6 tips for getting a job in an SME

An SME is a small or medium sized enterprise. Over 99% of businesses in the UK are SMEs employing between 0 and 249 people (House of Commons briefing paper, May 2019). 

There are many benefits to working for a small organisation, find out more in our online guide ‘What is an SME? Why work for one?’

Here are our tips for securing an opportunity with an SME. 

1. Social media ‘stalking’ is OK in this context: follow companies in the sector/area you are interested in (and their competitors). Vacancies are often shared via social networks and can appear via LinkedInTwitter or Instagram. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and that any social media accounts future employers might see are ‘employer friendly.’ 

2. Know your stuff: do your research on the businesses you want to work for. What is their team ethos? How are they organised? What are their key challenges? ​ Keep up to date with news stories – articles, journals, publications, business-related programmes on TV and radio​. You can never have enough background information or context. 

3. Be agile and keep your wits about you: unlike larger employers there is no ‘milk round’ or structured recruitment cycle for smaller employers. A small business will hire staff when there is a business need, regardless of the time of year. Be proactive, have your CV updated so you are ready to strike when the opportunity arises. 

4. Informality isn’t your friend:  don’t let the perceived informality of a small business lull you into a false sense of security. Even if a company projects a jokey, laid back vibe and their dress code is relaxed, always make sure your approach and communications are appropriate – particularly with speculative applications. It’s OK to echo the tone and personality of a business but make sure your communications are professional and mistake free. 

5. You do you: small businesses recruit for personality and attitude; bringing the wrong person into a small business can have a huge impact. Be genuine and think about how you are coming across so an employer will clearly see how well you would interact with the rest of the team. 

6. Stick around after you graduate: here in the west of England we have one of the highest rates of employment in the country (79%) with an economy worth over £33 billion a year. We also have the highest survival rates for SMEs in England and with over 45,000 businesses to choose from there are plenty of local opportunities out there.  

A great way to explore a career with an SME is to undertake an internship. The Careers Service run two internship schemes supporting students and graduates, enabling you to gain quality paid work experience from SMEs in the UK, including charities, social enterprises, and start-ups. Find out more about our schemes.