Welcome to SixFigureStart®

Career Coaching by Former Fortune 500 Recruiters

Positioning Yourself for Big Versus Small Companies

One reader asked:  What are the differences between hiring objectives of a small (startup) company versus a bigger corporation?

The job search does differ when you are targeting start-ups versus established firms. Getting information on and networking into smaller, newer firms requires deeper research and more resourcefulness. You probably have just one chance at the hiring manager in a small firm, while at a larger firm, there are more potential points of entry. Finally, as this questioner mentions, the hiring objectives and practices of a start-up will differ from a bigger corporation, and you will need to adjust your search accordingly.

Your role will be different depending on the size of the firm, even for the same functional area. Your team size, budget, and other resources will vary, and therefore you need to position your skills specifically against what your target requires. For the start-up, you may want to highlight your flexibility and resourcefulness. For the corporation, you may want to elaborate on your relationship-building skills.

Your career path will vary. When you talk about your ambitions, you want to position them to match what is available. For a start-up, there may be no clear path, or it will likely include lateral and cross-functional moves. For an established firm, there may be a well-defined path and clear rules of engagement for next career steps.

The differences in culture and opportunity presented by big versus small firm require you to be clear about your motivations. Why do you want to work at an untested, lesser known, possibly volatile start-up? Why do you want to work at a staid, Fortune 500 bureaucracy? When I recruited for start-ups, I was suspicious of candidates who didn’t know my client because they seemed to be chasing any start-up rather than my client specifically. Likewise, when I recruited for Fortune 500 companies, I was suspicious that candidates who couldn’t articulate clear reasons for wanting my client were just chasing the brand.

Size does matter in your job search. The skills you highlight, the plans you share, and the preferences you reveal all position for companies of a specific size and history. It’s okay to pursue both targets. Just remember to adjust your messaging accordingly.


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