Startup or Corporate?

Read the 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: “I received an 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 is 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 who are clear on what working environment they’re most suited to, many don’t! 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. If you’re not an initiator who can suggest improvements and bring about change,  a larger corporate company could be more suitable. Here, you’ll typically have existing businesses 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 bring you success, it only takes 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 need to be comfortable with having a lesser-known brand on your CV, to begin with. Some may prefer to have 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. Every day will be truly different, is that something that excites you or would it give you sleepless nights? The corporate role offers a more stable, repetitive environment but one where you can become an expert in your field, free from the volatility of a growing business…

Income and package

Cash is king in a startup environment. This means 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 share options in the business. 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 the 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 have access to wider benefits, such as life insurance, fitness memberships, strong pension schemes, and so on. 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

Day 1 in a startup, will push you out of your comfort zone and make you adapt to changes quickly. Managing your ever-changing tasks successfully could get you promoted quickly, 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 get 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 being informed on what’s on offer, follow your instinct and make an educated decision on where you’ll thrive 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.

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