Having recently read through the hundreds of applications for YC’s Work At A Startup event, I have a few tips for programmers who are applying to work at a startup. Here they are:
- Keep it short. At the early stage, your resume is probably being read by someone who doesn’t read resumes as their full time job. Help them save time by limiting what you write down.
- Keep it concise. Contrary to getting hired a big company, startups aren’t looking for the alphabet soup of every programming language and framework. We know you can’t possibly have mastery in all of them; no one can. Instead, you should focus on the things you do excellently, and demonstrate why you do them excellently.
- Keep it relevant. If you worked in retail, leave that off, unless you are applying to some sort of retail software startup. Honestly, I just don’t care, it looks like filler.
Overall, startups are looking for employees who are exceptional in the one key thing that they will be doing, whether it is scaling the backend system or doing the visual design. In your resume you need to 1) demonstrate that you are exceptional at the thing you do, and 2) not be disqualified by seeming crazy or imbalanced. A simple rule: if something on your resume isn’t achieving one of the aforementioned two things, leave it off.
I know all these rules don’t apply to hiring at big companies. You should tailor your resume to the positions you are applying for. Also, even more important than a resume is a putting into your email specific reasons why you want to work at the startup and are a good fit for that specific startup. Nothing is better received by a founder than reading about someone being passionate for his or her project.