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Here are the 6 questions to ask yourself before joining a startup

There are a number of parameters to consider before joining a startup.

Startups can often offer more exciting work than that of already established companies. The excitement of rapid growth, the need to succeed, and increased responsibilities are all factors that attract employees. But they also come with inherent risks, as most startups fail.

The world of work has been turned upside down over the past two years, partly because of the pandemic, but also because of a cohort of Gen Z youth changing jobs frequently. Many of them demand that employers - who are already grappling with the “Great Resignation” phenomenon and the anti-labor movement - meet with them on environmental, social and governance issues and on labor flexibility. This is where agile startups can shine.

If you are considering joining a startup, there are a few things you should know before applying: Pay attention to the job description, expect little organizational structure, and consider whether you can afford to take the risk.

Insider asked six HR experts for their best advice on how to prepare for an interview and what questions to ask yourself, but also what to ask the startup before accepting a role.

1. Are you prepared to accept less coaching?

“If you're looking for structure, don't join a startup,” said Wendy McDougall, CEO of recruiting technology firm Firefish. If you want a clear path to career progression, you're not looking in the right place. It may differ depending on the stage of the startup, but there will likely be few ready-made paths to formal leadership roles.

To become indispensable, a startup employee must be able to perform well at all stages and be prepared to know everything about the business "from the start," said Sarah Wisbey. The founder of Luna Careers also said it can lead to impostor syndrome in some cases.

In the event that there is a job description, applicants should be wary of coded language. "It can be more subtle in some cases, but the way a job description is written can say a lot about an organization's values ​​and culture," said Samantha Lawrence, senior vice president of corporate strategy. staff on the Hired recruitment site. “The way a job description is written can indicate what it's like to work in a startup - 'and if you can see yourself thriving there,' she added.

2. Are you at the right level in your career?

Joining a startup in the early stages can often mean leading a one-member team or being the first technical employee. "For junior candidates, in particular, it is important to understand the structure of the technical team, then assess whether your experience and level of seniority will nevertheless allow you to work independently", explains Aude Barral, Director the creation and co-founder of the developer recruitment platform CodinGame.

There may be limited levels of supervision or chances to learn from a mentor, while a flexible management system could also mean working closely with the founders. "For the right person who is not discouraged by a steeper learning curve, there will be more opportunities to learn and develop and gain technical experience faster," added Aude Barral.

3. Are you open to unconventional working methods?

“Work-life balance and a flexible work environment are high on the wish-list of many developers,” said Codingame co-founder, citing research from her platform - “and that's it. 'one of the many reasons startups attract applicants. "

"Startups have been at the forefront of the flexible working revolution", argued Aude Barral before adding that "many startups offer a modern working environment with user-friendly and responsive offices and cutting-edge tools that meet the expectations of today's tech professionals. "

“As the team is small, the impact you have as an individual is very clear, and there is no place to hide or let go,” he added. "You should join a startup if you want to work hard, grow quickly, and learn a lot."

4. Will the startup take care of your well-being?

“If there is little or no investment in the support and wellness benefits, think twice before signing on the dotted line,” said Sarah Wisbey. An interesting indicator may be the offer of a work abroad policy, as this shows confidence and the extent to which the startup values ​​work-life balance.

"Explore and compare what's on offer," said Paralympic athlete Liz Johnson. “Work benefits may seem like trivial considerations, but your mental and physical health should always come first,” she said, adding that “preventing burnout doesn't require an all-expense yoga retreat. paid, but it requires a company that cares about you and listens to your needs. "

5. Can you afford to take the risk?

Most startups fail, making the job for one of them risky and uncertain. "It is important to know whether the business is funded by venture capital funds or by seed funds," says Sarah Wisbey of Luna company. "Research the company's investor support. Take into consideration that if it has reputable sponsors it is more likely to have better growth."

Ask yourself if the exposure to its employees, the networking opportunities and the lessons to be learned "will compensate for the heart palpitations you will feel with each increase," adds Sarah Wisbey. For first-time employees, there is also "huge potential" for returns from stock options.

6. Ask yourself why you want to choose this startup over the others?

Even early-stage startups need to be able to present a full brand image, including their mission, vision, and unique selling point. It helps applicants see why a startup is right for them. “If that is not clear in the job description or on the site, it is not a good sign,” said Samantha Lawrence of Hired. "It's a bigger red flag if a startup's vision, mission, or culture seems confusing or unclear to you."

Liz Johnson, of Podium, reiterated the need for full branding. Prospective employees should "interrogate the company's manifesto" to make sure it matches their own values, she said. "When businesses value inclusion and equality, they are more likely to be diverse and, therefore, more likely to be successful," she added. "Beyond that, inclusive businesses will generally be more progressive, more supportive and more collaborative workplaces."

In the end, follow your instincts

“To be successful in a fast-paced startup environment, you have to be hungry,” said Wendy McDougall of Firefish. “The greatest pleasure of joining a business at this early stage is throwing yourself out of your comfort zone every day.” Does this idea turn you on or off? Be honest with yourself, and it will let you know if joining a startup is the right decision for you.

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