As we approach another summer of students celebrating their new lives as graduates with the fling of a cap into the sky, businesses are once again preparing their graduate recruitment strategies.

But for an SME, this can be difficult. With less visibility and less budget than larger, better-known brands, how can your small business attract top talent?

In this three-part series, we examine key areas of graduate recruitment, and ask how an SME can overcome the challenges in each. Today, we’re starting off with how you can attract high-calibre graduates to your vacancies.

Part 1 | Graduate attraction

Be visible

Getting your name and vacancies out there can be tricky with limited budget and brand awareness.

So, make the most of free channels such as social media. 78% of today’s jobseekers are likely to use social media in the hunt for the perfect job,* and Twitter is a brilliant tool to help you spread the word about your business and any new vacancies.

Using social media effectively goes beyond posting jobs though – consider promoting your company ethos and values through images and blog posts to engage graduate jobseekers with your employer brand.

Another way to boost your visibility to graduates could be to make links with your local university. Open students’ eyes to your business and potential career opportunities by giving careers talks, or even exploring a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) scheme (you can read more about this here).

You could also make use of your own professional network who can share your vacancies too, or consider an employee referral scheme.

By looking beyond traditional job boards and careers fairs, you can reach a wider talent pool, cut your advertising costs and effectively build your brand awareness.

Be clear on what you can offer candidates

As a small business, you may not be able to offer top salaries or big bonuses, but there are plenty of other things you can provide.

One of these is career progression for graduates. Without the more rigid hierarchy of larger firms, SMEs can offer great opportunities for career development. Do you encourage your hires to jump straight into exciting projects? As part of a small team, will they get a diverse range of responsibilities? Think about how you can convey the perks of your company structure and scope for progression on your careers site.

It’s also important to promote your employee benefits, whether it’s free car parking or fresh fruit in the office. Do you have a flexible working policy or a subsidised gym benefit? Showcase all you have to offer – but manage expectations. Don’t fall into the trap of using hyperbole or trying to dazzle graduates with dream benefits that don’t quite live up to reality.

A company culture that shares the values of graduate jobseekers can also be incredibly important. Often SMEs have a ‘family feel’ and are a close-knit team, so communicate this to graduates.

And while a charity partnership will not only contribute to your CSR initiatives and be a great way for you and your employees to give something back, it will also demonstrate your position as a caring and socially conscious employer to applicants.

Be seen in all the right ways

Perfect your employer brand in order to reflect all the great aspects of your company in your recruitment communications.

Consider setting employer brand guidelines for posting on social media, your website and any other comms, to ensure consistency across all platforms. Most importantly, ensure your employer brand, from your Twitter description to the images on your careers page, is authentic and shows graduate candidates what you’re really about.

You have a lot to offer as an SME employer – make sure graduates know this by getting your name out there, being transparent on what you can do for your employees, and considering how your communications reflect your employer brand.

*The Age of Social Recruiting – Glassdoor


Find out more

Learn more about the KTP, and our own experiences with the scheme

Why is it essential that young people engage with businesses? Find out here

About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.