Ambitious SME’s are attracting the best talent

For some time, it has been very obvious that smaller organisations with growth potential have been both, attracting and securing, the best candidates on the market in competition with the major multinationals and global brands.
Michael Page Finance invest heavily to find the very best qualified accountants across then UK and look to attract those from across the world, and 65% of these are now opting to work in SME organisations.   
However, this was not always the case so what has changed and what have they done to shift the balance? We have surveyed our candidates to seek out their answers and five main themes came out.

Impact and influence

Smaller businesses are selling the impact any individual can have on the business through access to senior management and a culture of seeking out ideas and innovations. They are excellent at showing many examples where staff at all levels have really influenced outcomes and this is very important at a time when people do not feel the need to earn the right for their voice to be heard.
By definition, jobs are often more narrowly focused in larger companies. This is not a problem in its own right but combined with the fact that departments are often spread across different continents, and work built around strict processes linked to global systems, large multinationals struggle to demonstrate what difference a junior or mid-level employee could ever make. Further to this, bigger businesses now have a reputation for employees having to work around processes in order to function in their job. This does not seem to be an environment where innovation can flourish.

Recruitment process

Future employees read much into the process that they experience in applying and interviewing for a job. SME’s tend to focus more around the person than their CV and focus on a conversation around whether that person will fit. This involves significant selling by the SME. Processes tend to be quick, open and clear with excellent feedback.
Many large company recruitment processes are slow, bureaucratic, confusing, and totally focused on the CV rather than the person, and based on a “are you good enough” mentality.  These days high quality candidates can pick up multiple offers with ease.  They realise they have to impress but do want a grown up two-way conversation and be sold the benefits of an organisation and its job.


Too many multi-nationals rely on their brand to sell the organisation for them but this presents two issues. Firstly, the power of a brand is far more limited these days as the biggest brand in the world in two years time may be unknown right now. In addition, one scandal can finish off a brand instantly.
 “I do not want to work for Google, I want to work for the next Google,” is the thought process of a recent ACA and MBA qualified candidate.
Secondly, whilst technology brands still do hold cache, many of the biggest brands are FMCG and struggle to be seen in the same way by a more socially and environmentally conscious world as they have in previous years. People are very reticent to work for organisations that are not “socially good” and many food, pharmaceutical, and energy companies can be seen in this category.

Job security

In a market where organisations are competing for your skills, job security seems less of an issue. More importantly larger companies are seen as assessing your position more on its cost than the achievements.  


Smaller businesses looking to grow are forever quoting the mantra that their success will be based on their people. Therefore securing the best people will ensure their success. This results in pride at being hired and in the success of that organisation but these days you rarely hear the boards of bigger companies talking about the importance of their people. Too often conversations around applicants are based around how many people have applied which does not make someone feel valued.


Modern candidates look at the world of work in a different way because they are socially conscious, want to feel valued, sought after, and want to make a difference.  
SME recruitment processes and work environments suit these requirements very well. The structures, processes and rhetoric of large scale organisations make recruitment much harder and until they see applicants as individuals, whom they need to make feel valued and wanted, this situation will continue.
Jonathan Firth
T: +44 207 269 2569