Graduate recruitment can be difficult for small businesses. Less known than bigger-name brands and with smaller recruitment budgets, how can SMEs stand out to this year’s graduate jobseekers, and hire the talent they need?

Part 1 of this guide focused on attracting high-calibre candidates to your roles. But now that you’ve caught their attention, how do you keep them engaged with your recruitment process?

In this article, Part 2 of the SME guide to graduate recruitment, we’ll explore how an SME can provide the best application experience to graduate candidates.

Part 2 | The application process

Meet graduate tech-pectations

Most students graduating this summer will be digital natives. They’ll have grown up with the online world and will be accustomed to fast, engaging and mobile technology.

They may be put off from applying with you, therefore, if you’ve failed to streamline your application process. Consider how you can make applying for a role with you as easy as possible.

Create simple, online application forms which capture only essential information to avoid the risk of candidates becoming disengaged or frustrated with lengthy application forms.

Ensure that your careers site and application forms are mobile optimised, as it is essential to enable graduates to apply on their phones and on the move. You might also consider using platforms such as Twitter or even Snapchat to link to your application forms, in order to connect with candidates online.

It’s worth noting that in a few years’ time Generation Z will start graduating too. Keep an eye on new technologies, trends and ways to engage with this oncoming cohort of jobseekers, so you can incorporate them in future hiring campaigns.

Make the most of mobile

We mentioned above that in a generation of digital natives, mobile optimised application forms are vital. But what about the rest of the application process? How can you incorporate the use of mobile here?

SMS messaging (texting, in other words), is becoming increasingly popular amongst businesses because it’s a simple and instantaneous tool. Many organisations use SMS technology to strengthen customer communications, such as in the form of delivery reminders or latest offers. And you can use SMS in your recruitment communications too.

The open rate of a text message is a huge 98%, and what’s more, research has suggested that 86% of millennials are happy to be contacted by SMS during the recruitment period – so text messaging could be especially effective when communicating to your graduate candidates.

Reinforce your reputation as a caring employer by sending interview reminders or helpful information such as directions straight to your candidates’ mobiles. Or, using two-way SMS technology, you can ask candidates to confirm their attendance to an interview. This benefits you in terms of reducing admin and interview no-show rates, whilst providing candidates with instant and engaging information.

Deliver authentic, consistent communication and feedback at every stage of the process

While it’s important to provide graduate candidates with a sleek and streamlined online application journey, it’s also vital that you be authentic and reflect your employer brand consistently at every stage.

Candidates might be discouraged from proceeding with an application if your brand voice suddenly changes and is no longer the personal, welcoming tone that first drew them into your careers site, for example. Ensure that all of your recruitment communications and your careers site reflect your company’s visions and values and convey the same tone of voice, look and feel throughout.

It’s also essential to provide graduate candidates feedback at each stage of the application process. Regardless of whether they were successful or not, graduates can be exceedingly appreciative of feedback – particularly because they’re at such an early stage of their careers and jobseeking journey.

Explain why you’re providing the feedback, and be sensitive with wording (particularly if they weren’t successful), but try to be constructive and positive. Even if you don’t have the time or resources to provide detailed individual feedback to every candidate, they should all receive the outcome of their applications.

Don’t be daunted at the prospect of competing with larger organisations in the bid to win over graduate candidates – with an online application process, a compelling employer brand, clever use of technology and consistent communications, you can deliver a great application experience.

Find out more

Catch up on Part 1 of the SME’s guide to graduate recruitment

Whether you’re building it or relaunching it, ensure you start your careers site off on the right foot 

Discover more about mobile and social recruitment 

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.