So, you managed a startup/small business that either got acquired or shut down after not doing well. Now, you’re updating your resume and preparing to get back into the job market for your next big break. You’re now struggling with the right way to include details about your startup in your resume. There are certain situations where you should refrain from talking about your failed entrepreneurial venture. But it’s advisable, in most cases, to be open about your experience.
“Startups can fail for any number of reasons, which can be a mix of your fault and not your fault,” says Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Acquisition Interview Consultant and Author of Cracking the PM Interview.
“While there might be some people who are ignorant of just how hard it is to be successful, most people in the industry are not. After all, if VCs aren’t able to predict which startups are successful, why should it reflect that poorly on you that you weren’t able to predict this?”
Accept That Startups Can Fail
The probability of your first startup succeeding is not very high. Out of all the small businesses/startups launched in 2014, only 56 per cent are still going strong. Even the most triumphant of entrepreneurs endured several failed attempts before reaching the top.
For example, unbeknownst to many, Bill Gates started Traf-O-Data with Paul Allen. It was a data analysis firm, in the ’70s, before they both teamed up to launch Microsoft. Needless to say, the venture did not last very long in the market. Even after being profitable for the first few months.
On a similar note, Mark Zuckerberg was working on WireHog, a peer-to-peer file-sharing program, simultaneously with Facebook in 2004. It almost cost him his current success. In his book The Facebook Effect, David Kirkpatrick mentions this. He shares that Zuckerberg, instead of working on Facebook, allowed himself to be distracted by WireHog. The software was not only complicated but also responsible for inviting Napster-style lawsuits.
In short, you should try focusing less on why your startup failed. Focus more on the relevant skills and learnings you acquired while working on it.
Why Mentioning About Your Startup In Your Resume Is A Good Idea
Remember, as a former startup founder, or a small business owner, you have plenty of practical skills up your sleeve. It attests for your ability to lead, think on your feet, and execute time-bound tasks. Not to mention, having an entrepreneurial mindset is very telling of how comfortable you’re with accountability and product ownership. And are qualities that most hiring managers primarily look for in candidates.
“An ideal candidate should have a spirit of what we call professional entrepreneurship,” says Deodutta Kurane. He is the Group President of Human Capital Management, Yes Bank. “This means that she/he should be able to start new projects with ease, have a heightened sense of responsibility and ownership, as well as a desire and passion to go far beyond the boundaries of the job.”
How To Mention Your Failed Startup In Your Resume
That being said, avoid exaggerating about your entrepreneurial stint. Mentioning 4-6 points about your role/responsibilities, learning curve, and skill-set should be more than enough. Ideally, these should relate in some way to the position you’re applying for. It’s important to demonstrate that you’re ready and eager to move on to bigger, better things. And that you aren’t hung up on the failure of your venture.
You can also increase your chances of getting a callback, by including a cover letter with your resume. The letter should emphasize your active willingness to stay and grow with a company for the long term. After all, most hiring managers in this situation are with the same question: How long till he/she ups and leaves to start their own company? Therefore, you seem excited about the job opportunity and look forward to becoming an indispensable asset of the team. Here’s a good example:
There’s no need to dwell on the specific reasons why your startup didn’t work out. You can probably dedicate not more than 1-2 sentences to talk about the whole affair in case of an acquisition. Ideally, you should prepare a convincing answer beforehand when you’re going in for an interview. However, keeping the details out of your resume is a good, highly-recommended idea.
The only time you should reconsider mentioning your startup in a resume is if it’s still running.
It can be hard to convey your enthusiasm to work in another company when your venture just shut down. However, if you’re turning over a new leaf—rest assured, you don’t have to hide your entrepreneurial experience. In fact, you should use it to your advantage to move further up in your career.