Taking on your first employee is a bit of a minefield for a small business. Like many small businesses I started off employing friends or friends of friends initially but eventually grew to the point where I needed expertise which I couldn't get through these connections. It was time to advertise for my first employee.
It took me a lot of time and effort to write the perfect job description and job advert, as a small business I didn't have an HR team to do this for me, but I did know that I had to be careful to not discriminate. Neither did I have a massive budget to advertise the position (Even a small advert in a local paper can cost £100's, and to advertise nationally can cost £1000's). Luckily as I was after a graduate, advertising in local university careers centres was a very cost effective method. So after taking a lot of time to write the job advert and job description I was expecting applicants to do the same with the applications.
Boy was I disappointed!
I would like to apply for the job, please find attached my CV
This is NOT a covering letter. Many applications are now done using a person specification based application form, but for a small employer a CV and covering letter can be easier. This means the covering letter is 50% of the application. If you've not completed 50% of an application form you're not going to get the job. I was after a marketing manager; show me you can market yourself!
Out of the applications I did receive I did manage to select 5 or 6 to interview. It's normal for interviewees to be nervous before an interview, but to be honest I was bricking it! I knew what I was looking for, and I'd prepared a list of questions to ask – nothing to catch people out, no trick questions, I really just wanted to know if the person opposite me could do the job, and could I work with them.
I think I had about 5 questions in total, I asked prospective employees to give examples of some marketing they liked (and why), an example of marketing they had done, and an idea for a marketing campaign for my business, plus a couple of fluff questions. I was interviewing fresh graduates, so I wasn't expecting masses of experience but you need to have done something to talk about in an interview. When I asked about marketing they had done, it could have been that they were really good at ebaying their books to get back a few £££'s, or how they got loads of people to go to the school dance, but a couple couldn't even give any examples. Employers need people who can do stuff, and the best way of being able to show that you can do stuff is by having done other stuff. For me the candidate who stood out was the one who had done stuff, and could talk about it.
So why is that entrepreneurial? To me being entrepreneurial is as simple as getting off your backside and doing something. It just happens that when that something is running a business you get called an entrepreneur. Being entrepreneurial is useful in other contexts as well, especially when it comes to getting a job with a smaller employer. So make the most of your time at university to be entrepreneurial and make things happen. Whether that means starting a new society or club that interests you, taking part in extra curricular-activities or getting work experience - it all counts and the more you can show off to a potential employer - the better!
Here is a useful link for covering letters
Blog post by Steve Aicheler, Entrepreneurship Officer