Enterprise, Preparing for your future

Top Qualities that Start-up & SME employers look for when hiring graduates

Sophie from Talentpool tells us what qualities Start-ups look for when hiring graduates…

Working for a startup or SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) can be a fantastic way of kick-starting your graduate career; with the opportunities they offer to develop a wide skill set, have a real impact on the business and the fun work environment, it’s easy to see why over 50% of recent UK graduates are now favouring a career at a smaller company over a corporate graduate scheme.

So if you’re approaching your final year or have just graduated, and are considering not going down the traditional graduate career path, you’re probably keen to find out what these companies look for when selecting their employees. To help you out, we’ve come up with the 5 top qualities that startups and SMEs look for in graduates when they’re hiring.












Potential to develop

Smaller companies will usually be far less rigid than a corporate with the academic, work experience or skill requirements for a role. Instead, they’ll look first and foremost for a candidate’s eagerness to learn and to pick up new skills. Unless the role is very specialised (e.g. web developer), a bright and enthusiastic graduate can be trained up and taught the basics of the role relatively quickly. To demonstrate that you have what it takes, try and think of examples of when you’ve gone that extra mile to teach yourself a skill or proactively pursued an opportunity to learn something new.


Ambition and a can-do attitude

At a smaller company, the work you’ll be doing will have a big impact on the business. For this reason, it’s essential that employees possess a real hunger to succeed as, ultimately, the success of the business relies upon this. Particularly at a startup, there is often no guarantee that the business will succeed long-term. For this reason, you’ll need to show confidence that you can persevere in a tough situation and come out the other side.


Eagerness to take on responsibility

With little time for micro-management at a smaller company, you’ll often be required to take your own initiative on various matters. If you are joining a very young company, it’s likely that nobody else on the team will share your level of expertise in a certain area. For this reason, it’s important that you demonstrate that you are able to be trusted and are keen to take the lead on projects and tasks that need to be carried out. This can be an incredibly rewarding experience, since you’ll be able to see the direct output of your hard work on the success of the business. At a larger company, it can often seem like your efforts are going unnoticed.


Passionate for the product

A smaller company, much more so than a corporate, will be looking for someone who is really passionate about what they do. If you’re going to have a direct impact on the development and growth of the company then you have to really believe in the idea! The interview itself is likely to be much more conversational than at a corporate and you might at times be expected to take the lead on driving the discussion. So, having some questions and conversation starters ready is a very good idea to demonstrate your interest.


Cultural fit

This will vary from company to company, but a startup and SME will be looking for the person who will fit best into their existing team. Working in such close proximity with one another, it’s essential that everybody gets along. The atmosphere at a startup or SME tends to be much more relaxed than at a corporate. There is usually no dress code and little hierarchy – it’s up to you to decide whether this is the type of work environment that you’d thrive best in. Surrounded by creative and innovative people though, it’s definitely an inspiring community to be a part of.


Inspired? Get involved with Cardiff University Enterprise and Start-up!

Do you have entrepreneurial inspirations and aspirations? Cardiff University Enterprise and Start-up could help you realise your full potential in business and entrepreneurship. It’s all about thinking creatively, spotting opportunities, making things happen and developing skills for life. It’s not just about business; it’s about helping you to make the most of yourself.

We run workshops, competitions and sessions to help you develop skills and knowledge. Find out about all our courses and sessions on the intranet, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, with #ideastolife, or email us at entreprise@cardiff.ac.uk.


Your feedback and help please

Have you found this blog post useful?  Please help us by commenting in the comments bar below, and  if there is anything further you’d like to know ask your questions there too.

We’d also be grateful if you can share this information by re-tweeting or sharing with your fellow students who may find this useful – you can do this by using the share buttons or via twitter and facebook.


Best wishes,

Sophie Hudson, Head of Community at Talentpool






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