‘Graduates should look smaller for bigger chance of job hunting success’ – survey

Graduates searching for a job should prioritise their time towards looking for more niche vacancies with smaller businesses and writing specific applications for each post they apply to rather than sending out as many blanket applications as possible to market leaders, a recent survey of graduate employers has suggested.

Virtual HR company Forde HR Cloud asked over 100 managers and CEOs of differing sized businesses about the recruitment process, with 69 percent of them saying they faced problems when appointing new employees.

And the reasons given for recruitment struggles suggest that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are much more likely to read and consider CVs in detail, with the advice to graduates being that looking for your perfect role at smaller companies and applying with a tailored CV gives you a better chance of success, even without experience in industry.

Among the findings was the interesting revelation that 27 percent of the SMEs surveyed cited a lack of applicants of any type as a key challenge when it comes to filling roles, as opposed to a mere 16 percent of large businesses. Therefore, with more limited fields to choose from, smaller businesses should in theory have more time and willingness to read CVs thoroughly to identify the perfect candidate, as opposed to larger companies who may have many very well qualified applicants for one positon and won’t lose sleep over culling one or two who may, on further investigation, have turned out to be worthy of the final shortlist.

And as an added bonus, it seems that SMEs might be more willing to offer support and training in order to attract the best graduates, if they cannot compete with their larger counterparts in terms of location, ‘brand equity’ and, in some cases, salary: this training will help you in future too.

Even if you do have experience which sits alongside your degree, a targeted application to an SME could bear fruit if large companies prove that bit too competitive. A staggering half of all SMEs surveyed said that a key challenge when recruiting was lack of suitable experience, compared to 35 percent of large businesses. Therefore, if you’re confident that your CV contains some nuggets of value like extracurricular activities, work experience or an internship, they are more likely to not only be of interest to an SME who takes the effort to read and digest the supplementary information you provide beyond the Qualifications section, but this experience is more likely to stand out above the field of competition when it comes to applying to SMEs, these results suggest.

But you need to know how to bring this experience to the attention of the company you are applying to in the most appealing way possible through your application. This research confirms what we’ve known for a long time: that tailored applications are much more likely to be read and warmly received, especially by smaller businesses. But how can you target an application well?

Target Jobs provide a whole host of useful advice for graduate job hunters. They advocate crafting CVs specifically to show off skills in some situations if you believe these say more about your suitability for a role than academic qualifications: “The skills-based CV sells your potential. If you want to draw more attention to the skills you have developed than to the events that have made up your life, then perhaps consider constructing a skills-based CV.

“These CVs often include a personal statement or career objective near the beginning. For example: ‘Motivated and academically gifted chemical engineer seeking to use his industrial experience in a technical sales career’. Only do it if you feel comfortable with approach. The rest of the CV must contain considerable evidence to back up any such assertions.”

Forde’s report summarised: “In this competitive job market, the most successful graduate job hunters will be those seeking out their industry SMEs who are more likely to read CVs, have softer expectations in terms of experience, with many focussing on benefits like training and development to entice applicants and some offering rewarding salaries too.

“Sending targeted applications to SMEs and demonstrating a clear desire to learn, develop and contribute,” they concluded, “could be the key to graduate job success in 2017.”

So, whatever your degree classification, if you want your unique experience and willingness to learn to be recognised, it could well be worth your while to look smaller, at SMEs who are willing to apply a more personal touch and consider each application on its merits specific to their needs.

Of course, this requires you to market yourself in the best possible way and accentuate experience and interest in the areas each business you apply to wants from prospective employees, so take advantage of any CV or careers advice available whilst you are still an undergraduate so you can hit the ground running when it comes to finding the right opportunities and applying for them properly.

Source: Forde HR Cloud survey, 2017

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Published by

Tony Allen

19-year-old student from Norwich.

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