazo, a Bengaluru based startup, last year started hiring few of their regular customers.

With radical changes in the way we see jobs, the hiring is also changing. It will be different and to put expectations on it is again limiting oneself to what Aakash’s did. All that matters is the work you do.

As Batman said, “It’s not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you.”

Edition: December 2016

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