What is an SME?
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are defined by the European Commission. The main factors determining whether an enterprise is an SME are staff headcount, and financial turnover or balance sheet total. An SME is classified as a company that employs fewer than 250 people and has a turnover of less than €50million.
Did you know you can search vacancies on myAdvantage by company size? If you want to work for a small company you can find SMEs that are recruiting by using the advanced search functions.
Why work for an SME?
In the UK 99.9% of private sector companies are SMEs, employing over 16 million people (FSB 2017).
The SME sector often drives innovation and competition; they tend to be growing organisations and cover just about every business area and function.
Working in a small business provides the opportunity to get your ideas heard and to get hands-on experience quickly.
The main benefits that people say they gain working for an SME are:
- variety in day-to-day work as well as a varied working environment
- early responsibility and autonomy, and possibly a higher profile within the business
- opportunities to make a real contribution to the business
- more contact with senior members of the company
- greater likelihood of getting to know everybody, staff and clients
- opportunities for career advancement in expanding companies
- accelerated progress for high performers
If you think you’ll thrive in a constantly changing environment which requires you to be flexible and adaptable then this might be the right choice.
How do small businesses recruit?
Small businesses are unlikely to have formal graduate training schemes – vacancies may occur at any time of the year.
As they are small their recruitment practices tend to be a little more informal and applications are usually by CV and covering letter although they are often happy to receive speculative applications. Small businesses tend to have very little information on their websites about career opportunities as the information is generally aimed at clients and customers; you should consider networking to make contacts.
Once hired, an SME will have high expectations regarding your ability to be flexible and take on responsibility immediately. There may be a steep learning curve and lots of challenge to embrace; in effect, this balances against the benefits listed above.
at a SME you can make a real, visible contribution ... I come into work every day knowing that a genuinely good idea will have a real impact on the business ...
Paul Griffin (MEng), DCA Design International
- guest employer blog post
Find out more...
The careers blog
- I never imagined working for an SME
- Start your career in an SME
- 6 things you need to know about working for an SME
- Both different, both good – grad schemes and SMEs
Search for small businesses
- Companies House website
- UK Small Business Directory website
- British Chambers of Commerce
- The Sunday Times 100 Best Small Companies to work for
- UK's Best Workplaces – search Small and Medium categories on the Great Place to Work website
- 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain on the London Stock Exchange website