There’s no great secret to performing well in a job interview – it relies heavily on research, preparation and good interview technique
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A couple of weeks ago we wrote a blog about why, as a small business, you should look to hire graduates. We’re hoping that we managed to convince you. However, often the small companies we work with want to hire grads, but struggle to attract the top talent to their business. The cream of the crop traditionally tend to go for big Times Top 100 graduate schemes.
There are many reasons for this. Big companies are more visible - they have thousands to spend on fancy campus recruitment campaigns, so undergrads already know exactly who they are and what they offer when they come to start job hunting. Big companies also usually offer more money; there’s a definite perception that wages in small businesses lag behind the bigger business, both for new starters and those higher up the career ladder. And there’s no denying that working for a household name comes with a certain prestige that smaller companies lack.
So, how do you get past these stumbling blocks, get your mitts on the best grads, and stop big companies hogging all the graduate talent? Here are our tips.
According to a recent survey, while graduates are influenced by the points above, they do recognise that smaller businesses can offer great progression. In fact, 61% of undergrads surveyed thought that they would learn more skills and develop as a person quicker in a smaller business, and 77% thought they would receive earlier responsibility.
As a small business you need to play to this advantage. Emphasize to graduates (in your job description, on your website and at interviews) that they can expect fast-track progression which they may not be able to get elsewhere – they won’t be stuck making coffee for a year.
We’ve written a separate article on how to write a killer job description here, but in terms of tailoring your job description specifically to attract the elite, you need to:
Excellent grads often come with a certain vanity - they want to go for exclusive opportunities which they feel make the most of their talents. So, for example, by asking for a 2:2 or above, when really you want a first class grad with straight A grades, you put off that first class grad from applying; they feel the job is beneath them.
Ask for medium calibre candidates and that’s all you’ll get. Don’t be afraid to make your job description specific and exclusive.
Successful graduates have proof of their successes; whether they increased memberships of their university’s hockey society, set up a student business, or won an award from their Student Union.
Rather than specifying that you’re looking for a grad with, say, a year’s experience in marketing, specify that you want someone who’s has a ‘demonstrable track record of implementing successful campaigns’. Why? Just because someone’s had a years’ experience in something doesn’t mean they’ve been any good at it! Specify that you want evidence of what a candidate has achieved, and you’llgetmore high-achieving applicants.
Money is hugely important to today’s debt-laden grad, and a lower wage is seen as one of the real downsides of working for a start-up. While you may not be able to offer the same generous remuneration of the PwCs and Bloombergs of this world, you need to make sure your wage isn’t going to put off a great grad. If you’re based in London we’d recommend offering fresh from university graduate £18,000 - £22,000 pro rata.
Do your research, take a look at what your competitors, big and small, are offering, and try to follow suit. While it may seem a stretch for your business, remember you get what you pay for. Spending a few more thousand pounds a year on a grad is a wise investment; you’ll get a better quality employee who’ll work more successfully and stick with your business for longer.
If you can’t afford to increase the wage you’re offering but want to sweeten the deal, try to introduce ‘big business’ style perks. Whether its team trips abroad for hitting targets, an iPad, or free breakfasts, don’t underestimate the allure of a good old freebie.
The highest calibre graduates love to learn and progress- that’s how they’ve been successful thus far. Provide them with an opportunity to learn, and implement what they’re learnt, and you’re giving them exactly what they crave whilst also proving your commitment to their professional development. Win win.
Lots of small businesses shun training because they feel it’s too expensive, but it doesn’t need to be. Even if you budget one day per month to internal training for your juniors from more experienced members of the team, you’ll be making a good investment.
Using a recruitment agency allows your small business to side step the problem of visibility. Your recruitment agency does your marketing for you - putting your company on the radars of great graduates.
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