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Four crucial checks every candidate should perform before joining a startup

Recent layoffs by startups have produced a lot of key takeaways for job seekers. Instead of branding all startup jobs unstable, an employee has to do a bit of homework before joining a startup.

August 09, 2022 / 01:26 PM IST
A survey has found that 72 percent of employees who left their jobs during the Great Resignation regretted their decision.

A survey has found that 72 percent of employees who left their jobs during the Great Resignation regretted their decision.

Jobs at startup have acquired negative labels after the recent mass layoffs by some fledgling companies amid slowing economic growth, market turmoil and a funding freeze. Jobseekers have termed them sham jobs and unstable.

The corporate world is filled with examples of the Great Regret. A survey has found that 72 percent of employees who left their jobs during the Great Resignation regretted their decision. Why? Because they had received a quick reality check--the alternative jobs they landed simply did not match their expectations!

To avoid disappointment and disillusionment, an employee has to perform at least these four checks before joining a startup.

Gain a clear understanding of the startup’s funding status 

This is especially true for business school candidates, said Uday Virmani, assistant dean at BITS School of Management.

With their focus on the topline, startups tend to burn a lot of cash. A healthy cash flow is paramount for regular and consistent salary payments and that becomes difficult if funding is inadequate.

Virmani cautioned that business school graduates with educational loan servicing commitments need to do proper due diligence on this front. He has seen many startups either renege on their offers or lay off expensive premium school recruits the moment they feel there is a slowdown in the business or a change in the outlook of their investors.

“Business school graduates are an investment by themselves for building organisational capability. And when in a difficult situation, startups tend to take a transactional view, and these are often the first to suffer when it comes to downsizing or layoffs,” Virmani said.

“This happened recently in a startup in the homestay tourism business,” he added.

Don't just run for an inflated offer, find your place 

Although there are a couple of basic checks the candidate should be doing before joining a startup, the most important thing is to know what you're getting out of it -- matching the skills you possess vs. the ones required for the role.

“The skills that you possess, do they match with the company value? Will the startup provide you with the ability to try new things? Will you have to expand your skill set and abilities before joining,” said Joy Vaz, vice president and regional career services head at online training provider Imarticus Learning.

Have skills in mind that you want to acquire, which is especially important in today's competitive global job market, Vaz added.

Experts say when you’re enthusiastic about any job opportunity, you’re likely to overstate its appeal and vastly underestimate its risk.

“But before making any decision, you must weigh the ‘passion and excitement’ you may feel about the prospective job against ‘the time, money, and reputational capital’ it consumes,” said Lokesh Arora, CEO, Study24x7, which calls itself a social learning network.

Everyone knows it’s hard to abstract away the vision of becoming filthy rich if you win a lottery. But Arora pointed out that it’s important to rationally understand what you would – at the very least – gain out of the experience even if the organization were to fail.

Dig up the founder’s background 

Although most entrepreneurs talk about their passion and a drive to establish and implement their idea, a check of their academic background and track record can turn out to be beneficial,  said Kunal Sen, partner at executive search firm Odgers Berndtson India.

“It is important to know about the founder's past ventures and job roles. This helps you gauge the company you will work with,” he said.

Sen suggested if there is more than one founder, find out how they met, how they started the company and what their future goals are. “Most start-ups fail, thanks to weak leadership.”

So it is important to analyse the founder's leadership qualities before joining an organisation.

Have a thorough understanding of the vision and mission 

A majority of startups are founded on the premise that if there is a fundamental issue, that must be resolved at scale and as soon as possible.

It is critical to remember that a startup is a company that is attempting to solve a problem for which the solution is not obvious, and its success is not guaranteed despite initial success, said Daya Prakash, founder of TalentOnLease, an information technology staffing firm.

“Therefore, if you are on the fence or willing to give it your all, you should research to ensure that the organisation for which you intend to work has the best chances of survival,” he said.

Prakash shared an example of a candidate who was a star performer in his previous organization, but whose performance fell short of the standards set by his current employer.

After observing him closely for about a month-and-a-half, the employer decided to immediately discuss the matter with him.

The employer discovered that the new hire was not entirely aligned with the company's growth plans, particularly its approach of not seeking funding until the company had reached a certain minimum turnover.

The new candidate believed in acquiring investors rather than customers, even though the company's mission was always focused on growing the business through acquiring customers.

Prakash advised that a candidate's decision to join or not join a startup should be based on a clear understanding of what their most important needs are, and a thorough understanding of the startup's vision, mission, and culture.
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Abhishek Sahu covers HR and Careers at Moneycontrol.
first published: Aug 9, 2022 01:25 pm