April 30, 2014

How to get a job at a startup

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When I posted a position for Content Strategist on our website, I had no idea of the talent (and the character) I would find. I'm not a hiring traditionalist. I find resumes boring and would rather look someone up on LinkedIn; a profile and resume should ultimately be the same thing. If you do send me a resume and it doesn't include measurable results that you achieved (even "increased drive-thru time by 15% at my shift at Arby's") then you are likely going in the "No" pile. Ain't nobody got time for that.

While I want to see results and measurements of success, I also want to see creativity in communication and I want to know that you really want to work at Contactually. I really like working here and, selfishly, I don't want anyone ruining that for me. So, instead of a traditional "submit resume and cover letter" approach, I tried to weed out the uninspired and machine gun resume-senders by adding a requested project with the submission.

"Submit a piece of media that shows why you would be a good fit for Contactually and why you want to work here." I want to see infographics, videos, websites, slide shows, dubbed commercials, whatever it takes to make you stand out from the rest and show what makes you, you.

An email arrived and I was immediately taken with the short and eloquently written paragraph in the body. It showed personality. It showed interesting sentence structure. It showed ability to communicate with brevity (something I struggle with, so bear with me through this story).

As I cannot do the email justice, I'm posting with the creator's permission:

Hi Alexandra,


I saw Contactually had some interesting job openings on the website, and wanted to throw my hat into the ring. I have no idea how much, or how little experience you're really looking for in something like the Content Strategy or Marketing Manager positions, but that's in the realm of what I do, and honestly, Contactually is very much the kind of company I'm looking to work for when it comes to culture, technology, and even the dog policy.


For what it's worth, I'm really trying to move more towards the DC startup scene, and away from the Northern Virginia "let's make terrible software and sell it to the government" scene, so any advice or recommendations you have on the best way to do that would be very much appreciated.

This alone, with a resume, would have likely gotten him a first round interview. However it was not until I watched this video he linked that I truly realized what a gem was in my inbox that morning.

As if I had just gotten a match.com message from Robb Stark or some equally handsome Game of Thrones character, I wrote back immediately for fear of him finding another. I didn't care if it seemed desperate. I didn't want this guy to get away.

My email to him:

This is fucking awesome. (and I don't swear unless it really needs the emphasis)


When can you come in for an interview?

I forwarded his email to our entire team and walked around the office watching people's faces light up as they watched the video. My best indicator was walking into the engineering room and seeing that the email and video had won the approval of Bill, one of our Senior Engineers, and a hard audience to please. "That guy's awesome," he said.

And that was the beginning of Contactually's courtship with Nate Sullivan. After a few rounds of interviews and stellar references (one past manager said that he would stake his professional reputation on Nate), Nate started on April Fools' Day as our new Director, Content Strategy...and no, it was no joke.

And that is one story of how you get a great job at a great startup.

What are some examples of job candidates that have blown you away?


By the way, you can see the Contactually job openings here. You can also check out other great DC startups that you might want to work for at ProudlyMadeinDC.com.