Applying at a start-up, what does the recruiter want to see?

Wearing your sneakers to the office, lots of responsibility and no political hassle. How to get in at a start-up?

Amsterdam is part of this year’s top 10 international start-up cities . The start-up scene in Amsterdam focusses mainly on media, technology and e-commerce, and more and more young people want to work in it. The informal atmosphere, the entrepreneurial character and flat corporate structure appeals to them. The online travel platform TravelBird is such a popular start-up employer. Twentysomethings queue up to work there. What do recruiters look for in the hiring process? Intermediair Magazine asked me following question: ‘Applying at a start-up: what does the recruiter want to see?’

What characterizes your company?
Freedom and responsibility are central. TravelBird is a very flat organization. Our CEO and co-founder leads the management team, and further the company consists of a horizontal cell structure. Such as HR, IT and finance, as well as multiple autonomous country-cells. That makes working together easier and more enjoyable. This cell structure is one of the reasons that we are in the top 10 of Glassdoor’s (a site for reviewing employers, ed.) list of great employers to work for. Our work-life balance is highly valued. We work hard and efficient, but having freedom and accompanying responsibilities within our work is essential.

How do you maintain the start-up vibe when you grow in five years from 2 to 600 people?
Even if you’re not a start-up anymore after five more years, the typical loose start-up vibe is still present in our company. It is of course a challenge to maintain that since we have grown so much. We avoid bureaucracy as much as possible so we can continue on to change rapidly. We give everyone a lot of freedom and adjust to the new ways of working by for instance offering possibilities to work from home. Precisely because we are with almost 600 talents, we attach great importance to the preservation of our culture. That’s why in the recruitment process in addition to the basic hard skills we also pay strong attention to having the right mindset. We are especially looking for ambitious, entrepreneurial and flexible ‘birds’, as we call our talents. They should like hands-on work and be triggered to start and run their own projects.

What do you look for in applicants?
Even though you have a perfect resume, we also want to see that someone has the will and eagerness to always go one step further, and is willing to learn every day to do better for our travelers. Many companies are obsessed by the resumes that they receive; as if it is only experience that counts. We attach great importance to the soft skills, as we believe personal traits are sometimes even more important as a determinant of an employees’ success.

Which things do you pay attention to in the application process?
Firstly, we do appreciate a well-organized resume with the proper educational background and work experience. Those specific skills are a prerequisite. In the letter we pay special attention to whether the applicant shows his or her passion, entrepreneurship and creativity. Our slogan is inspire everyday, so we would like to see an inspiring letter. We look for people with a go-getter mentality. Someone has to show that he or she can start own projects and new initiatives. We need entrepreneurial people to continue our growth.