Applying for startups: what to expect


Why startups?

You’re already on BrighterBox. You think startups are cool and edgy. You’re unimpressed by the superficial grad scheme perks that the big names use to justify a questionable work-life balance. You’re smart, and we like you for that.


That’s not to say that working at a startup is a stroll in the park, though. Anything but: it can be chaotic, fast-paced, and ambiguous.


It’s also sure as hell fun. 


Whether it’s a social cause you truly care about, a product you’re a fan of, or the chance to work directly with big-name clients in a tight-knit team, it’s much easier to find a startup than a large corporation that’s aligned with your values. Even if you find yourself running through brick walls for your company, it’s far more rewarding in a place where you can see the direct impact and grow with the business.


The opportunity to shape the role around your strengths and interests, for example, is much more difficult when you’re a cog in a large machine. Direct access to the founding team, a high level of responsibility early on, and a 360° vantage of the inner-workings of a business are all perks that you simply wouldn’t find elsewhere.


Amazing! How do I apply to these startup things?

Gonna assume you’ve applied for a few jobs, and are familiar with the typical application process:

1. Open laptop
2. Google ‘grad jobs in London’ or ‘careers at [insert big-name company]’
3. Slog out a mundane application form or send off a CV to someone who could be an elf for all you know
4. Hope to be invited for a rare interview with said elf – do they really exist?!


If that sounds all too familiar, you’ll be pleased to hear that we do things a little differently at BrighterBox – no bullshit or tooth fairies. Nor elves.


For some seasoned job hunters, this may be a breath of fresh air; but we also appreciate that it might be a little confusing for grads or anyone who isn't too familiar with the process. From unexpected phone calls to probation periods, here are a few things you should expect from the startup job search:


1. Recruiters are more than weird, lonely people

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“Although we can sometimes come across as a little annoying, it’s because we care.” Okay, no, on second thought, we’re definitely not your parents. And that’s just another reason why you shouldn’t be too alarmed if a recruiter gets a hold of your number.


You’ve signed up to the system with your details. A few days or weeks have passed. Then, out of nowhere, you have a stranger calling you up with nerdy job chat. Why? Your CV is probably a great fit for one of the roles they are working on. And just when you thought this bizarre person had packed up and returned to their mothership of quirky job opportunities, they won’t. go. away…


Don’t worry, they aren’t flirting! It’s their job to take care of the application process, from that initial call to getting references. The process starts with an initial call, which helps us build a bigger picture of who you are. If we think you’re the right candidate for the role and you’re game, we’ll be best bros for a little while. We’ll also be the bearers of good news when you receive an offer.


Why not just deal with the employer directly? The reason is that small businesses depend on the time-saving help of recruiters more than their larger counterparts, who may have an entire grad-rec department. In other words, BrighterBox to the rescue ;)


2. Faster than you can say ‘best graduate jobs in London!’

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You’re also probably used to waiting a long time to hear back – if at all – from most job applications. Thankfully, that doesn’t tend to be the case with startups: if an employer likes your CV, we’ll be in touch within a few days to set up an interview. The process is quicker. You’ll typically have two interviews and a task, and that could be as soon as today or tomorrow(!) Not that you should worry: you’ll likely have ticked a lot of the boxes to have got to an interview stage, so go into it with the confidence and knowledge that you won’t be up against hundreds or thousands of candidates.


3. You have got the job

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Lucky enough to have received an offer? Congrats! If you (and your parents) still have a few reservations, this one's for you.


Gen X are a funny bunch, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Life was pretty different when they were our age, and so were job applications. One couldn’t simply Google ‘graduate startup jobs in London’. Just ask a Gen Xer to e-sign a document and you'll see what I mean. For that reason, the recruitment process for startups can seem a little unfamiliar to them. And it’s not uncommon for candidates to baulk at a stellar job offer because their parents have planted a few doubts in their mind. 


Understood, it can all be a little overwhelming when a recruiter sends you a role at a company you’ve never heard of and, next thing you know, you have an offer. Even more confusing is receiving the offer over the phone before an offer letter or contract comes through. This is actually a key part of the process: as recruiters we need to be doubly sure, for the sake of both parties, that both candidate and company are keen on entering a relationship together – so that it will last <3


4. Offer letter vs contract

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Time to look away if you're allergic to the legalese! Offer letter, Contract of Employment, probation period. Okay, we'll translate. 


The next thing to expect after an offer is an... offer letter – from the employer. This is a de facto agreement as to your job title and responsibilities, and you’ll be expected to accept/acknowledge within a day or two. That’s a cue for the employer to send you a Contract of Employment (aka COE/CofE), which is the document you will sign, agreeing to the finer details: holiday, sick pay, when and how you are paid, etc. Expect to see something about a probationary period too: a probation period of 3 months (sometimes 6) is common, and saves you and the employer from having to commit to something that isn't working out (very rare; no Kim & Kanye dramas here).

For more info on what to look out for in your contract, click here.


You might have got the job offer quickly, but bear with when it comes to the paperwork. While the big banks and law firms have entire grad rec teams to get the admin sorted, it can sometimes fall to the founder or directors to send over the contract. In other words, don't hesitate to open the fizz!


That’s it! You’ve got the job! Now go get ‘em ;)

​(or visit to check out the best grad jobs in London)

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