So you’ve decided to take a look at the graduate market for your small business? Great decision! You not only have the opportunity to gain the kind of fresh perspective that characterises younger recruits, but the chance to recruit the kind of top talent who may well not re-enter the job market for a number of years.
As it turns out, more and more graduates are shunning traditional grad schemes and sectors in favour of the kind of real influence they can have at a start-up or growing business.
With small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) representing 99.3% of all private sector business in 2015, graduates are certainly aware of the prospect of SMEs, but the challenge comes in accessing the top-level candidates to take your business to the next level.
It’s not about the money
Of course, if you can compete with the top salaries on offer from the big corporates, it can only help widen the net of candidate. But, by and large, starting salary is increasingly becoming a less important factor in the graduate market.
A survey on graduates this year found that they place far more importance on career advancement, training and work culture than on their base salary. This is good news if you aren’t able to pay top dollar to attract the top candidates.
So what are they interested in? The answer is competitive perks. While the traditional Silicon Valley perks of table tennis tables, nap pods and free breakfast may help to attract certain candidates, what younger people really care about is meaningful incentives.
Consider whether your business could offer them a flexible work day, increased holiday allowance or the promise of sabbaticals down the line.
Open for progression
One thing that ambitious, young graduates are turned off by in small business is concerns about a promotion ceiling. While there is no problem if you don’t have a clear, experience based career progression path, it’s important to present an open culture of movement within the company.
Many graduates will actually be attracted to the fact that their career progression is not set in stone, but it might be useful to provide examples of how others have progressed within the company so that your potential recruits will know it’s possible.
Never stop learning
Another key concern for many graduates is that the less structured nature of small business means they might not have the opportunities to develop and learn as they would within a training scheme.
Being thrown in at the deep end can be attracted to many recruits, but make sure they understand that they’ll have the opportunity to learn from senior people within your company and perhaps consider offering opportunities for self-development whilst at work.
Check your employer brand
Once you’ve established the sort of practices that can help to attract the top candidates, it’s about communicating this effectively. It’s not as simple as putting these kind of opportunities under the company description in your job specifications either.
Consider your output online, across social media and PR, and consider whether it presents the kind of company that will be attractive to graduates. Think about working with universities too; they’re generally very open to working with companies who can diversify the opportunities available to their students.
If you’ve got a bigger remit, it might be a good idea to create some engaging content to interact with candidates such as employee profiles and video company descriptions.
If you’re keen to find the best out there, don’t be afraid to search for it. Posting your jobs across a number of job boards with the right content can have an effect, but often it’s the personal touch that counts.
The best candidates will be thinking about their job search in their final year of university, and so it should be fairly simple to find and contact them through LinkedIn. When they’re used to being faced with impersonal application forms, having someone engaging with them for a change could put things in your favour.
Placements & work experience
If you’re looking for some longer term solutions to your graduate hiring process, offering work placements and experience over summer can be a fantastic way of building your presence in the graduate market.
The clamour to get useful work experience as the end of their degree approaches is very real for many graduates, and by offering placements at your company you have the opportunity to find and work with graduates who really impress you, and set them up for a job after they finish their studies. Perhaps more importantly, it gives you the chance to consider the sort of roles and responsibilities you might want a new recruit to take on.