Should I put my "startup" experience on my resume?


I have a similar question to this one regarding putting your "startup" on your resume. I have a full time job and started a small company on the side. My startup isn't a product company - I've been doing some small consulting, so it's not like I would have thousands of customers taking away attention from any new job.

I have learned a ton from the startup, although it is only a few months old so I don't want to seem like I can't follow through, or won't focus all of my attention on any new job. Also, as I have a current job, I don't want to seem like I'm a bad employee who doesn't give 100% to my employer.

What balance should I strike between showing the skills I've learned vs. it's not a very mature business and showing my dedication to any new job?

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asked Mar 5 '10 at 07:17
George Jenson
108 points

14 Answers


Putting myself in a potential employer's shoes, I would definitely be impressed when hiring by someone who's shown the initiative to start a small business. I'd think that you would be a very valuable addition if I could capture dedication, but it might be harder to do that than for other potential hires. However, if I have confidence in my job being interesting and engaging, it'd be a plus overall.

In an interview or cover letter, you might be able to present it as something like "I feel as if I don't have enough challenge to grow in my current job. This lead me to start a small consulting business on the side before deciding to move on and look for new work."

answered Mar 5 '10 at 08:38
301 points


A resume is a document that sells you. Having said that, the answer to your question entirely depends on the job you are applying for and sending your resume into. Just like you adjust a pitch for your consulting services depending on the prospective client, you adjust what is on your resume for the prospective employer.

Some employers will be impressed by your initiative, others will be scared because you are shooting at too many targets at once. Half empty, half full. Adjust to the audience.

If you want to straighten out a bad perception the resume reviewer might have, anticipate the question and put the answer in your cover letter, or better yet, in a short "overview" paragraph below your name header on your resume. It will make the difference if you say "John is a highly capable professional that managed to exceed all performance metrics while working on his free time in his own startup."

At the very least, putting in such a statement allays immediate fears which may otherwise cause your resume to go to the trash pile. At the very most you have made a favorable impression even before the reviewer looks at the rest of your resume.

But, the bottom line stays the same: Make sure you are sending a resume version that fits both the position you are applying to and the culture of your target company.

answered Mar 5 '10 at 09:54
Gabriel Magana
3,103 points


As an employer, I would say be very careful. Although it shows you have certain skills, when I pay someone to work for me, I expect 37.5 hours per week of fully focused work. These things take up time and I've seen them take up time during working days.

When startup bubbles grow, as one is currently, the old fashioned work ethics tend to drift out of the window, because "everyone's doing a startup".

My best suggestion is if you realistically expect the sideline work to take up time, ask to do a 4 day week, putting 1 day a week of your own time into the project.

I would be far happier employing someone if they were honest in this way and if it's not worth 1 day a week of your own time, then you'll know it'll never be a full time venture.

answered Apr 1 '11 at 18:42
David Benson
2,166 points
  • +1 for the 4 day/week suggestion. – Md Moore313 11 years ago


Whether you choose to disclose it or not, any smart prospective employer is going to do a quick search about you and they're likely to find some evidence of your "start up".

I think you're better off mentioning that you've done some consulting on a part time basis and focusing on how this consulting has helped build your skills in the area that is of most interest to your prospective employer.

Unless you received funding from outside investors, created an LLC, and issued stock, I'd suggest not calling this a "start up" and instead position it honestly as a part time consulting business. Using the term "start up" might cause someone to think that your real passion and focus will always be on that.

answered Apr 2 '11 at 04:01
Warren E. Hart
2,181 points


As was previously said -- your resume is a piece of marketing collateral selling you to a specific company for a specific purpose.

Since you are selling yourself to a business -- the marketing collateral is supporting a B2B sale. In my experience I have learned that B2B marketing material must be:

  • Customized to the particular target
  • Personalized to address the targets unique pain and how I solve it
  • Clear and concise
  • Highlight the unique value proposition
  • Reduce the barrier to "close"

Whem making a piece of B2B marketing

I am not a resume writer so I will allow others to make the conversaion of the above points to a resume. But my assumption would be that in that context there is clearly not enough information to answer your question.

Who is the target? What is their culture? What is their pain? Why are they hiring?
Do they nurture employees outside projects and therefore will see yours as an asset -- or are they in a competitive market jealously guarding their employee talent and would see outside projects as competition? Will they experience your start-ups as successes -- or as near misses?

What is your unique value proposition for them? Why is that something they want? How will that be different from the other people who apply? Do they need a creative self-starter and does your start-up experience demonstrate that you have the unique skills and experiences to meet that need? Or are they looking for a worker bee to populate their hive?

Who is the target and how will you tell them your story so they buy what you are selling -- you?

answered Apr 2 '11 at 02:24
Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points


I'm in a similar situation- and no, I am not listing my startup experience on my resume, but just because it is not relevant to any other paid job for someone else that I'd want. (Just as I don't list my charitable activities outside work, hobbies, etc.- they aren't relevant to the job I'd be looking for.)

answered Apr 2 '11 at 23:42
1,747 points


Most definitely. I've put my little startup projects on my resume before, even the ones that weren't that successful. A company wants an employee who takes the initiative to try something even if they fail, at least you tried.

The current place I work at now has even offered to fund a couple of my projects by allowing me to utilise the other programmers and designers in work time because he likes my "go getter" attitude and I listed my efforts on my resume.

If I didn't list those past endeavors on my resume, my boss would never have known I'm a keen entrepreneur and I wouldn't have been offered funding for my ideas. A great boss will always see that kind of stuff as a great sign you'll be a valuable employee, not all will, but most will.

answered Apr 3 '11 at 22:04
Digital Sea
1,613 points


Tough call because your startup isn't selling a product and most bosses would ask, "how many jobs does this guy want?" Forgo for now, IMO.

answered Mar 5 '10 at 08:36
Bob Walsh
2,620 points


Anything on the side is taking away potential time, focus and energy away from your efforts with the company. You can say it doesn't but I would say you're fooling yourself. If I were interviewing you for an opportunity that would raise a red flag for me. Not that it's a deal killer but it could be a big issue.

I think the key point is what position(s) are you pursuing and how relevant is your startup experience to those? Typically if you're going for two or three different job titles you'd have a resume customized for each specific job title. Is the experience greatly relevant for one and perhaps not the others?

I would strongly lean against it. You can tell me it doesn't anything away from your "day job" but as a prospective manager I wouldn't buy that for a second. If you're working late on your side company, why not work late on your job working for me?

answered Mar 5 '10 at 09:38
4,214 points


I would add it. Nowadays, lots of people do side work. I don't see it as a negative at all.

The thing to keep in mind is to craft your resume for the position as gmagana said. If your side job is directly relevant to what you are applying for, then you should add that experience.

You should be prepared for the question of why did you start your own gig and I think if the answers is to learn, grow and be challenged, then that's probably why you are looking for a new job.

answered Mar 5 '10 at 23:42
Jarie Bolander
11,421 points


I agree with Polemarch. Showing initiative and passion is a good thing. That's what I look in every candidate.

If I interview someone that has spent the past 4 years in a company but has done a lot of things (that he has a passion for) on the side, it tells me that he/she has an entrepreneurial spirit that will bring new ideas to the team, and is not afraid to try new things and dedicate his time to the things he believes in.

If you managed to to things in parallel and keep your day job, gives me an indication that you probably have good time management skills and focus on delivery (otherwise your previous boss would have fired you).

Someone that has sit in an office for years without doing anything besides his "job" has less value that you, in my opinion.

answered Mar 6 '10 at 02:05
825 points


Put it this way: do you want to work for a company that wouldn't hire you on the basis of you having a side job?

answered Apr 2 '11 at 05:56
1,171 points


I would definitely recommend putting it down in your resume. I did and I have since been told by my manger that it was the key factor that got me the job over the next leading candidate.

I think as others have said it definitely shows a level of drive and commitment that managers should be looking for. Having said that I think that they will always be a little sceptical about your commitment to the new job.

So be prepared for questions at interviews about when you will do your outside work and also an awkward question I got which was "why are you not pursuing it full time?" I felt this question was a trap question to see if I was just looking this job to tide me over until such times as I could pursue the start up fulltime.

answered Jul 12 '12 at 01:38
Pocket Pie
11 points


As a professional resume writer myself, my answer is a resounding "it depends." To echo what a few here have already said, how you tailor your resume depends on many factors. Each time you apply to a new job, you must make sure your resume highlights the specific skills and achievements that will help that employer solve the gap they want to fill by hiring you. If your start-up experience will enhance your ability to showcase how you can be a benefit to that employer, you should include it, unless of course through the research you will do on that employer you learn something about them that would indicate they would have a problem with that line of work.

Its true, some employers will worry you will not give them enough of your attention. That is a risk you are taking, but you you must also ask yourself if that employer is worth getting you if that is what they worry about most considering you have (I assume) a proven track record of achievement.

The resume's purpose is to get you an interview. Don't leave your valuable skills on the table unless you have a compelling reason. Once you get the interview, and that issue comes up, make sure the employer knows that you are there to achieve their objectives and will do what it takes to be successful, and that they come first to any other career objectives you may have. Discuss how you were able to exceed your previous employers expectations even while starting a business. If that does not convince them, perhaps that job isn't right for you in the first place.

answered Apr 5 '11 at 06:10
Mary Aho
46 points
  • Great comment Mary and welcome to the site! It will be great to see your feedback on here to the many comments about how entrepreneurs present themselves in their resumes. – Joseph Barisonzi 13 years ago

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