Guest blog: How does a startup or SME’s hiring process differ to a Corporate’s?

ffThe number of university leavers turning away from the larger, more traditional graduate employers in favour of working for a startup or SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) has noticeably increased over the past few years. Over 50% of recent graduates now say that they would rather work at a smaller company and it’s easy to see why. Working for an SME presents first jobbers with a unique opportunity to take on high levels of a responsibility from the word go, to really have an impact on the business’s growth and development, and to develop a wide skills set.

So, if you’re thinking of kick-starting your career at an SME, you’re probably keen to find out how the hiring process differs to a corporate’s. In short, quite a bit. Although it’s important to remember that all startups and SMEs vary too, we’ve outlined the 4 main points that are relevant to the majority of smaller companies.

Speed vs. Formality

At a larger company, it isn’t unusual for the recruitment process to start a year in advance of the start date. They’ll have strict guidelines in place and will also receive a greater amount of applications.

Startups and SMEs simply don’t have that sort of time at their disposal so they tend to start their recruitment drive just 1-2 months before the expected start date of their new employee. This means that it’s perfectly reasonable (and actually encouraged) to start looking for vacancies after your finals or even after graduation, depending on when you’d like to start your new job. You can also expect to hear the outcome of your application a lot sooner!

Relaxed vs. Structured

At a corporate the hiring process will be run by a fully equipped HR team, and there’ll usually be several rounds of tests, interviews and/or assessment centres that successful candidates will be invited to attend.

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Why more graduates are (and should be) considering SMEs

While it may feel like the Holy Grail of graduation to have secured a trainee scheme with a Top 100 company, SMEs (small and medium enterprises – defined as companies that employ 250 people or less) make up a whopping 99% of UK private businesses, thus providing very real opportunities for graduates to start, and develop, their careers. It is easy to see, of course, the draw that many students have to the bigger and more illustrious companies; apart from typically higher starting salaries, who wouldn’t want the career clout that comes with having those names on your CV? But by focusing on these employers alone we risk overlooking the endless possibilities and benefits that come with starting your career in an SME. Consider some of the following advantages:

Early responsibility

Without a lengthy initial training programme, SMEs can be very well suited to individuals who want to get stuck in from the get-go. The relatively flat structure of these organisations, along with smaller team sizes, means that you will be in a position to put forward your own ideas and concepts and help shape business decisions from an early stage. On a personal level, this means that you are more likely to see the fruits of your labour and achieve the career confidence and satisfaction that comes from this.

Career flexibility

SMEs tend to provide less structured career paths which, for the right person, can be a wonderful thing. This puts you in the driving seat and should allow you to shape your career more easily in the way you want it to go, rather than the ‘expected route’ that the company has laid out as part of a longer term plan. Less hierarchy means that you will be given more direct access to major influencers in the organisation allowing you to network with the right people should you decide you want to develop your career in a certain direction.

A more relaxed working environment

Not everyone wants to be suited and booted nor feels comfortable in a workplace that is. This will obviously vary from company to company but chances are, the office environment will feel more relaxed and less bureaucratic. A number of recent research findings have shown that SMEs tend to foster better job satisfaction and more employee loyalty, plus they often drivers of innovation and creativity, making SMEs particularly ubiquitous in sectors like technology. With growing incidents of work place stress in the UK, SMEs are also seen to be more supportive of a healthy work-life balance amongst their staff.

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Managing your online presence

twitter-292994_960_720At our recent ‘What Employers Want’ event, run on campus by Accenture, we heard about the importance of managing your online presence (sometimes called digital footprint).

Some employers will search for candidates online to find out more information about them, before deciding who to take to interview. There are plenty of places an employer could look:

  • Profiles on Facebook,Twitter or LinkedIn.
  • Discussion boards, blogs, or articles you may have contributed to or featured in.
  • Photographs that you, your friends or family have posted online.

Once information is out there, it’s there for good, so it’s important to think carefully about what you’re sharing. A simple way to find out what’s out there already is to search for yourself on Google. Put simply, if you can find information about you online, then so can an employer!

What should you avoid?

  • Unprofessional profile pictures.
  • Inappropriate posts or comments, including anything racist, sexist or homophobic, bad language, or anything negative about an employer or colleague (there are plenty of stories of people being fired for this, even before they’ve started the job!).
  • Photos from drunken nights out.
  • Complaining about university work or negative comments about lecturers and classmates.
  • Inappropriate Twitter handles – think what your name says about you.

Of course, if an employer searches for you online and there is no record of you whatsoever, this also may seem a bit odd! Whilst there are things to avoid, there is much to gain from having an online presence:

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Civil Service Fast Stream

The Civil Service Fast Stream is now open for candidates hoping to start in 2017. The scheme is aimed at final year students and recent graduates who want a career in the civil service and it is one of the largest graduate schemes in the UK.

This year, the Fast Stream is offering no fewer than 15 different schemes, including the popular Generalist scheme, as well as more specific schemes which cater for almost all subjects studied at university. In other words, if you’re a final-year student, and are expected to achieve a 2.1, there’s almost certainly something you can apply for.

What’s more, this year the online application process has been changed in an attempt to support applicants from more diverse backgrounds (currently only 4% of Fast Stream applicants come from disadvantaged backgrounds compared to 24% of the graduate population.) Consequently, the verbal and numerical reasoning tests which have been used in previous years have been replaced with situational judgement tests which are intended to provide a more accurate assessment of candidates’ ability levels.

Nonetheless, the Fast Stream is still extremely competitive: in past years, only around 5% of candidates who applied were offered a position, and it can be a dispiriting experience for able candidates who make it a fair way through the process only to be told that they are ‘unsuccessful’ at a late stage.

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10 myths about graduate schemes

1.Graduate schemes are the most common form of graduate employment.

False – It’s been suggested that around 10% of graduate employment is in graduate schemes. Most are employed in graduate jobs in companies that do not offer graduate schemes.

2. Graduate schemes are a kind of training, rather than a job.

False – although a lot of graduate schemes have some training courses or induction processes, they are jobs – you will have responsibilities and tasks to do in return for the salary you earn, and will be expected to contribute to the company from day one.

3. Getting into a graduate scheme is easy because they take a lot of applicants in one go.

False – although most graduate schemes do take more than one applicant in each recruitment round, the high number of applicants for graduate schemes means that the selection process is very tough. Companies may regularly have over 1000 applicants for their graduate schemes, and will usually select the best through a lengthy recruitment process which may include online reasoning tests, application forms, video interviews and assessment centres.

4. Once you are on a graduate scheme, you are on a career path for life and don’t need to make any more major career decisions.

False – a lot of graduates who start with a company on their graduate scheme will choose to move to another company and/or change jobs within five years of starting their job. Even if you stay within the same company, you will continuously need to make career decisions as to what departments you work in, how much responsibility to take on, and whether you want to apply for promotions.

5. Graduate schemes are only for the private sector.

False – public, not-for-profit organisations such as the NHS, Metropolitan Police or Teach First also offer graduate schemes.

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How to succeed finding part-time work with QTemps

What is QTemps? QTemps is our on-campus recruitment service specifically for QMUL students and graduates, and is a great way of earning money whilst gaining meaningful work experience. Our part-time and one off jobs are mainly for students. As Queen Mary University is a London living wage employer we don’t work on any jobs that pay less than £9.75 per hour.

Where are the jobs located? Most of our roles are internal, working with different academic schools and departments, whilst others are in and around East London. Recently we’ve had a lot of tutoring roles with local schools, which pay around £14.00 per hour.

How many hours a week will I work? We get jobs that are anything from just 1 hour only to other roles that started in 2012 and are still going!

Sounds great, what’s the catch? The only thing to bear in mind is that we get a lot of applicants for our roles (sometimes over 200!), so it’s important to make sure your CV is up to date. To increase your chances of being successful, make sure the education section is updated to say you are studying at QMUL, as the service is specifically for students and graduates at QMUL!

Any other advice? READ THE ADVERT! If the advert says you have to be available every Wednesday, for example, please only apply if you are available, as you will not be successful otherwise.

What have other students said?

”I have gained huge amounts from my placements. It allowed me to build up workplace skills and knowledge while studying.” Christina Govier, BA Politics Student.

”QTemps makes it much easier to get in contact with companies and the recruitment process is very simple. It provides a great opportunity to gain valuable skills and improve your CV for future jobs.“ Rafael Alves Sa, MSc Software Engineering Student.

How do I apply? Start by updating your CV*, then upload it and register on our website: http://tempjobs.london.ac.uk/QueenMary/Login.asp

*Not written a CV before or struggling to update it? Book an appointment with one of our Careers Consultants by calling 020 7882 8533 and see our online resources for further information.

If I’m stuck who do I contact?

Contact Rachael Blundell, QTemps Recruitment Manager: qtemps@qmul.ac.uk

How and why to get work experience

So why is work experience so important?

  • It means you can earn money during your studies
  • You’ll gain skills valued by future employers (e.g. commercial awareness, initiative, team work)
  • You can build relevant experience for your future career
  • You’ll find out what an industry / job role is like in reality
  • It helps to build your network / contacts

What can I do?

It can be challenging to find part-time work that is linked to your degree or the sector you would like to work in after graduation. Many students combine their part time job with some volunteering and work experience (e.g. internships and work shadowing) to earn money as well as gain valuable relevant work experience.

For a wide range of part-time, internship and work experience vacancies visit the Careers & Enterprise Centre’s job board: QM Job Online.

Roles on campus and in the local area

There are many part-time opportunities on campus, from Student Ambassadors and Library Shelvers, to residential, café, and bar staff. See the work experience hub to explore the variety of ways (paid and voluntary) you can develop your experience on campus. For jobs within the Student’s Union see: www.qmsu.org/jobs/

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