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Startup Graduate Jobs – Is It for You?

There are currently over 5 million businesses in the UK. 99% of these are classed as small or micro-businesses, employing less than 10 people. According to the CIPD Labour Market Outlook, over 60% of employers in the UK are actively looking to hire, and as the economy continues to strengthen, the number of businesses will surely grow, and with it, the number of available roles, particularly at graduate level. What does this mean? Simply put, there are a huge amount of startup graduate jobs – both graduate and entry-level roles in the market. Working at a start-up is very different to a large corporate or a more established business, for a variety of reasons. The purpose of this article is to try and highlight these differences to prospective candidates, so that they may make decisions about where they wish to work in the future on a more informed basis.

The media likes to sensationalise the start-up environment: you’ll ride an alpaca to your meetings and learn to play the kazoo while you’re brainstorming. Everyone sits on ethnically produced beanbags and send their messages via carrier pigeon. It is certainly true that startup graduate jobs can offer certain perks and a different office environment, this shouldn’t disguise the nature of actually working at a start-up company. Start-ups require a level of commitment that you do not often see at larger companies. This is a business that lives and dies on the basis of the work of a few people. If you aren’t pulling your weight, people will know about it, and it will have direct and immediate connotations. Work/life balance is consistently highlighted as an issue working in a start-up environment: there are a lot of late nights, difficult days, and general pressures upon you to get the most out of yourself as possible. This highlights one of the biggest things to recognise about the start-up environment: to be successful there, you need to be fully committed to the cause. For starters, the pay at start-ups is generally markedly lower than the same job at a larger company.  You need to really believe in the product or service that the company offers, as well as your future co-workers’ capacity to deliver it. You have to have a real passion for the mission your company has committed to, whether that be creating a new piece of software to help people do their taxes or brewing beer made from potato peel. Without that passion and willpower, you would struggle to succeed in such an environment.

This links to an important issue for most young graduates. We leave university having only a vague idea of what we want to do going forwards in our lives. A huge part of your early working career is working out what you want to do, and also, equally importantly, what you DON’T want. Your first few jobs can be acid tests for this, isolating responsibilities and companies that you feel that passion for. Therefore, the start-up environment can very quickly be a ‘sink or swim’ sort of deal. If you’re lucky, you’ll click with the brand and the people and have an absolute blast. If not, you’ll know about it pretty quickly. This is why a lot of people join a larger company upon graduation for at least a few years: they gain experience in a stable and more structured environment, working out their passions and strengths, before joining a start-up style company where they can get stuck in from day one.

But don’t despair. While startup graduate jobs can be difficult and hard places to work that place a large demand on their employees, working in such an environment can be a hugely educational experience. As most small companies have a flatter structure, you will be in much more direct contact with more senior people, both internally and externally, and you will have the opportunity not only to learn about the business’ key strategies, but also to influence them and express your opinion on them. As well, it is well-documented that people wear many different hats in a start-up environment. We have touched on the expectation of a strong work ethic, which this obviously links to, but what it also does is give you exposure to many different elements of a company. Not sure what you want to do? In a start-up, it is much easier to have more immediate access to different facets of working life, which would be much rarer in a larger, more established company, where you would have a set role from day one.

The reality of start-ups is that they aren’t for everyone: one person’s pro may be another’s cons. Even if ultimately it isn’t for you, you’ll get a unique experience and hopefully loads of skills to put on your CV.


Find startup graduate jobs today or discover the right talent here with Brightsparks.

Graduate Work Tips – Phone Interviews Done Right

The graduate work environment and the world of job applications is an ever-changing landscape. Whereas 10 or 20 years ago face-to-face interviews were the norm, in today’s increasingly digitised and connected world it is increasingly common to companies to use webcam or telephone-based interviews, saving them time and inconvenience. This change in medium inevitably brings about changes in the way we communicate. A phone interview and to an extent a webcam or Skype interview is a much more difficult medium than a face-to-face scenario.

In a phone interview situation, you are relying on two main factors: what you say and how you are saying it. Both need an equal amount of thought and preparation if you want to get top marks. Too little planning and you will give rambling, incoherent answers. Too little thought into your tone and manner, and you can give the best answers in the world, but it won’t save you from sounding like a monotonous robot, again a turn-off.

1. Tone of voice.

  • Speak in a clear, confident and enthusiastic voice. Really try to transmit in your speech (to a reasonable level) that you are excited about this particular opportunity. Another way to improve your tone of voice is to stand up while you’re speaking. It does seem a bit daft, but if you can pretend the person is in the same room as you. Smile and gesture as you would normally: all of this gets transmitted through your voice, which will sound a mile better than it would if you’re lying in bed balancing your phone on your face (we’ve all done it, don’t lie).

2. The length and style of your answers.

  • Think you know your CV? Can you go through each role in a minute, tops? Can you explain clearly and concisely why you joined places, why you left, what you liked about some places, what you didn’t? Can you summarise your time at university, what you did your dissertation on, what clubs you were in, what extra achievements you had? Can you go through what you are looking for in your next challenge, salary, size of company, culture, product, sector, environment? Just because you lived it doesn’t mean that you are necessarily any good at remembering it. Confidence can come due to proper preparation of answers, not learning a script, but matching your experience to the job requirements and practising basic answers to competency questions helps as well. Do an hour of prep beforehand, and not only will your answers be better, your tone of voice and manner will also improve. Go through your own experiences, or at least what you are going to be asked on. Practice your answers, not to a rigid script, but to the point where you can elaborate comfortably and you’re on your way to bagging that graduate work.


  • Laugh all you want at this being obvious, but I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve asked a candidate a basic question and they’ve taken that as leave to give a 5-minute speech about how amazing they are and how much they want the job. How can you give a graduate work to do that is potential challenging if they can’t nail the basics? Seriously though, few things torpedo your chances of a job offer more than a candidate avoiding a question or not giving a straight answer. It looks at best shady, and at worst like you’re not actually listening. Give a concise, honest answer to what you are asked.

4. Build Rapport.

  • You can have the best experience and education in the world, but if you come across as prickly or disinterested, it will turn people off you. You have to appear enthusiastic and show that you A) want to work in that specific industry and B) want THIS SPECIFIC JOB. If you can, research the person you will be talking to beforehand, and ALWAYS have questions ready about the job and the company. Interviewers almost always find this impressive, provided the questions are well-thought out and demonstrate that you have actually put some time into them. Show that you have put thought into the process, how you could be a part of it, and what your experience has taught you. Ask what the scope for progression is, or what the possibility is of taking on additional projects. Show hunger and drive. Graduate roles are in my opinion probably around 25% based your CV, and 75% personality, core values and attributes. A grad from an ‘average’ university who blows the interview away on the phone, answers their questions without hesitation, and who leaves an impression of eagerness and willingness to work, will always beat a grad from a top 10 university who hasn’t prepared their answers and is giving an impression that they don’t want to be there.


The number of graduates is increasing every year, and we are bombarded with stats telling us how slim the odds are of an individual applicant to get a job. However, despite this, an increase in grads does not necessarily correlate to an increase in good applicants. Make yourself stand out by doing the easy things well and leaving a positive impression, and things can start going right very quickly.


Find graduate work today or discover the right talent here with Brightsparks.