I’m approached daily by people interested in landing a job at one of our MaRS-supported ventures. While I love connecting top talent with high-growth ventures, it takes more than a great résumé to get a foot in the door. Candidates also need to do their research.

Many job-seekers I meet with can’t articulate what they’re looking for, while others are open to so many different options that it’s hard to help them narrow down the right opportunities. This is especially the case for those who don’t come from the startup world and are lured by their (sometimes misguided) notions of startup life.

If you are truly interested in pursuing a startup path, I highly recommend you invest time doing some initial research before booking one-on-one conversations with those in your network. This will help them to help you find the right job.

The best-case scenario—and a true story

A few months ago, an acquaintance asked me to meet with a developer who had just moved to Canada from Germany, saying he was a high-potential candidate. This is the best-case scenario: a candidate who is endorsed by someone you trust.

I met the developer in person. He expressed an interest in working for a startup and he had the right entrepreneurial mindset and transferable technical skills. Since he had just come from a small startup and had all of these things going for him, he seemed potentially easy to place.

I shared the names of some of the startups in the MaRS ecosystem that might be hiring and told him that if he was interested in a particular company, he should write a note that I could forward to them. He nailed this assignment by writing highly personalized notes to three startups, explaining why he was excited to join their companies. It was obvious he had done in-depth research beyond simply visiting their websites. He showed a passion for the companies’ purposes and related his value and skillset to what they were trying to accomplish.

I made the introductions, and all three companies expressed an interest in meeting him for an in-person interview. He landed a job within six weeks of arriving from Germany.

Be a best-case scenario: Do your homework and know what you want

In order to secure a startup role—and to help those who can help you land one—clarify your own requirements.

  • What stage of growth is your target company at? (Revenue, investment etc.)
  • What industry or vertical is it in?
  • What role are you looking for and at what level?
  • What are your deal breakers? (Leadership team, diversity, culture etc.)

Once you’ve outlined your requirements, start building a list of target companies. This will enable members of your network to refer you for exploratory conversations or specific roles.

Here are some resources for researching high-growth companies:

Here are some resources that could offer an insider’s view of your target companies:

Next up: The one-on-one meeting

In today’s competitive market, the best way to land the job you want is through a personal referral. Generally, if you ask for 15 minutes of someone’s time and you are willing to travel to a location that is convenient for them, most people will agree to a meeting. Here are some tips for securing referrals out of these meetings:

  • State what you are looking for, keeping in mind your key requirements list and deal breakers. Be as specific as possible—it’s harder to help someone who is open to everything. For example: “I want to land an intermediate-level technical sales role in a midsize B2B enterprise software company located in Toronto or Markham.”
  • Ask your contact to refer you to the one or two people in their network who you should speak to.
  • Make it easy for people to introduce you to a company by writing an upbeat, well-researched, personalized note that they can forward to their contacts. Startups look for people who are entrepreneurial, agile, driven and intellectually curious. Your note should show that you are interested in the startup’s purpose and understand what they do. It should then explain how you might add value.
  • Write a follow-up note of thanks to your contact.

How to keep up to date with cool opportunities when you’re not looking

If you’re not currently looking for work, but are job-curious, there are many ways to stay informed about new opportunities as they arise. Here are a few of them:

  1. Sign up for our MaRS Startup Career newsletter to get regular updates about our ventures, who is hiring and upcoming events.
  2. Network with startup founders and staff at the monthly MaRS Mornings event or at the many other startup events and conferences on offer at MaRS.
  3. Check out the MaRS Community Job Board for the latest opportunities available at MaRS-supported ventures.

Daneal Charney

Daneal is the director of talent for MaRS Venture Services. See more…