In a survey of 9,000 students and recent graduates by Prospects, a graduate careers service, there were some surprising results.
One of the most eye-catching trends from the survey is that many graduates are turning away from big businesses and choosing SMEs as the place to start their careers.
For graduates, the first job after university represents a foot on the career ladder, and there are a number of factors at play when deciding on a job.
Salary, opportunities for career progression, work-life balance, and gaining experience on the job all can all play a decisive role. Other factors include the company’s ethos, area of business, social and environmental responsibility… there are as many reasons as there are candidates.
Being able to stand out from the crowd in any of these criteria is the half of the battle (and having a strong brand identity built on strong brand guidelines helps, too). While the name of a bigger organisation may stand out on a CV, graduates in a smaller business can benefit from a more flexible and hands-on role which helps them to gain experience in their field.
So what are the main things you should focus on to attract graduates to your business?
Have a responsible business ethos
For some graduates and young people, the ethos of a company is more important than the financial reward on offer. In fact, in the survey above, it was listed in the top three of reasons why graduates chose their current company of employment.
Try to stick to one or two clear messages – environmental responsibility for example – can appeal to a select group. Trying to appeal to everyone could end up with you appealing to no-one, so keep it minimal.
Be honest and communicate clearly
Be realistic with applicants about the job roles and their responsibilities.
Everyone wants a clear idea of what their job will involve, and will want to be equipped to do it. Clear communication is essential, as is being honest when it comes to their workload; will they need to cover another area of the business if another employee is out of the office? If so, make sure that they’re aware of that and help to prepare them for it.
This can be a positive, too; teaching someone how to excel across a number of different business functions is as important for their career development as it is for the successful day-to-day running of your business.
Show them how career progression could look in your business
Having a career path laid out for graduates will show them how they can expect to progress through your company.
Their workload will naturally start to change throughout their employment as they pick up new projects and learn more about how the business works, but being able to visualise their career while they work with you can help to motivate graduates, showing them the milestones which equate to success and progress.
Think about your salary and benefits package
Chances are that the majority of small businesses across the country can’t compete financially with bigger businesses.
However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t attract graduates through other compensation means. While pay is still a huge factor in deciding on a job, it doesn’t have to be the ultimate one. If you can offer an attractive benefits package, you can attract talent.
There are plenty of benefits to consider, including the cycle-to-work scheme which can reduce your business’ tax liability while also reducing your corporate carbon footprint and improving your employees’ health – it’s almost too good to be true.
These don’t need to break the bank; offering a flexible work schedule around core hours, or even a relaxed dress code, can be influential for some potential employees.
Get your offer on the table
Business moves quickly these days – and your recruitment process should be no different.
Try to process applications quickly, from interview to job offer. Keeping the process quick helps potential employees feel appreciated before they even begin, while those who are unsuccessful will appreciate a prompt response instead of waiting for weeks only to hear that they haven’t made the cut.
Remember – how you treat applicants, especially those who don’t get an offer, is a reflection of your business and should be an asset to your reputation, not a liability.