Attracting the best recruits

By: Alison Knocker

Date: 23 April 2009

Last week I was helping a friend's daughter with her application for a graduate internship in a prestigious organisation. In a discreet corner of the form, I read the ominous message: 'Last year we received 3,000 applications for a similar position.'

This set me thinking: why do bright graduates so often gravitate to big corporates? Why aren't they attracted to small businesses?

OK so we don't have glamorous logos or universally-known straplines. And maybe we can't compete on salaries. But if small companies are to be the engine of growth in post-recessionary Britain, we need to be able to attract the brightest and best.

In the face of dwindling graduate recruitment opportunities, students leaving university this summer are being encouraged to 'take any job'. How gloomy. But this gives us small businesses an advantage. Rather than be the default choice ('there's nothing better'), we must market ourselves to show that we can and do offer exciting career possibilities, and that we provide those elements that any aspiring graduate will be seeking. It's what you could call the TRIP factor.

  • Training: they will want to know that they will learn on-the-job
  • Responsibility: after years of study, they are eager to prove themselves in the real world
  • Initiative: you no doubt like recruits with the oomph that will help drive your business forward; if so, you will have to show that there are opportunities for them to use their initiative
  • Progression: and they would like reassurance that there is a future with you. It might not be a classic big-business ladder, but they need to know that recruits who show their worth will move up your organisation, sometimes faster and more effectively than in big businesses.

This is nothing ground-breaking, but it's delivering the message (and living up to it) that's the key.

So, I will tell my big-brand-chasing friend to refocus her sights, to broaden her lines of enquiry and to look to a sector where she will be able to get the TRIP of a lifetime!

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