Tech startups sit at the bleeding edge of business, and for many they represent an opportunity to get a foot in the door at organizations that could one day rival the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon.
Of course not all emerging firms in the tech space are going to be your ticket to the big time, and in many cases it could be a mistake to accept a role in an unproven startup, over a position in a more established company.
The trick is to know which startups are built on solid foundations, and which are going nowhere fast, so here are just a few checks you can do to give you an answer either way.
Look at reviews from past and present employees
Your first port of call must be to check out JobSage’s employer reviews, as you’ll find feedback from previous and existing team members at businesses across the world of tech and beyond.
Reviews of employers will be informative for a number of reasons, and aside from those that are openly critical or abundantly effusive with their praise, you can also read between the lines in the more measured responses to get an idea of what a startup is like to work at.
It’s important to note that company culture can differ from business to business, and what works for you might not appeal to everyone, so you need to look at reviews from past and present employees with your own needs and expectations in mind.
Consider the compensation
For lots of us, the salary is a big part of what makes a job appealing or unsuitable, and while money isn’t everything in life, it’s definitely a key element to scrutinize.
This goes double for tech startups, because compensation packages can vary wildly, and there are several components to consider in this context.
Firstly, is the salary offered for a role realistic? If a startup is promising to pay massively over the odds for particular roles, this might suggest a degree of financial optimism, or naivety, which simply isn’t realistic or sustainable.
Second, is the salary competitive? If a startup is falling well short of the market rate for your role, but is attempting to sweeten the deal with things like share allocations and bonuses at some later date, you have to ask whether these as-yet-intangible selling points are ever going to materialize.
Again, your own expectations and circumstances will determine whether a compensation package is adequate, but it is still worth researching the rest of the market to know exactly where a startup stands within it.
Explore the culture
We have already touched on the importance of company culture, and this is an aspect that a lot of startups try to emphasize to new hires during the recruitment process.
Of course culture is about more than just having casual Fridays and getting access to break areas with fully-stocked fridges; it’s about the steps that the management takes to actively put together a workplace that is satisfying, inclusive, stimulating and supportive to all employees.
As mentioned, there are different ways of going about this, and you should definitely check both the cultural claims and the cultural realities of a startup before you accept a role within it.
You can do this during the interview by asking questions, focusing on what is important to you, whether that might be work-life balance, socializing, telecommuting, or anything else besides.
Look to the future
All startups that hope to succeed in the long term have to put a plan in place to achieve this, and moreover be willing to discuss, explain and review this with their employees.
Perhaps the intent is to take the tech startup to the point that it has generated interest from large outsider organizations, with the expectation that this will lead to offers of a buy-out.
Perhaps the aim is to stay independent and grow from a small scale operation to a multinational corporation over the course of a decade or more.
Whatever the case, this matters for you as a prospective employee because you want to be able to plan your own career path, and know whether you have a long term future at the firm, or whether you need to be thinking about your next move as soon as you start.
Ultimately it’s important to take every tech startup job with a pinch of salt, because overambitious entrepreneurs with world-changing ideas are incredibly common, and only a few make the grade.
Rigorous research on your part will provide the best chance of choosing a job at a startup that has the means to back up its big plans.