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How to hire graduates for your small business

A recent study found that 48% of millennial graduates believe a small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) to be the ideal sized business to work for as opposed to a larger organisation.

Even with this encouraging statistic, graduate recruitment can be difficult for small businesses. If you are to succeed you need to take a multi-faceted approach to gain interest from students and graduates alike. Here are 4 things you can do to ensure your graduate hiring process delivers.

1. Focus on talent over academia

For years now, many employers have been obsessed with hiring graduates that have achieved a certain grade. However, this might not be the most effective approach. An increasing number of companies now conduct psychometric tests during the graduate recruitment process to source the most appropriate candidate.

Psychometric tests are not designed to find the brightest person out there, but to test different traits, capabilities, and competencies which allow natural intelligence to shine through.

Future job performance can often be reflected in the results of psychometric tests. This will analyse things like the ability to solve problems, engage with tasks, and generally show a wider approach to thinking outside the box.

2. Engage social channels

It’s no secret that today’s graduates are the most tech-savvy that have ever been. The younger generation are digital natives, so businesses looking to engage with them need to capitalise on this.

Having an active social media presence will make it easier for potential candidates to find out about the opportunities you offer, and give them routes to contact you simply on the platform they are using.

Social media platforms essential to continually operate are; Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to facilitate communication among employers and graduates. These platforms offer a direct channel to answer pressing queries without waiting for a graduate fair to come around.

For example, you could develop relationships with potential recruits through an active LinkedIn page where students can follow and interact with recent company news and developments.

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One key thing to consider when managing your own social channels is not to create posts that will disengage a younger audience.

If you want to create a voice to appeal to younger audiences, it’s worth hiring someone of that generation to create a social strategy for you. This could even be a part of a work experience scheme you create with a university.

3. Build relationships with universities

Gone are the days where businesses and a higher education institutions work in silos. Many universities today are partnering up with local and national organisations, both large and small, to help their students to become aware of career opportunities.

Employability consultants are then able to inform students on suitable job openings through an online portal, or physically on a job board. This can often be provided for free through council funding or local employment initiatives.

There are many ways that SMEs are able to collaborate with universities, these can include;

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  • Offering talks to university students who may be interested in your business
  • Providing knowledge to help them gain industry-recognised skills, and
  • Insight days to get a feel of the business culture.

Insight days can consist of students coming to your place of work and learn more about the industry, and your specific offering, on the job. This allows you to showcase your business as well as provide some genuine learning opportunities to the students.

Even if you’re attracting first years, they may be inclined to return and remember your business years later when they graduate.

4. Look for a willingness to learn

A willingness to learn is typically present in most university students and graduates. This is a key trait to look for as it indicates those who are prepared to do what it takes to mold into the business and learn alongside your growth, as opposed to those who are simply trying to take a pay cheque home every month.

The characteristic can be demonstrated through extra-curricular activities and qualifications attained previously, related to the job role. Look also for the ‘softer’ interpersonal skills that they have, and can continue to develop within the workplace.

Overall, to recruit graduates you must be enthusiastic about communicating your business and the opportunities you can offer to prospective candidates.  Following these simple tips will help you to attract graduates that are a good fit with your business and can help you prosper.

This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by James Calder, chief executive and founder of Distinct Recruitment which serves a range of businesses across sectors and sizes, whether that’s large household names or smaller SMEs.