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Big Company Bias June 6, 2012

Posted by Tim Rodgers in job search, Organizational dynamics.
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Lately I’ve been spending some time talking with local entrepreneurs, all of whom are hoping for growth and most of whom are looking for talented people to help them grow. What I find interesting is that there’s a widely-held bias against hiring people who’ve worked at large, established companies. I’m sure that different hiring managers would describe their concerns differently, but the aggregate stereotypical “big company” person seems to be someone who waits for directions and isn’t willing to work long hours. The skills may be there, but the attitude and commitment are allegedly lacking.

I think it’s arguable whether people who fit that description are more likely to work at larger companies, but I don’t think arguing is going to change these beliefs. Entrepreneurial or early stage companies have a different culture, and if you’re looking for an opportunity to join them, and you’ve got a history of larger companies on your resume, then you’ve got to show that you have what it takes to succeed in a very different environment. Having the right skills and experience is great, but you also need to provide examples of the behaviors that are valued at smaller firms, including self-reliance, collaboration, flexibility, agility, speed, and comfort with ambiguity.

Come to think of it, aren’t those the same behaviors that should be valued at larger firms?

The success or failure of a smaller firm is more dependent on the individual contributions of each employee; there may not be someone else who can “take care of it.” Working in an entrepreneurial environment is not for everyone, but a big company veteran who can fit in is a valuable asset because of their knowledge of well-developed and proven business processes.

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