My Experience with Start-up Recruiting

By Drew Olian, Wharton MBA 2014

How decided I wanted to recruit for a start-up role:

I knew coming into Wharton that I wanted to make the transition from private equity to a more operational role at a start-up, although I wasn’t quite sure how to do so. Fortunately, knowing my goal early on enabled me to attend a number of Wharton MBA Career Management and other presentations throughout the fall semester. Through these presentations and one-on-one meetings with Career Management, I was able to develop a timeline for narrowing my search, networking, and interviewing. I also found it extremely helpful to commit to recruiting for start-ups early on because I saved a huge amount of time and energy by not recruiting for “mature sector” positions.

How I went about my search:

Based on the recruiting timeline I developed, I spent my first few months at school thinking about my interests and narrowing down the various sectors and geographies I was considering. Ultimately, I decided to pursue opportunities in healthcare or technology in Chicago or on the West Coast. Around Thanksgiving, I began the next stage of my search process and reached out to people in my personal, professional, and Wharton networks who could help me learn more about these fields and serve as potential leads for interviews.

Although everyone I spoke to tried to be as helpful as possible, I quickly realized I needed to make my search more specific in order for my connections to give concrete assistance with interview leads. Combining my interests, I began telling people I was searching for roles at health IT start-ups. Once I was able to give them a clear description of what I was looking for, two people in my personal network were able to put me in touch with a number of start-ups, VCs, and incubators in Chicago.

My first conversation with the start-up I will be joining this summer, AVIA, came through one of these introductions and occurred in late November. We quickly established that there was a good match between my experience and interests and AVIA’s business, but at the time it was unclear where the business would be by the summer and whether there would be a role for an intern. We agreed to touch base again early in 2013.

Over the next few months, I continued networking and refining my search within the health IT sector. At the end of January, I took advantage of not participating in DIP week (a week dedicated to “mature industry” internship recruiting on campus when classes do not meet) to go to Chicago and meet in-person with the AVIA team, as well as a number of other companies. I also visited several start-ups in San Francisco as part of the Healthcare Club’s Health IT Start-up career trek. After meeting with a number of companies and investors that week, I left knowing AVIA was my first choice. Fortunately, I received an offer for a summer internship a few weeks later, which I accepted.

How the Wharton Entrepreneurship Prequalified Intern Fellowship helped me in my search:

Receiving the Prequalified Intern Fellowship helped me in two ways. First, it had a positive signaling effect when I mentioned it in interviews. In addition to serving as a credential, having applied for and received the Fellowship demonstrated my commitment to pursuing an entrepreneurial internship and career path. Second, by augmenting the salary I will receive this summer, the Fellowship lessened the importance of compensation and enabled me to focus entirely on finding the best summer internship experience.


Note: AVIA, based in Chicago, IL, is a new healthcare provider-focused innovation accelerator, dedicated to identifying and implementing the best emerging technology-enabled solutions that help providers compete on value.


drewolian_headshotBio: Drew Olian is in his first year of the Wharton MBA program. He is a member of the Wharton Entrepreneurship Club, Health Care Club, Small Business Development Center Business Building Program, and Men’s Rugby Team. Prior to Wharton, Drew spent two years in investment banking followed by two years in private equity. He earned his undergraduate degree from Pomona College.