Recruitment Survey: Are SMEs the graduate job hunters best friend?


25th July 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Graduate News and Articles


If you’re a graduate struggling to secure a job, or a student worried about the looming job market, you are not alone.

In 2015 almost 16,730 UK graduates were out of work and a further 60,000+ found themselves in “non-professional” roles like secretarial, cleaning and customer service.

But the future is looking brighter for graduate jobseekers!

Irish HRIT provider FordeCloud surveyed over 100 CEOs and Managers from both small and big businesses, to find out what challenges they faced when recruiting.

The survey results found great opportunities within SMEs for job-hunting graduates willing to think outside the box and look beyond the big brand names they would traditionally apply to join.

Choosing a career

Some graduates find themselves worrying about what types of roles to apply for, before they even begin their job search.

After three or four years of topic study, few graduates leave university fully decided on a career path (outside professions like medicine or law). In fact as many as half of UK graduates end up working in an industry unrelated to their original degree field.

Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) offer many career advantages including higher job satisfaction, higher promotion rates, more flexibility and often less bureaucracy, than big businesses.

One lesser cited benefit of working at a small company is the opportunity for graduates to gain experience across many business areas, thanks to small teams and close-knit working environments.

Experiencing elements like finance, production, sales and marketing, etc. within the first year or two could help you decide more quickly where your passion and personal strengths lie.

Getting a foot in the door

Many graduates find themselves with the necessary qualifications, but lacking the required experience, to secure a job after years dedicated to study.

Businesses see this when they advertise for jobs, with 44% of respondents to the survey stating, “lack of skills and experience” of applicants as their biggest challenge in recruitment.

Add this to the huge piles of applications that big well-known businesses receive each time they advertise a role, and competing for jobs as a graduate isn’t easy.

But what if your CV could stand out in a smaller pile?

27% of SMEs who replied to the recruitment survey said that a “lack of applicants” was a key reason why they couldn’t fill roles within their businesses.

Compare that to just 16% of larger businesses who had the same problem, and the odds are stacked more in your favour at an SME.

Companies hire those with a good attitude

In a recent study, almost three quarters of business said attitude was more important than qualifications when they were looking for new staff.

Because of the issues SME sometimes have attracting applicants, they may well be more open to hiring a lesser experienced graduate and “training them up” into a role, particularly if you show a can-do attitude.

Applying for a role at a small business could also be the ticket to gaining more experience for your CV in a shorter space of time, compared to the longer progression pathways at bigger businesses. This is because so many SMEs put an emphasis on employee training in an effort to compete with big names and big salaries in recruitment.

In the Fordecloud survey for example, 25% of SMEs said they invest in training and development to attract good candidates. Meanwhile, none of those in larger business stated training as a core recruitment strategy.

Graduate salaries

Unfortunately, the rate of salary increase hasn’t matched the rate of inflation. A young UK graduate in 2008 was typically earning around £24,000 – the exact same salary as a young graduate in 2015.

However, research shows that it still pays to get a university degree (with young graduates more likely to be employed and paid an average of £6,000 a year more than those without a degree).

It would be easy to assume that larger salaries are only to be found at big corporations with big profit margins, however 33% of SMEs who responded to the survey said they actually offer larger salaries in order to be competitive when recruiting.

In conclusion…

Ultimately, surveys like this one tell us is that there are jobs out there, jobs that businesses desperately need to fill, jobs for graduates willing to put the work in. They simply may not exist where graduates have traditionally looked for them.

SMEs have fewer applicants so are more likely to read CVs, they have softer expectations in terms of experience, while being more likely to offer more rewarding salaries, and training and development to entice strong applicants.

So, take heart and expand your job-hunt horizons!