Here are a few pointers and short cuts for making your resume really “sing” for an innovative, early-stage, high growth company:
1) Show a background in entrepreneurship. If you have no prior early-stage company experience, then join an entrepreneurship group (see prior post – Founders Café, OVA, TiE Ohio, etc…) and put, at the bottom of your resume, in an “Interests” section that you’re a member of this-or-that entrepreneurial organization. Even better, try to become a leader in these organizations to show emerging leadership in entrepreneurial circles. If in college you started an organization, then put, for example, “Founded table tennis team and organized first-ever state championships” or whatever. If you have invested, even $5K, in a friend’s startup business that succeeded, then you might put, in the “interests” section, “casual investor in early-stage business”. Sure, this risks being “rinky-dink”, but I happen to think that anything you do to show that you have had a thread of interest in early-stage businesses throughout your life is great (rather than that you’re just suddenly, on a lark, kinda maybe interested in early-stage companies). Indeed, you could simply put “entrepreneurship” as an interest. Short and sweet.
2) Use words that signal innovation and entrepreneurship. Here are some. Invented, launched, innovation, founded, initiated, developed, started, technology, rapidly grew, introduced, IPO, went public, venture capital, new, new product, new market, built, raised capital, created, funded. The more of these words you can use (relevantly…) in your resume, the better. On this note, show some progressiveness by putting your LinkedIn or Twitter or some other social networking contact info on your resume. I know –- these might be faddish, trendy-type things to do, and for sure you don’t want to overdo it! But, the more progressive, “early-ish adopter” (OK, having a LinkedIn account ain’t early adopter, but at least you’re not in the dark ages of not having one) and tech-oriented you can seem, the better.
3) Make sure your resume shows great adaptability. If you’ve been at one job for a long time, that isn’t a bad thing at all, as it shows commitment, which has to be a good thing no matter what. But, you want to marry that commitment with demonstrated adaptability, which, to summarize a whole body of literature about entrepreneurship, is a sine qua non for early-stage companies. So, make sure your resume shows that you are a gal (or guy) who is very adaptable across various circumstances. Showing changes in geography (college in one location and work in another) and business units helps; showing that you grew into different roles helps; showing that you were born in a different country (immigration) is the ultimate in adaptability; you get the picture.
4) Make sure your resume shows one, some or all of initiative, leadership or excellence. Did you rise to the top at whatever job(s) you did? Then show that. Did you get an award? Show it. Great GPA –- cool; show it. Were you President of a board, group, or committee outside of work? Show it. Did the group get any national attention (in a good way…)? Say it. I met with a guy a few weeks ago who had no signals at all of entrepreneurship in his resume. In talking, though, it turned out that he had been President of the Entrepreneurship Club in college, and he was about ten years out of college. But he didn’t have that on his resume because he didn’t think it was relevant. If you want a job at an early-stage company, that early interest, and leadership, in entrepreneurship seems pretty relevant to me. So, my unabashed point of view is this: if you got it, flaunt it. If it shows excellence and achievement, or relevance to entrepreneurship, it is important.
I myself emphasize (3) and (4) when I look for hires at early-stage companies (what I call “adaptable excellence”), but I will say that other people smarter than me emphasize (1) and (2). In fact, take a look at this article about what some pretty experienced “talent scouts” look for in terms of people ideally suited for startup life. Regardless, having a resume that shows some subset or combination of 1-4 in one, maximum two, pages is important if you’re interested in working at an early-stage, innovative company. So, before you send your resume in, check to see that it demonstrates a fit with some of the above criteria.
The bad news of all the above is that the statistics for big company people being successful at high growth, innovation-oriented businesses are not good. The good news is that, like rules, statistics were meant to be broken. Oh, and in the further good new category -- there are job openings. So, if you are committed to the above, you have a good shot at showing the statistics who’s boss and getting a cool job at a great, innovative, early-stage business right here on the shores of thawing Lake Erie. On the banks of the winding Cuyahoga River. In the town where the Inventors Hall of Fame sits, majestically (Akron). In the place where the highest growth private software company in the country is located (Turning Technologies, in Youngstown, Ohio, according to Inc. Magazines Inc. 500 list, in 2007). In the metro region ranked by Entrepreneur Magazine ahead of San Francisco and Boston for starting a business (Greater Cleveland—Akron, ranked 23rd, to San Francisco’s 28th and Boston’s 32nd). In the State that ranked 1st for having the highest investment by/for companies expanding or locating facilities to/in it in 2008 (according to Site Selection magazine).
OK, ok, ok, I’ll stop.
Becca Braun is a past president of JumpStart Ventures. She founded and led a number of early-stage companies and organizations, as well as worked as a private equity investor and management consultant. She received her MBA from Harvard Business School and her BA in Linguistics from Harvard University. She is keenly interested in the intersection of wealth creation and broad-based regional economic growth.