Using your startup on your resume while job-hunting?


43

I have a very new solo startup that doesn't make any money (yet...), but it's time to get a "real job" so that I can pay the bills. I'm very proud of the work I did on my startup and think that it will help me stand out from other job applicants. I have put it on my resume along with my other work experience.

I wonder if some employers would see this as a strike against me, worrying that my startup might take off and that I'll quit when that happens. Others might see it as a sign of skill, passion, leadership, etc.

Does anyone have experience using their startups as part of their job hunts? What tips do you have to help me include my startup during interviews and on a resume in a constructive way?

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asked Oct 16 '09 at 00:47
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Neil
318 points
  • C'mon people, click that upvote button. This is a good question that a lot of us deal with. – Micah 7 years ago
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12 Answers


19

I've always viewed it as a positive when interviewing people that have created startups themselves (irrespective of whether they're still running or not). It shows an entrepreneurial spirit which should be valuable to most companies. If they don't value it, you probably won't like working there...

answered Oct 16 '09 at 02:16
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Denis Hennessy
1,363 points
  • Good point. I wouldn't want to work for an employer who resents my personal successes, past, present, and future. – Neil 7 years ago
  • I feel the same. HOWEVER, if you're hoping it takes off then I consider that you are not really committed to MY company and that would be a strike against you. Of course, I would wish you all the best but I also want to hire the best qualified I could and the best qualified is someone I am fairly confident is going to be around when I need them. – John 5 years ago
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16

This forum is a little biased on this one; we all (me included) value entrepreneurial spirit -- creating something, trying something, initiative, etc..

So I'd say it depends on the employer. If this is a company that makes you sign documents that says everything you think or say forever is owned by them (whether legally enforceable or not, it belies the culture), then this will be a negative.

If you're trying to get work at a small startup, obviously this experience is better than any other job you could have had!

answered Oct 16 '09 at 04:23
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Jason
16,241 points

10

I put mine and my current employer liked it, they said it proved my experience in the field, showed leadership, and dedication.

On the other side, I applied for another job a while back and the employer asked if I would continue working on it, he seemed offended by it and I never got a call back. The rest of the interview went great.

So I think it just depends on the employer.

answered Oct 16 '09 at 00:54
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Cory Mathews
326 points

7

I think it depends on how you portray the experience on your resume too. If you list yourself as "CEO and President" of a solo startup, it might seem a little funny to some people. If you list yourself as something like "Founder", "Independent Contractor" or "Self-employed", if might seem a little more genuine.

I do think it shows initiative if you tell someone that you started a business and have been running that business for X years.

I know that some employers might worry about your start-up under certain circumstances. For example, if there is substantial training involved in the position or if the employer will invest a significant amount of time or money to make you effective in your job, then they probably want to ensure that you will stick around for a while. Thus, an interviewer might worry about your own business taking off and you leaving them.

answered Oct 16 '09 at 02:59
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Del Putnam
1,031 points
  • Agreed. Grandiose titles are going to get you in trouble. People associate "CEO" with "Big Corporation", and if it turns out that there are 2 people involved, it comes pretty close to an outright lie in people's heads. – Paul Mc Millan 7 years ago
  • I put 'vice president' or 'director' on the startup I've founded just for this reason. There's no 'president' role, but it means that I'm humble enough to not brag about it, and it makes the startup look more significant. "CEO and Founder" almost always screams "egoistic one-man startup" in my region and is a negative look. – Muz 3 years ago
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6

If you are applying for a startup, I think it's good to list your own entrepreneurial experiences, even if they were not successful. I'm an mentor at Capital Factory to some unfunded, pre-revenue startups run by first-time entrepreneurs, and almost all of the companies I have worked with there are in desperate need of startup experience. In that situation, your experience with your own company will be a huge asset.

But at my own company (now ten years old), I care more about past successes and failures than I do experience - I want to hire people with a string of successes. So if your startup was successful, I would love to see it on your resume, and it will likely win you huge points with me. But if it failed (as most do), I'm going to ask a lot of hard questions about why it failed, and you better have really good answers.

answered Oct 25 '09 at 22:58
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Michael Trafton
3,151 points

3

I wouldn't put it on my resume as most of the employers would look at it as a major distraction from your main responsibilities.

And they are right. You can't just turn off your constant thinking of your startup needs. It'll hurt your productivity for any employer.

answered Oct 16 '09 at 07:41
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Yakov Fain
221 points

3

I went through this before my current job. When I interviewed here I went over the list of things I learned that helped me understand more about what it takes to run a business, why managers make the decisions they do, etc. I listed all of the technologies I had the chance to use, the things I accomplished. I pointed out that it was an amazing learning opportunity and technically very successful, but a horrible failure as a business. I made sure I smiled and exaggerated how bad I was at running a business and how I couldn't wait to get back to a more technical role. This would have been a bad strategy for getting hired at a startup perhaps, but a corporation will eat it up.

answered Oct 16 '09 at 07:48
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Chris Duesing
61 points

2

I think folks above have hit on the key issue - distraction moving forward. Thinking from a hiring manager's perspective, if the job I'm interviewing you for is relevant to your startup experience, I'd see it as a positive. For example, if I'm at a startup. BUT I would be very concerned that you'd be spending time working on your startup on the side, bail if it started rolling, etc. I've seen people doing consulting and other things on the side and sometimes it's okay, but sometimes it is a real problem.

You either need to have a really great answer for why that won't happen or say that you're not working on it anymore, period.

answered Oct 26 '09 at 03:44
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Chris
4,214 points

2

I haven't had a problem going from programming at home on a startup to taking a contract job.

Interviews are a sales pitch for yourself so turn any negative into a benefit. You don't need to say you worked from home while living on ramen for the last 6 months or even that it was a startup.

I agree with Yakov, you need to make sure that they don't think you'll be dividing your attention between their work and your startup if you're full time.

answered Oct 17 '09 at 04:46
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Scott Cowan
156 points

2

I have a startup that is on my resume and I agree with the person who said if the people don't appreciate it, they won't appreciate you and you probably wouldn't like working there.

That being said - I had a phone interview this week, where they asked, what did I plan to do if I were offered the position. I said, it is my company, those are my clients and I would have a transition plan should I decide to exit my company. I wish I would have said, if these discussions progress to a point where a position offering is imminent. I will speak to my team and determine how we move forward. Or something ambiguous like that.

answered Dec 15 '11 at 16:10
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User15046
21 points

2

Great comments from everyone above. One more thing to keep in mind is that many employers look at employment gaps. If you don't include your start-up, will you have a gap in employment (i.e. where it looks like you were unemployed for a period of time)? If so, that may be another reason to leave the start-up on there.

answered Sep 22 '11 at 15:42
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Cody
21 points

1

Well that is a tricky question. You see I think it depends on who you speak to really. If you are lucky enough and you CV is picked up by a business minded person, he/she will surely see it as a plus. In my personal experience however most of the "professional HR consultants" in a HR departments of big companies who pick up and process your CV at first stage after you send it over, often tend to see it as a negative as they square you in a way that you are not a long term investment...

I'm sorry and please don't take this personally if any of you are in HR business, but I generally don't like to deal with these "HR professionals". The majority of the ones I dealt with had always very narrow-minded view of what they are looking for. I think only very few actually have a gift to spot a good business talent. Usually they just stick to their books and guidelines which advise against it (than again depend on the job). Even when I spoke to some that I know personally, they admitted they usually look for the gray type of person... someone willing to work hard, who is not overly ambitious so they would stick to their job for a long time without demands for pay increase and such. As you can imagine that is quite opposite to the most of the entrepreneurial minded individuals working on their start-ups.

answered Sep 23 '11 at 00:39
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Peter K.
194 points

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