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How to Understand a Startup’s Employer Brand

And why this is crucial to the success of your application.

If you are a job seeker reading this – congratulations! The job market is in your hands, and it has never been easier for qualified candidates like you to land a job. The question is, are you landing jobs that you like?   

The real challenge for you now is knowing by what metrics to compare small companies. For a long time, the most obvious variables of comparison were prestige of brand and compensation package. But the ground has shifted, and now a third big player has entered the ring – employer branding.   

A company’s employer brand is as important, if not more so, than the generous pay and benefits of an organization. And let’s be honest. If you’re looking into startups and scaleups, those two measurements of value might be out the window. The startup or scaleup you’re eyeing might not offer competitive salaries, and they may have virtually no product recognition.  

But what every company does (or at least should) have is an employer brand – the values, mission and goals that act as their compass.   

The key for you as a potential employee is to identify companies whose employer brands and values are genuine. Sometimes, this can be a difficult task! Businesses are generally very good at marketing, which can bleed over into how they portray their job openings and brand.  

You’re not just applying for a job — you’re applying for a career. Let’s make sure you land the right one. Here’s what to look for.  

 Where to Look

Company Website

When you go to a company’s website, specifically their careers page, you want to know what the company stands for. Or, in other words, what’s the startup’s mission? This should be obvious to you after visiting their website.  

Red Flag 🚩🚩  

If it isn’t obvious through their careers site, job posting, and they can’t speak clearly to it during an interview.  

This could be a result of a few different challenges, but it will make it more difficult for you to gauge if working for them lines up with your values. Look out for poorly defined company missions.  

Content

Their company culture should seep through their content — even virtually! If you’re struggling to get a sense of the employer brand through their website, head to their social media channels. Look for videos, images, events, news publications, or other demonstrations of what their culture is like in real life. This is what candidates want to know and it should be showcased! 

Red Flag 🚩🚩 

Their social channels don’t showcase their team, or company culture in any way. Once again, this could be a result of a few different challenges, and it doesn’t mean they don’t have a strong employer brand or a positive culture, but if they are struggling to convey it to you, it’s definitely something to dig deeper into when you’re interviewing.  

Current Employees

Another crucial thing to do when considering a job is to look at the startup’s current employees. A company’s employees are the employer brand. Start to engage with the employees online, or ask to speak with your potential teammates during the interview process to have a better understanding of the team dynamic and the people you’ll be working with. 

Red Flag 🚩🚩  

If none of their current, or even previous, employees can tell you about what it’s like to work there… It’s a good sign you don’t want to either.  

Company Reviews

Finally, read the reviews. Every employee will have a different experience, and you can’t please everyone, especially if there’s a mismatch between the company culture and the successful candidate.  

Red Flag 🚩🚩  

If there’s a disproportionate number of negative reviews, it may mean you should think hard before saying yes to the job offer. Do your research and ask the hiring manager to address any concerns you have. Turnover can suggest a few things – not all negative – but it is best to have the full picture when you’re considering an offer. 

  • Bonus: If they do have negative reviews, look at how the employer handles them. That can speak a lot to the type of employer they are and how they value their employees and uphold their image.   

  

What to Look For

As we said, when it comes to startups, you can’t necessarily make a decision solely based on benefits, pay, or other perks. So, what do you use to rank your options?  

Of course, compensation will play a factor, but your happiness with your career should also be a priority. Startups usually leave lots of room for exploration, a less departmentalized role, and an exciting, fast-paced environment.  

Here are some simple ways to get the information you need to make an informed decision:  

Alignment Check

If the startup’s website claims they value work-life balance, find out what they think makes their star employee special. If they say it’s that they’re willing to put in extra time and work to hit deadlines, their employer brand might have a bit more marketing flair in it than authenticity. 

Job Postings

When looking at a job posting you should have a sense of what the startup is like and who will succeed there. For example, in their job postings, Field Effect highlights the attributes of their employees:  

“The Field Effect employee is made up of three parts: one part awesome attitude, one part serious skill, and one part passion for all things cyber security! This culminates in an all-star team that is engaged, motivated, genuinely curious, with the drive to make anything possible.” 

Just from that small section, you already know a few things: You’re a team player, you love cyber security, you’re personable, and a self-starter that gets things done. 

Careers Pages 

Let’s break this down for what you should look for in a startup careers page. Pay a visit to FlowPoint’s career page 

Immediately, you see a few things: 

  • What they do 
  • What their team is like 
  • What makes their startup and its mission so special 

Then, they tell you the qualities they value in their employees — this is the place where you should go, “hey, that’s me.” They’ve clarified what to expect from a career with them, how you will progress, and what it feels like to work for them. They even have a slide-through with employee testimonials! As a bonus, you get to see what their interview process looks like, and then they round it out with those other perks you don’t need, but which make a job extra enticing. 

What’s Next?

Why is this crucial? As we said, you’re applying for a career, not just a job! Getting in with a startup with a fantastic company culture aligned with your goals means you’ll be right where you belong. This alleviates a lot of work-life stress and anxiety that occur when you feel trapped in the wrong job.  

It’s up to you to look for red flags, ask good questions when you land the interview and see how they measure up to your goals, values and personality.  

Happy job hunting!

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