Show, don’t tell
Think Apple Stores and car dealerships. When you’re selling a big product, five minutes in the driver’s seat is worth hundreds of listed specifications. To a startup, each hire is a huge purchase. Give them a quick chance to see your talent. Applying for a marketing internship? Develop a PR plan for your target company’s next couple months. Tech startup? Find a bug on their site and tell them how to fix it.
Expert Level: At 20, I applied for an MBA-level position for which I was obviously underqualified. I promised to work for free until they saw value in my work. I was offering a free test-drive, and two months later I had gained incredible experience and a well-paying job.
Develop secondary pitches
The baseball minor leagues are filled with pitchers who used to be top prospects, but who never made it to the big show. Barring injury, the number one reason this happens is that the player advanced early in his career on the strength of one great pitch, only to realize that the Major Leagues is more about versatility and longevity than power.
Expert Level: Become a Photoshop master. Dive into advanced web design techniques. Learn to code. Use those nights and weekends for something better than Jersey Shore marathons.
Cite this article in an interview
Well, maybe not this exact article, because then I’ll know you’re just copying me. But demonstrating that you are invested and interested enough in a potential opportunity that you research my company, its founders, and its past news stories makes you stand out in a job search. There’s no such thing as too much preparation.
Expert Level: I once had an interviewee describe the full list of my own company’s chemical analysis case studies back to me with great detail. That person is now a successful employee.
Don’t cheat off the test bank
Companies like Google are famous for their crazy interview questions. I’ll save you the time and hair spent stressing over these types of questions and memorizing responses: the interviewer doesn’t care about the answer. It’s all about staying cool under pressure and demonstrating rationality and creativity.
‘Hack’ the Hiring System
(I mean ‘hack’ in the MIT sense . Please don’t literally hack a company’s email server.)
There’s a reason why great startups have hundreds of applicants for every position: dropping a resume/cover letter on a job site is easy, but easily ignored. Take some extra steps, keeping your audience in mind. Two guys created this meme-based twitter account and got into Y Combinator. Over 1,000,000 people have seen this person’s great job application video.
Bonus: This post isn’t theoretical – I’m actively hiring UI/UX designers, web developers, analytical chemists, and other current and future startup all-stars. If you’re interested, see above.
Neil Thanedar, 23, is Founder and President of Avomeen Analytical Services, a Scientific R&D Laboratory that uses advanced chemical and forensic tools develop new products and solve manufacturing challenges. Avomeen’s successes have included a national Startup America Pitch Contest championship and earned Neil the title Generation Next Entrepreneur To Watch by CNNMoney.