You’re the switched-on owner of a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) who has realised that one of the best ways to grow your business is by hiring graduate talent. Great stuff. Now all that’s left to do is promote your graduate vacancy and attract the best, which isn’t quite so straightforward.

Employers have a few competing goals when promoting a vacancy. You’ll want to reach a wide audience, while getting your ad in front of the right candidates and representing your brand excellently – all at a low cost.

How you choose to advertise your vacancy is the key variable. Depending on who you want to reach and your particular industry, you could find yourself undertaking some very different advertising methods from an ad in the newspaper to an internet-meme.

With competition to find the right candidates hotting up, it’s more important than ever that you find the right way to position your advert. Is it enough to rely on a cursory Facebook status? The 2015 Winter Report by the Association of Graduate Recruitment has predicted that 58.6% of employers will have spent over £1000 on recruitment, and of that number 19.1% will spend over £4.5k.

That figure pales in comparison in light of other studies which indicate that SMEs are actually wasting £69million through hiring mistakes. A good recruitment strategy isn’t always reflected in budget and clearly requires a more holistic approach. So when it comes to promoting your graduate vacancy, what’s the right path for you?

Recruitment Agencies

A recruitment agent will save you time during the pre-screening phase of recruitment, plus they’ll do all the leg-work when it comes to advertising your job.

However the time-cost of recruiting the recruitment agent is considerable, and the average price of this method is £4.5k. A further disadvantage of using a recruitment agent is that often they don’t fully understand the specific needs of your business, so some quality candidates could be missed in the pre-screening process. For this reason SME’s might tend to avoid recruitment companies, preferring instead to rely on their own networks.

Graduates are losing faith in recruitment agents, too. Graduates initially join recruitment agencies believing their links to employers will improve their chances, but report losing faith. Ultimately, they don’t feel recruitment agents have their best interests at heart.

Social Media

This pre-existing network can be beneficial. If your target audience for your product corresponds with who you’d like to hire, you’ll likely find someone who loves your brand and at a low cost.

The efficacy and cost-effectiveness of this method depends on how well you manage your social media profiles in general. Depending on the strength of your organic reach, you could finds lots of candidates. The hidden costs soon mount if you use promotion services offered by certain sites, for instance pay-per-click sponsored adverts.

The major problem is that you can’t guarantee the quality of candidates viewing your advert, unless you buy packages offered by social media sites with job board functionality such as LinkedIn.

Is this the best way to reach graduates? According to InSites Consulting, just 13% of graduates are using LinkedIn. It’s viewed as a network for established professionals which turns off graduates who fear their resumes won’t compare. The costs will also begin to mount; the site offers a limited functionality unless you buy the top premium package, which defeats the point.

In fact, the same study found that just 18% of millennial users engage with social media to maintain business links, further indicating that social media platforms are not to be relied on altogether.

Having said that, it’s no secret that young people love social media. We think social media is a great supplement to your campaign, but shouldn’t be your primary focus. You will also need to consider adapting your job description to suit the platform and stand out, without going off-brand.

Job Boards

A recent study by recruitment resource OnRec found that just 7.7% of employers are choosing to use job boards, many moving towards social media networks.

Job boards are on the whole seen in a positive light. They’re cheap, put the employer themselves in control of recruitment, and by posting on niche job boards you’ll have a better chance of reaching graduates in your industry.

Again, quality control is an issue as there is no way to filter applicants who aren’t suited to the role. However we feel any method which directly connects the SME employers to applicants is preferable – you’ll have a better sense of which candidate is right for your role if you’re involved from the start.

Guerilla warfare! (Building a presence on campus…)

This seems the perfect option for employers who want direct access to the graduate pool, however nearly 70% of graduates polled told AGCAS that SMEs had little to no brand presence on campus.

When 87% of students and grads expressed that they would be “willing” or “very willing” to work within SMEs, and SMEs reciprocating that willingness, this feels like the right time to start working directly with universities and reaching that talent. Not only will you be alerting grads to your fantastic employment opportunity, but you’ll be showcasing your brand to a new cohort of consumers.

Obviously the time cost and budget involved is high, so it’s down to you to decide if the ROI is worth it.

To the App store!

There are a few new tech solutions created to help employers connect with the graduate workforce. SMEs can take advantage of these apps’ pre-existing campus presence as well as sourcing and supplying of top-notch talent.

What we like about these time-saving tech solutions is that they hugely reduce costs, without losing that human element altogether – instead empowering both employers and graduates to reach each other.


At the heart of your vacancy you’ll be representing your brand values. Take advantage of this opportunity to let more people know who you are and what a great employer you are.

As an SME the more involved you are, the better. Spend time getting to learn your candidates. The right employee can and will have a huge impact on your company culture, so too will the wrong employee. It’s important to get that right while your business is growing.

The relationship you build with your graduate employee starts here. Pitching the job in the right way is the first step, but some thorough consideration of what you’d like to offer at this stage will help you with staff retention in the long run. Unsure what graduates want from the world of work? Here’s the answer.

By Angharad Overton for JobLab, a web app that connects employers to graduate talent