My Experience with Start-up Recruiting: An Employer’s Perspective

Stephanie Wei, VP at NerdWallet, Wharton Undergrad 2005

In the short year since I joined NerdWallet, a personal finance website, we expanded our small team from 7 to 35.   We evaluated hundreds of candidates for a wide range of roles – from product managers and writers to engineers and designers.  The following is a start-up employer’s perspective–what I learned in the process and have distilled into a few pieces of advice for those looking to find a job at a start-up:

  • Be flexible – Many start-ups (and small businesses in general) are starved for two things: cash and time.  Offering full-time employment is actually a big commitment for a start-up – not just in obvious cash costs, but also from a bandwidth and time perspective, as managers have to onboard, train, and manage new hires.  As a result, being flexible goes a long way. Many of our employees started as part-time contractors or remote-workers.  If you are truly interested in a certain company, be flexible and willing to consider part-time, consulting, or remote work.  This is a great way for you to get to know your potential employer and direct manager, and also a good way for us to get comfortable with you joining our team.
  • Don’t count yourself out based on your background and previous experience – The start-up cliché is true: Everyone wears many hats.  Just because you don’t have direct experience with product or design or have a programming background doesn’t mean you can’t figure it out.  Many candidates we interview, especially MBAs or people with “traditional” business backgrounds in investment banking or consulting, short-change themselves.  Have faith in your skills and your ability to figure things out, and don’t count yourself out early. 
  • Interviewing Tips
    • Know your audience – As simple as it sounds, research the company and don’t make incorrect generalizations.  For example, if you’re interviewing with a boot-strapped company, don’t compare it to a Y-Combinator/VC-funded company or make incorrect comparisons
    • Demonstrate how you think and approach problems – One of the biggest challenges working at a start-up is figuring out the best use of your time.  We tend to look for thought leaders – people who can extract insight and actions from information, who can breakdown a problem into its component parts, and come up with good ideas.  The fact that we have given you an interview likely meant your background passed the first test.  Impress us now! 


stephanie_wei_nerdwalletBio: Stephanie develops and manages NerdWallet’s banking products and financial literacy initiatives. NerdWallet, based in San Francisco, CA, is a financial literacy website that helps consumers save money and make smarter decisions about their personal finances, higher education, and travel plans.  Before joining NerdWallet, she worked in corporate strategy and business development at Roll Global and M&A Advisory at KPMG. Stephanie is a graduate from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.