Top tips for finding a job at a startup or SME

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With 9/10 graduate opportunities now found in startups and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), there is a growing awareness of the unique benefits available when working as part of a smaller team; the chance to take on high levels of responsibility from the start and to really have an impact on the business’ growth and development – opportunities which simply aren’t available at larger organisations.

So, with this in mind, the question you might be asking is how do you get yourself in the running for a position at a smaller company? TalentPool have rounded up their top three tips to help you out

  1. Don’t worry about applying early

Whilst it’s common for large corporate businesses to start their recruitment process up to a year in advance, smaller companies don’t have that sort of time. They’ll move quickly, usually starting their recruitment drive just a month before the expected start date. We recommend waiting until after your finals or even until after graduation, depending on when you’d like to start your new job.

  1. Do your research

Interviews will often be less formal than at corporates, but this doesn’t mean you should put less time or effort into preparation. You are likely to be interviewed by the founders of the business so it will be very easy for them to tell if you haven’t researched the roles, company, their product, industry and competitors thoroughly! Remember that passion is the lifeline of a startup. If you’re going to have an impact on the development and growth of the business, you need to believe in it (and be able to show that you do too).

  1. Be prepared to get stuck in

Being part of a small company means there are times when nobody has the answer. You need to show that you can use your initiative and think on your feet to use your resources to make the best decisions for the business. Smaller companies really value attitude over academic achievements and past experience so get thinking about instances where you’ve proactively and successfully sought solutions to a problem.

Guest post written by TalentPool – a recruitment platform matching recent graduates with job and internship opportunities in Startups & SMEs.

Step – work experience with SMEs

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The Step Programme offers undergraduates and recent graduates a range of work experience opportunities – either short-term work placements or 6-12 month internships. Step opportunities have a genuine development focus, are structured and often project based.

Don’t just look at graduate training schemes

Research (September 2013) from found that:

  • UK job seekers are unaware of or turned off the potential of a career at a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) firm, with 28% saying that they had not considered working for one
  • Just over half (51%) of respondents believed there is less opportunity for career progression with such firms
  • Roughly a third (34%) believed SMEs were a less desirable option as they offered lower salaries, but the same number believed that the culture would be better at an SME compared to a larger company

John Salt, website director of, says: ‘Our research shows a perception among jobseekers that larger companies offer better career progression and salaries. In fact, the opposite is often the case; employees are more likely to be noticed in a SME and rewarded with promotions and pay rises, whereas it’s easier to be overlooked at larger companies.’

If you feel that you would prefer to work for an SME take a look at the opportunities on the PCC Jobs Board.  You’re also welcome to come in and talk to a PCC Careers Consultant about your job search and get your CV reviewed.