The application is not for a startup, the company claims to have over 200 employees.

A decent job offer in France I'm reading mentions "Startup spirit guaranteed" among the list of attractive reasons to apply for that job. It is not the first time I have seen this "pro" in a job offer.

I think that it might mean that the company wants to have a young image, casual dress, people speaking informally, addressing each other with the familiar form (saying "tu" in French). Maybe I'm wrong...

Now I'm concerned about the downsides of the "Startup spirit", especially if that could imply hidden illegal conditions (unpaid overtime work, unpaid home work...). Again, maybe I'm wrong...

The way these words are sometimes written in a job offer seems to imply that it is a good point but it could mean anything (and nothing, too). So what do recruiters imply when they mention "Startup spirit"?

  • 19
    The same thing they mean with every other word in the ad: "We think this term will help us get you to contact us so we'll get paid".
    – Erik
    Oct 3, 2017 at 9:36
  • 8
    Be prepared to work super super super hard. And we expect you to be grateful to be part of our scrappy start up.
    – Neo
    Oct 3, 2017 at 11:18
  • 3
    Since it's a startup, yes It has more chance to be a scam if it is about salary, of course you can sue but you may see your salary in 3 years. Basically it boils to : few people working together in good familial spirit and very very long stressful hours where you will have to wear multiple hats even if they weren't in your CV.
    – Walfrat
    Oct 3, 2017 at 14:59
  • 2
    Presumably they have NERFs, the official symbol of a fun™ company.
    – polku
    Oct 3, 2017 at 15:47
  • 3
    It means it's a sweatshop, but they have a game room or something
    – Maxim
    Oct 3, 2017 at 15:59

4 Answers 4


Based on my experience in many US startups, I would expect:

  • a small company
  • a less formal work environment
  • a far more horizontal hierarchy with far fewer levels of management
  • less boring repetitive work, more challenges
  • the opportunity to do many different things without being limited to what might be implied in your title
  • far more possibilities for learning
  • far more possibilities for promotion and growth
  • far more ability to personally make an impact
  • everyone focused on fewer products and projects
  • people all pulling in the same direction
  • far less office politics
  • very fast pace
  • longer work hours
  • lower pay (sometimes)
  • stock options that are potentially very lucrative if things go well
  • lack of direction (sometimes)
  • potential to end abruptly

It may or may not be different in France.

For me, the best jobs I have ever held were in startups. They didn't always end well, but it was almost always a great ride. I far prefer working for startups. I always worked hard, learned a lot, and felt appreciated. For me it was personally very rewarding.

Also remember that not all startups are in the same "stage". Very early stage startups have almost no funding. Later stage startups might have a lot of money already thrown their way. You'll want to learn this from the recruiter or during interviews.

  • 13
    good points!... maybe you just forgot: far more possibilities for the company to collapse within the first few months or 1st year :)
    – OldPadawan
    Oct 3, 2017 at 12:28
  • 7
    I would also add - a lack of direction, from the experience I've had.
    – camden_kid
    Oct 3, 2017 at 13:24
  • 1
    The only thing that could be different in France is that contract are not at will, so they can't fire you always easily.
    – Walfrat
    Oct 3, 2017 at 14:55

Work endless hours, be paid with worthless shares instead of real money, and be thankful for your early whitening hair. And don't expect any kind of organization whatsoever, you'd better bring it with you.

And as you mention France, it's not even a strong point on your CV, unless you want to work for another startup. Boring banks are far more shining for most France's recruiters. Wether it's a good thing or not, I'm not going to debate.


"Startup spirit guaranteed" reads like a euphemism for "challenging work conditions", which itself often really means "There's a lot to do, almost too much." Startups often (not always) have heavy workloads, limited budgets and tight deadlines. This could be their optimistic way of warning you in advance...

An alternative; With some larger companies, there may be little love lost if a single employee quits as they will continue going regardless. With smaller companies, especially startups, it is likely that many (if not all) staff already there will be well acquainted with each other. This in turn could mean that they are more open with each other in voicing concerns and ideas, or that any new ideas you bring to the table will always be considered and appreciated.

Instead of reading too much into what "startup spirit guaranteed" means, should you secure an interview, you should ask about the company's prospects. What has motivated them to hire additional hands? What timescale do they have for their projects? What are the backgrounds of others in the team? How are time and resources managed? Questions like these will give you a better idea of just how good a handle the company has on their resources and targets.

  • 1
    This could be their optimistic way of warning you in advance... There is definitely value in this warning in that it paints a picture about the type of person who would be a good fit here.
    – Myles
    Oct 3, 2017 at 15:14

It can mean all sorts of things, so it is important that you get clarification from the company during the interview process rather expecting a definitive answer that will likely change over time. You should be interviewing them just as much as they are vetting you.

  • Ask them to elaborate and give examples of being a startup.
  • Has anything ever occurred that may be contrary to this statement?

What are your major concerns?

  • Is there anything about startups that you don't like?
  • What are the company's financials like? Can they be expected to run out of money?

If you want to start with a broad definition and then utilize it to help you go about getting the information necessary for an informed decision, that's up to you. It wouldn't be a bad place to start.

  • Thanks Jeff... I have the feeling that saying, in a job interview in France, that my major concern is that the law is followed would give me 0% chance to have the job.
    – Bebs
    Oct 3, 2017 at 14:48
  • @JoeStrazzere, unpaid extra hours are extremely common (but illegal).
    – Bebs
    Oct 3, 2017 at 14:54
  • @Bebs - You don't have to ask about laws explicitly. You can ask them to describe a typical work day, how do they handle emergencies, and generally what is expected of you. I would hope they'll tell you what is expected including hours and days they expect you to work. You may find very large corporations who don't do that because they have something to hide. Just dig deeper without taking showing your preference. You're trying to make an informed decision.
    – user8365
    Oct 3, 2017 at 15:04
  • @JoeStrazzere, Jeff, thanks for your thoughs. A company will never openly say that they don't pay extra hours. And big companies would avoid it because they don't want to have problems with the law, so they pay or give vacancy days.
    – Bebs
    Oct 3, 2017 at 15:10
  • @Bebs - but will the company say they never require overtime? Sometimes it’s about what they don’t say that you need to consider.
    – user8365
    Oct 10, 2017 at 15:52

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