Including Your Startup on a Resume (+ Example)

Robert Cambell
Robert Campbell

6 min read

Empty office hallway with glass walls showing an empty room with a white couch.

So you worked on a startup or your own small business for a while and it either didn't go well..or, it got acquired.

Either way, you're looking to update your resume and get back in the job hunt. If you approach including a startup in your resume the right way, it could be very effective. There are certain situations where you should not mention your startup which we'll go through later on.

We've got you covered! We'll show you exactly how to include your startup on your resume the right way.

Should I list my startup or business on my resume?

Absolutely! I don't know why listing startup experience on your resume even comes off as a concern for some job seekers.

Working on a startup or small business shows a lot of effective skills and traits regardless of your outcome. It shows leadership, critical thinking, and determination. Most employers and companies also like to see an entrepreneurial mindset in their employees, because entrepreneurship is all about delivering good service and making money/profit.

The only drawback you may face from a prospective employer is that it's usually unverifiable. You can claim marvelous skills and knowledge you acquired but it would be nearly impossible to verify for an employer or recruiter. You would really have to prove yourself during the job interview.

Should I list my failed startup or business on my resume?

Yes, the outcome doesn't really matter. The chances of success for your first startup are really against you. Even the most successful entrepreneurs had many failed attempts until they found success. You should ensure that you list the more relevant skills and knowledge you acquired while working on your startup.

When should you not list your startup or business?

The only time you wouldn't want to list your startup is when you're still active or you were in the same industry as the company you're applying for.


You don't want to highlight a startup that you're still running because if it eventually takes off, your hiring manager would expect you to leave. The last thing an employer wants to do is spend all that money hiring someone who may leave in a few months. They also want you focused on your current job and not your startup.

You also don't want to mention your startup if it's in the same exact industry. The hiring manager will think that you either want to grow your knowledge or obtain trade secrets to grow your own startup.

Even though these situations may not be your goal, it's best to leave your startup off your resume in this case and focus on other relevant skills and work experience. If you have a large gap in your resume because of the startup you may want to use the functional resume format. You can read more here on how to deal with employment gaps on your resume.

Including self-employment on a resume

This information would be the same for self-employment as well. Try not to over exaggerate your skills and knowledge in regards to your self-employment. A few short bullet points of relevant tasks are just fine as it's really unverifiable to the employer.

How to include a startup or other self-employment on a resume

Including your startup or business on a resume would be very similar to the way you would include any other work experience.

Follow these steps when including a startup in your work experience:

1. Include the basics

Include the name of your company and the dates you worked on it. Include your role which would typically be founder, co-founder, or CEO. The startup exception is that if you played multiple roles (as is likely) you can consider listing the job title most relevant to your new job target, such as Chief Marketing Officer or Director of Finance.

2. Add the relevant points

Look at the job description and come up with 4 to 6 points where your skills and knowledge from your startup relate in some way to the position.

3. Make your experience compelling

List them in bullet points and word it effectively so it's relevant and stands out to the hiring manager. Here are three posts that go into more depth on this:

Startup or self-employment on resume example:

Small Business Manager Final 0

Small Business Manager Final 1

Your resume's title--distinct from your work experience job titles--should use whatever title you held: co-founder, CEO, president, or founder. If you didn't have a formal title, you can use the most relevant title for your experience and current career target.

Including your startup, self-employment, or small business on a cover letter

It's really hard to emphasize your enthusiasm to join a company after a failed startup on your resume. This is why a cover letter is a great place to state your case.

Remember that one of the biggest questions the hiring manager will have on his mind is "how long until this guy starts his own company again"?

This would be better explained if you're called in for the interview. You want to emphasize that you want to stay and grow with the company for the long term. There are some points you should include on the cover letter which will help lead to the interview.

You want to emphasize these two points on a cover letter:

  • You're excited for the opportunity to work for the company and be part of a team

  • Your skills and knowledge gained from your startup are relevant and perfect for the position

Here is an example:

 After working on my startup XYZ for the past 2 years, I've gained a deep knowledge of marketing, customer acquisition and sales. I'm very enthusiastic about joining [company name] where I'm confident that my skills and knowledge will help grow the company for the long term. I feel my experience fits in perfectly with the position open and would be grateful for the opportunity to interview.


Final question: should you mention why the startup or business failed?

Answer: you only want to bring attention to it if it was acquired. If it failed for other reasons, it's best to leave it off your resume. You should come up with a solid answer if they ask you why it failed at the interview.

Good luck with your job search!

What to read next:

Robert Cambell

Written by

Robert Campbell, Editor & Content Writer

Robert Campbell is a writer and editor based in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Having been immersed in the resume / CV writing world for almost a decade, he currently coaches new and experienced writers in the nuance of crafting employment documents for a global clientele. With a diverse professional background in marketing, teaching, and the hospitality industry, Robert currently enjoys working for ZipJob, serving clients who need help navigating their next career move.

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