I was laid off in November and am now pursuing a career search on two fronts: The conventional find an employer approach and the start a company approach.

I'm not sure how a prospective employer or recruiter will view my work in starting a new company while searching. I would like to think they will consider me enterprising and view it positively. On the other hand, they could consider it a distraction or lack of commitment to my job search.

At this point, I don't see any downside in mentioning the new company. It seems just like searching while currently employed.

Thank you in advance for your comments and advice.

ashdenver's picture

Hmm, tough one. If I were in the interviewer's seat, I'd be inclined to pass you over for someone "hungry" to work for me rather than starting their own business. That's just me personally though. And that assumes you and the "hungrier" candidate were equally qualified.

From the HR side, I'd be more inclined to consider hiring an entreprenuer if they said "I started this business but I'm finding it precarious in this economy so I'm eager to return to the stability of an established firm as well as rejoining a group of people committed to a common purpose."

That's not to say I'm suggesting you lie your butt off during the interview. I'm just letting you know what would calm my concerns.

Folks who are entreprenuers are usually independent-minded folks and when trying to hire someone into a group or team setting, hiring managers are usually looking for like-minded, team-oriented, follow-the-rules kind folks. (Not that everyone has to be a drone but you get the idea. They want a complementary component added; they don't want to throw oil into their calm water.)

jhack's picture

What's the upside of mentioning it?

You're job searching. Your new role might be working for a firm you start, or for a firm someone else started. If your market research leads you to see an opportunity that no one else is taking, that's great.

So talk about the market research you're doing, and how you're getting a better understanding of how firms grow.


RobRedmond's picture

Do not mention it.

If you came to me for a job, and you told me you were also starting a company, I would pass on hiring you. I don't want to hire a guy who is starting something that, if successful, will take his every waking hour, and if unsuccessful, will leave him depressed and bankrupt.

While those two conditions may not be true, I would imagine they are, and the effect will be on your chances of being hired in a tough economy.

-Rob Redmond

HMac's picture

There's a more neutral way to characterize it: while looking for your next position, you are doing freelance, contract, part-time work (any or all, depending on the nature of the work you're talking about), in addition to your job serach.

This response has worked very well for me: the interviewer appears to accept it, doesn't probe it much, and we move on.

Notice that I'm NOT saying "starting my own business" - for all the very good reasons cited above (or is it below now?)

Rehearse it so it's matter-of-fact. It'll work for you.



HMac's picture

Sorry, ahiggins - this just occurred to me when I re-read your post.

Your were NOT "laid off in November."

Your position was eliminated in November.

There's a BIG difference in the two phrases, and I promise it comes through when you say it out loud.

The first implies an action taken by the company regarding YOU (personally).

The second implies an action taken regarding your JOB.

Maybe you're already on to this, and how you characterized it in your post doesn't reflect how you do it with employers. But I respectfully suggest that *the elimination of the JOB* become the way you always describe what happened. Always. Even to yourself and your family members....

For a real, honest-to-God example, here's what I say:

"(Company name) faced substantial losses at yearend, and in an effort to cut expenses, it eliminated over 100 jobs nationwide – 5% of the workforce - one of which was mine."

In my experience, most interviewers get it, acknowledge it, and move on. I have a few brief follow-up statements if they want to probe (e.g., that it was a business decision, that we left on very good and professional terms, that my position was not directly client funded, etc).

But the bottom line is to keep it brief, and to make it about THE COMPANY, and not about YOU.


asteriskrntt1's picture

One of the potential messages you are sending is "I only want this job to help fund my new business venture, then I am outta here." Is this a message you think will help get you an offer?


ahiggins's picture

First, thank you everyone for your help and support.

It's hard not to take elimination of one's position personally. You are absolutely right about characterizing the situation as a reduction in force and not about me. I will take that one forward. Having started a company in the past, it is easier for me to deal with this situation as "I am now the CEO of my new company" as opposed to "I am available and looking for work."

Also, I appreciate the concern about "starting a company" for recruiters and prospective employers. I will frame it as background, developing my skills with newly available time, learning about a new market, etc. I won't list it on my resume as a new position. I am learning some relevant skills, so I believe it is worth mentioning under activities. Let me know if you disagree with this approach.

As for being an entrepreneur, that is already part of my experience. I do worry that it makes me less attractive as a prospective hire. (I previously started a software company, grew it to 3 people, and sold it 7 years later.) Over the years, I did hire a couple of people like myself who were pursuing pet projects or started companies of their own. I found these people to be very resourceful and motivated. Yes, there were occasionally issues with independence and I include myself in this generalization.

RobRedmond's picture

Hugh's advice is very good on both points. I recommend you do as he suggests.

asteriskrntt1's picture

Five of us pretty much said "don't say you are starting your own company." Your response? "It is easier for me".

Sorry. This isn't about making it easier for you. It is about making it easier for the recruiter and eliminating any and all things that give them the opportunity to say no to you.

If you are the CEO of a company, what are you doing interviewing for a job that pays X amount? It just doesn't wash.


ahiggins's picture

I apologize for the confusion. There are two sides of this:

1) How I present my situation to recruiters/employers. I won't mention starting a company. I am dedicated to a job search. I appreciate the clear direction here and am really glad I asked.
2) How I cope with the situation internally. If I talk about this aspect further it won't be internal anymore :) Let's just say I am the CEO of brand me.

Thanks again for the help.

fchalif's picture
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Another way to look at it is from the perspective of your resume. Is there an a specific achievement that you can talk about regarding the business you are trying to startup?
Until there is and you can put it on your resume, i.e. started up xxx and sold $$$ in first 3 months..., then do not talk about it a all.