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Ask a recruiter: Startup or Corporate?

Read our latest instalment of our blog series titled ‘Ask a recruiter’, where we share questions we receive about interviews, CVs, the application process and really anything our candidates might be concerned or curious about. If you missed our last blog, make sure to check it out: “?Ask a recruiter: I received a NQ job offer but am looking to move elsewhere“)

Each week we’ll be answering one question that comes up in conversation with candidates; this week’s being about Startup vs. Corporate working..

An Accounting & Finance Graduate based in London asks: “Should I look for work in a Startup or Corporate company?”

This is a hugely common question that I discuss every day with candidates. Whilst there are plenty of people out there who have a clearly defined idea of the working environment they’re most suited to, many don’t! Whilst it’s an important question to consider at the start of any job search, you may have a range of job offers in vastly different organisations and cultures to choose from. 

For many, the best way to find out what environment suits them is to keep their job search broad, taking in a range of roles and opportunities. However, there are some points you can start to consider from the beginning of your job search. There’s clearly a multitude of aspects to consider but I’ve picked out some vital points which will help you build a solid understanding of the two paths. Let’s take a look…

Working style

Are you an initiator, or a ‘do-er’? In a startup, nothing comes for free and you’ll be expected to work in a more ‘scrappy’ and self-starter manner. So, if you’re not an initiator who can suggest improvements and bring about change, maybe a larger corporate company would be more suitable. Here, you’ll typically have existing business and projects handed down to you rather than needing to come up with your own ideas.

Impact and recognition

Within a small, pressurised business, everyone and everything is constantly on the edge. This vulnerability means you’ll have the space to make a powerful and lasting impact. Whilst this would ideally always bring success in your role, it can only take one or two mistakes to drag down the wider business. Do you suit a high-risk, high-reward environment or are you comfortable in a team where you may not be recognised for completing your tasks and could be seen as replaceable?

With a startup, you’ll also need to be comfortable in having a lesser known brand on your CV, at least to begin with. Some may prefer to have the well known names behind them, which could be considered to offer credibility. That being said, if your startup grows into a well renowned brand in its field (like flinder from my first interview in ‘The Founders’ series), to be able to say you were part of that success story will hugely boost your profile. 


Startups are all about dynamism and flexibility – it’s the nature of the beast, right? You’ll constantly have to adapt to changing scenarios and ensure things are kept on track. Is that something that excites you or would it give you sleepless nights? Every day will be truly different and you’ll wear many hats, whereas the corporate role offers a more stable, repetitive environment but one where you can become an expert in your specific area of work free from the volatility of a growing business..

Income and package

Cash is king in a startup environment, meaning that the level of resources the business can put towards your salary is often lower than average. Whilst on the face of it this could seem discouraging, the trade-off can pay dividends further down the line if you’ve joined a successful business at an early stage! There are wider things to consider, such as whether there are share options in the business available, which are often used to offset the difference in salary.

You can expect a corporation to have a more structured salary, typically in line with or above market average. However, this will likely take smaller incremental jumps as you stay with the business, with slower progress through the hierarchy. You’ll likely also have access to wider benefits, such as life insurance, fitness memberships, strong pension schemes, etc. so it’s important to think about what’s best for you. Can you afford to take a risk and possibly reap higher rewards?

Development and growth

From day 1 in a startup, you’ll be pushed out of your comfort zone and be quickly adapting to any changes in the business. Managing your ever changing tasks successfully could get you promoted in almost no time, particularly with growing staffing needs if the business does well. You’ll have a much higher rate of development and should be someone who enjoys a challenge, likely having to take on a broader role quicker than you potentially feel ready for.

Again, the larger environment offers the opposite. Following established and strictly organised hierarchies, it can be years before you have access to the next step of the corporate ladder.


Evidently, there’s no true way to tell what will and won’t work for you professionally until you’ve tried it. These are just some of the many factors to consider. However, by taking an informed approach of what is on offer, only you can follow your instinct and make an educated decision on which environment you’ll thrive in the most. 

So which is it going to be?


Tune in for our next instalment of ‘Ask a recruiter’. If you want to get in touch about a question you’d like to ask us, contact our team.

If you would like to see our company updates and industry insights, follow our LinkedIn page here.

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