When it comes to small businesses and start-ups it seems that graduates are under-represented when seen as a possible source of recruitment.

That, at least, is the conclusion of a government report on Graduate Recruitment to SMEs, which lists factors such as: the perceived cost of recruitment limited work and practical experience, concerns over the level of supervision required, and a tendency for small businesses to undervalue the potential contribution graduates can make to their business.

Unfair? We debunk some of those myths with the help of Hannah Neocleous from Instant Impact – an intern and graduate recruitment agency focused on the SME market – and offer some tips on how to go about recruiting a graduate for your small business.

Myth #1: It costs too much to hire a graduate

Recruiting graduates used to be all about the ‘milk round’; big firms attending the annual university graduate recruitment fairs. It still goes on of course, but social media offers a new recruiting channel says Hannah: “You can contact the graduate community directly through social media for minimal cost.” The trick of course is knowing the right channels to target.

Social Media Today have some tips on how social media can help you, but it’s important that you get your key sites – LinkedIn, Facebook, You Tube, Twitter – working for you when it comes to connecting with and attracting the sort of graduates you might want to employ. Share graduate job openings on these sites and encourage your network to do likewise.

Try your local university directly. Most universities have their own job boards, such as this one at Newcastle University, for example, for employers looking for graduates. They’re free. There are other graduate focused job boards (free and paid for), such as milkround.com, which offers options for small businesses looking to recruit.

Or you can use a specialist recruitment company for SMEs if you want to save time on selecting a group of candidates to interview.

Myth #2: They don’t know what they’re doing

What about the concern that some small businesses have that a graduate has limited work and practical experience and will need training before they can add value to your business?

“Graduates bring energy and a ‘can do’ attitude to small businesses,” says Hannah. “They shouldn’t simply be viewed as an extra pair of hands at a busy period – they can really contribute.

“Young people have grown up with social media for example and can help your business get in contact with a young professional audience – critical if they are one of your target markets.”

Myth #3: I’m too busy to look after a graduate

Small businesses are very busy and some will see hiring graduate as a distraction. “We look to place entrepreneurial and aspirational graduates who won’t need babysitting,” says Hannah.

“It is important, though, that if you’re looking to take a graduate, you put in place some longer term planning from the outset which will provide a graduate with the opportunity to learn and progress.”

In fact one of the biggest allures of a small business for a graduate is that quick progression. Once they’ve stopped learning, they’ll move on. Don’t give them the opportunity to get bored. Keep them engaged and keep them learning and your business will reap the benefits.

Graduates are out there looking for small business opportunities

Just because you’re a small business, doesn’t mean that you should be excluded from the graduate recruitment market adds Hannah: “There are many excellent candidates out there, with many graduates recognising that the big corporate graduate schemes might not suit their entrepreneurial personalities.”

As we approach the end of the academic year and another wave of graduates prepare to hit the job market, don’t rule your business out from this rich source of recruitment – a graduate could be a more cost effective option than you first thought and might well give your business the competitive edge.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be running a series of posts detailing what small businesses and graduates should look for when hiring graduates or interns, how to get the best of of them, and how you can sell a position in your business to the brightest young employees.