When applying to a start-up, you’re probably competing against dozens, if not hundreds of candidates. Let’s take Veriff, Estonia’s sixth unicorn company, for instance. At Veriff, every 32nd qualified candidate gets accepted into the company. In comparison, every nineteenth-qualified candidate gets into Harvard.
The landscape is competitive meaning you need to know how to stand out from the crowd. To help you with your next start-up job application, we asked our partners ReadyPlayerMe, Grünfin, Pactum, Feelingstream, Kwota, and OneBanks about the soft skills they look for in candidates.
After reading this article, you’ll have a better idea about which aspects of yourself to focus on. We recommend tailoring your CV and using your past examples to show that you have some of these qualities.
Let’s get into it!
Here Are 10 Soft Skills Start-Ups Look For When Hiring
1 – Curiosity and willingness to learn
Given the fast-paced environment in start-ups, you need to have a curious mind and be willing to learn from your mistakes. In most cases, you’ll have to get a lot done in a short time. You’ll have to rely on your curiosity to test new ideas and learn along the way to drive desired results.
Here’s how Tracey MacLennan, Head of People at OneBanks sees it: “We’re doing something unique, so we need people who are naturally curious, who ask questions and are happy to try things out. Not everything we try will work so we need people who can learn from their mistakes quickly.”
Metaverse avatar start-up Ready Player Me is similarly looking for candidates who are hungry for success and willing to learn. “We’re here to make a change and build important things. We want to be the best version of ourselves, we’re always looking to grow and develop,” said Haver Järveoja, COO at Ready Player Me.
Alvar Lumberg, CTO and co-founder at Grünfin says that it’s important to know what you’re doing so you can focus on the now, but also you’ve got to be able to learn from experience.
2 – Personal values and beliefs
Value-based hiring is something that we preach at TalentHub daily. Having your values and beliefs makes it easier for you to find your dream company and vice versa.
“We’re looking for people with personal beliefs and attitudes,” said Terje Ennomäe, co-founder and CEO at Feelingstream.
Also, when team members share the same values, they’re more likely to succeed when working together. According to Rain Vääna, CEO of Kwota, value-based leadership is one of their main hiring traits.
3 – Product-oriented
Start-ups need a great product to survive. Especially in emerging markets with no established players, product quality can make or break a company.
Product-oriented people are focused on the outcome. They’re able to adapt and learn on the go, with the end goal of building the best product possible.
According to Haver from Ready Player Me, a product-oriented mindset is a key to succeeding at their company.
4 – Self-driven
Start-ups are busy – people have to wear many hats and take ownership of their projects. This leads to more opportunities to develop your skills, through which you can advance in your career.
Both Feelingstream and OneBanks are looking for self-driven people focused on career development. “Autonomous work, the chance to solve new problems, and working with innovative technologies are some of the reasons working in a start-up has been described as career rocket fuel!” – Tracey from OneBanks added.
5 – Problem-solving
In our previous interview with Pactum’s VP of Engineering, Ivo Kund, he said that Pactum doesn’t have any programmers. They have “engineers who solve problems.”
“We don’t overvalue tech stacks and languages – those are merely tools. Instead, it’s more important that the candidate can understand, analyze and bring solutions to problems.”
According to Kwota’s CEO Rain Vääna, one of the things they look for in candidates is a proven history of exceptional problem-solving ability.
6 – Can-do attitude
Having a can-do attitude alongside problem-solving abilities is a recipe for success if you want to work at a start-up.
People with a can-do attitude are more likely to thrive in a constantly changing environment.
Here’s how Tracey from OneBanks puts it: “We need people who enjoy working in changing environments and are comfortable working with ambiguity. When you’re solving new problems there may not be an immediate or clear answer!”
7 – Data-driven Mindset
Having a data-driven mindset is an essential quality to have regardless of if you want to work at a start-up or a large corporation. If you don’t measure data, how do you know you’re doing a good job in your role?
Data-driven people can analyze data and based on the findings, make strategic business decisions. As Terje Ennomäe from Feelingstream puts it: “It’s essential to have a data-driven mindset. Our product creates visibility from core data, so you’ll need to be able to use data and analysis to make informed decisions.”
8 – Community focus
Start-ups with a strong community have a loyal customer base who trusts their brand. Communities also help start-ups effectively test Minimum Viable Products (MVPs), making it easier to launch and sell new products.
“Our mission is to create a sense of community by having opportunities for everyday human interaction. In-person. By people. For all your everyday banking needs. We’re looking for people who share our passion for making a difference in the communities we’re serving,” commented Tracey from OneBanks.
9 – Communication and collaboration
Working in a start-up usually means working in a small team with ambitious goals. To achieve those goals and key metrics, you need an aligned team that works well together.
Alvar from Grünfin says “When hiring into a young, starting but fast-paced team, we’re looking for qualities that help people figure things out and deliver. You mustn’t be afraid to communicate your ideas and ask questions if needed.”
Tracey from OneBanks adds: “We’re a small team that supports each other and works to keep each other up to date. We’re happy to challenge each other’s ideas – we know it isn’t personal, we’re all driven to get to the very best outcome.”
10 – Taking ownership
Start-up life is busy. You’ll always have work that needs completing. This means that people can’t always rely on others to complete projects. You have to be able to take ownership of your work.
This is also one of the most valued hiring traits for Pactum. “I’d say what describes us best is that we’re independent thinkers who take ownership of projects. We have a sense of team spirit – everyone knows what’s our mission, Objective and Key Results (OKRs), and where we want to go,” said Ivo from Pactum.
This is a brief look into which traits start-ups look for when hiring. Now it’s time to go over your resume and tailor it to show how you possess these skills.
Read more about the job application tips that will help you land your next role.