What do top startups look out for when hiring a fresh grad?

Have you ever wondered what top startups in Singapore want in a candidate?

Are you a fresh graduate raring for a chance to work in dynamic environments and seize opportunities to make real impacts in the community?

Startups are always seeking people to grow their vision with. If you’re interested in pitching in and getting your hands dirty to help grow a vision you believe in, then look no further. We recently spoke to three local top startups and their representatives for exclusive information on what they look for in fresh grads like you. They are as follows:

Kenneth Lou
Co-Founder, Seedly

Seedly is a leading FinTech startup positioning itself as the go-to personal finance assistant for millennials.

Sharifah Nursyafiqah
Senior Consultant, Datarama

Datarama is another highly successful FinTech startup based in Singapore, focused on streamlining compliance.

Jerviel Lim
People Operations Manager, 99.co

99.co is Southeast Asia’s largest property listing portal.

Kenneth, Syafiqah, and Jerviel had lots of valuable information to share, ranging from the types of questions they often ask to factors that make a candidate awesome and suitable. Let’s get on with it!

Top startups regard willing learners as the best candidates. “We have seen fresh graduates learn and grow on the job before becoming key members of the team,” shares Syafiqah. Experience is not always necessary at Datarama. However, the startup still prizes people who are fast and eager learners.

Kenneth also agrees, stating that Seedly often “looks for the ones who are hungry to learn and grow as individuals; with the skills and projects they work on, they’ll ultimately be a lot more richer with experience.”

If you’re quick on your feet and sharp, then startup life could be for you.

A positive attitude is an attitude for winners, according to Datarama and Seedly. Startups look for this drive in their candidates and love to see a cheerful and sunny applicant on interview day.

“We’re looking for people who can grow with the company,” says Syafiqah, “so a can-do attitude is key.”

Seedly, in particular, looks for candidates who “see a longer game” beyond salary and compensation concerns, says Kenneth. You need to be goal-oriented and not self-oriented, and Jerviel agrees, stating that they “don’t look for A-star performers, but A-star team players.”

If you’re someone who thrives in a team environment, loves supporting others, and isn’t easily fazed by failure and setbacks, then that’s another +1 to your startup eligibility!

Resourceful candidates are super attractive to top startups. Jerviel emphasises this, since startups are mostly “lean in manpower.” The ideal candidate would have to be able to “do more with less” and excel at what they do with the resources they’ve been given. “One hundred percent impact with ten perfect resources,” concludes 99.co’s Jerviel, quoting a saying commonly repeated in the company.

Kenneth also actively looks for resourceful candidates. His most commonly asked interview questions include, “What is one story of you being resourceful? When shit hit the fan, how did you solve it?”

If you’re someone who can improvise on the go and make the best with what you have, that’s really good news.Startup culture is full of adventure and risk. Naturally, the ideal startup candidate is someone who is engaged and involved in new ideas and skills most of the time.

“It’s not so much about what they’ve studied, but what they’ve tried and attempted during their days in school,” Jerviel states. “Have they piloted something? Did a startup? Started an online business? Developed an application? Have they tried something new?”

“It doesn’t matter if they’ve failed or succeeded,” elaborates Jerviel on how 99.co views its candidates. “What’s more important is their willingness to step into the unknown.”

Kenneth recognises the merit of having people onboard who “don’t just focus on the money or salary compensation” and instead “thrive in uncertainty.” In particular, he shares, “Good candidates show me that they went further than what was required to excel at something – and it doesn’t have to be work related.

“The ones who left a positive impression are the ones who delivered and hustled.”

It’s all about the bigger picture, and being willing to take risks to fulfil that far off dream.

Being articulate and communicative will definitely score you points with startup employers like Datarama, who “tend to remember candidates with [with these skills],” Syafiqah reveals. You will very likely be placed in a team environment that’s fast-paced, so being able to bring out your ideas and share information efficiently is a plus. If you’re able to remain engaged with the people around you and the projects you embark on, then yay!

Startups love people who are dynamic and not afraid to step out of their shell to communicate.

The above qualities are the ones that were highlighted the most. Create a mental list to check off which ones stick and which ones don’t. You’ll then be able to figure out if you’re suitable for the startup life, especially in startups that have come a long way and succeeded greatly over the years.

There is definitely a reason why these small startups continue to thrive and grow each year. Manpower is everything, and what startups often lack in numbers, they make up for with quality and potential. Top startups like Datarama, Seedly, and 99.co have come a long way with what they’ve been given, and are looking to forge ahead in their exciting journeys this year and beyond.

If you feel like the above profile more or less matches you, then consider sending in your CV and chasing that startup dream today. The startup community in Singapore is waiting for you!

Sophia Lee

I used to freelance exclusively for Glints - now I'm a content marketing intern working furiously in the backdrop. Talk to me about writing any time! (Or we could have a serious discussion about video games and e-sports... that's cool too.) Find me on Instagram (@pxtrx)!

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