Struggling to recruit? Here’s 5 places to find the perfect candidate

If you feel your business is ready to expand, recruiting can be a daunting task; especially if you’re new to the game. When doing so, the best advice, straight off the bat, is to never ‘settle’ on an employee candidate. The values of your company should never become compromised when you employ someone. Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities out there for small businesses to hire their perfect candidate in the UK. You just have to work out what you need, before you start mining for them.

1.Work experience

Considered as a great short-term employment option, work experience employees are excellent choices for covering busy periods — perfect for small businesses who perhaps can’t afford to hire. Work experience tends to fall into the demographic of high schoolers and college students, so it’s beneficial to tap into your local community to uncover potential candidates; and help skill-up the next generation. This can easily be done via the local Jobcentre Plus and also through liaising with nearby schools. If you’re struggling to recruit, whether that’s through budgetary reasons or a lack of credible options, then work experience staff can give you the added time you need. If you’re lucky, you could uncover a real gem through work experience, too. In which case, you can talk to them about an apprenticeship if they seem keen enough.

2. Apprenticeships

According to the Forum of Private Business, 77% of their small business members agree that apprenticeships are a cost-effective recruitment method, and enable staff to address skill shortages. This statistic, coupled with the availability of government grants and funding for apprenticeships in England — should you employ 50 staff or less — highlights their value. They should not, however, be purely seen as a way to employ on the cheap. When hiring an apprentice, there are added training costs to consider — they may need to take training classes outside of work hours, for instance. Additionally, they must be paid at least the national minimum wage, currently standing at £3.30 an hour for apprentices. Yet, the most important factor of hiring an apprentice is your responsibility to them: you are there to mould their career development. They’re an investment, not a ‘quick fix’. It’s for this reason why they could be an ideal candidate: they are less likely to jump ship once you’ve invested in them.

Employing an apprentice is relatively straightforward now with government-backed schemes in place, and all the information on how to employ one can be found on the government website.

3.University placements

Small businesses and universities come together regularly on collaborative projects that help students ease their transition into full time employment. However, you might wonder why an undergraduate would choose to work for a small business when placements at large or multinational companies are available — well, in reality, it’s a concern you need not worry about. We know that the startup scene in the UK is massively prosperous and one of the biggest contributors to the economy. Small businesses represent, effectively, the future of UK business, and by experiencing that environment early on, the undergraduate will gain invaluable experience. If you can offer them that, they’ll be pounding at your door.

Placements for university students differ from work experience, primarily in the fact that fair remuneration is expected for hard graft. However, develop a good enough relationship with the university and your brand awareness will skyrocket in the graduate community. It’s a no brainer really this one, and organisations such as Step offer services to make sure your placements get seen, too.

4. Internships

Internships can be considered one of the most productive recruitment methods for small businesses: they give you access to a massive range of qualified graduates and exceptional students. An internship is a ‘test the water’ style of employment — you need to make sure they fit culturally, and to see if they can stand up to the task after all. Working internships are, generally, considered to be a precursor to a permanent position. As such, your intern will have employment rights you need to consider; such as being paid the national minimum wage. It’s worth noting that if you don’t want to pay your intern, then it’s advisable you advertise the position more along the lines of work experience — so you attract the right prospects. What’s more, internships don’t have to only apply to the younger generations of the employment world. Consider candidates who have working experience in other industries but who just fancy a bit of a change. The experience of being in a working environment is extremely valuable.

Hiring an intern, like hiring an apprentice, is an easy path to follow. Websites such as Inspiring Interns are a brilliant resource to utilise as they will advertise your internships for just a small fee. Going through a recruiter is perhaps the simplest option, however use social media to your benefit as well: social media targeting allows your job advert to be seen by your desired demographic.

5. Graduate schemes

Graduate schemes represent the next logical step after work placements and internships for small businesses. However, graduates tend to flock to the big company schemes that offer the most money and various perks at first. Yet, with the small business sector booming, and the number of graduates increasing each year, the SME industry reflects a wealth of opportunity for graduates. Having close ties to a university will certainly help when recruiting, and a graduate scheme will open the doors to a multitude of potential candidates.

However, if you don’t have that relationship, the challenge becomes getting your scheme seen. Small businesses tend not to have the biggest recruitment budget, so it becomes a question of using what you have wisely — right down to how you write your job advert. However, there are websites you can use such as Graduate Jobs, among others, where you can advertise and you’re not charged an arm and leg. Exploit social media, too, and use traditional marketing methods to target local prospects. The good news, is that graduates are becoming aware of the benefits of working for a small business, so if you market your scheme appropriately, they should find you.

Recruiting doesn’t have to be a challenge if you know the options available to you. By exploring different avenues, such as building relationships with universities and local schools, you can open doors to candidates you might not have approached, or been approached by, before.

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