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Business Hiring – Large and Small Firms

Cite this article as:"Business Hiring – Large and Small Firms," in The Business Professor, updated October 17, 2019, last accessed July 9, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/lesson/business-hiring-large-and-small-firms/.


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Job recruiting can be broken down into three categories, Fortune 1000, Mid-sized firms, and small employers. The hiring in these organizations can be broken down into the following groups:

  • Hiring from Company Internship Programs
  • Hiring through Referral (from company employees or connections)
  • Hiring through Job Posting*. (Primarily with recruiters)

This third group, “Hiring through Job Posting” is the most interesting. Many if not most of the companies no longer publicly post jobs. In fact, 80% of new jobs in the US are never publicly posted. This is particularly true for new graduates. They only post jobs for individuals with 2+ years of experience. Notice that I wrote, “publicly post”. Now, companies are posting jobs with recruiters instead.

Let’s take a look at the primary hiring methods for business.

Hiring in Large Businesses or Firms

In a previous article, we talked about the different classes and categories of employees.
This article concerns how individuals get into a professional management track position in a larger Fortune 500 companies, mid-sized companies, and small businesses.
It may surprise you to know that almost 80 percent of the jobs in the United States are never listed or publicly posted anywhere.

Also, take into account that 60 percent of the employers in the United States are small to mid-sized businesses.

With that being said, it is important to look at the manners in which big and small companies bring in new employees.

Fortune 1000 Companies

There’s two general ways to get into a large company as a professional service provider early in one’s career.

Lateral Transfers

The first way to enter the company is through lateral transfer. In this case the company is bringing an employee from a different corporation or industry. If you do a search for corporate positions you will likely find lots of positions for lateral transfers.

These jobs generally require (or at least advertises) three to five-year experience minimum, sometimes seven, ten, fifteen and even twenty years of experience for these types of jobs.

It is very unlikely that you will find any positions listed for recent graduates or individuals with less than 1 year experience.

For the new business school graduate without the requisite experience, it is not likely that the employer will consider or every view your resume or your application for these position.

With this in mind, Fortune 500 companies employ over 50% of total employees. They also employ a majority of recent graduates. This begs the question, how are these new graduates entering the company?

When it comes to business students, the answer is “internships”.

Internship Programs

The number one way in which Fortune 500 companies bring in new employees (at the professional practitioner level) is through company internship programs.

Most of these companies have formalized programs and relationships with schools where students do internships (generally paid) with the corporation.

These internships are generally structured as full-time employment during the summer.  This is the trial period to see whether the interns fit in the organization and whether they’re engaged in the work.

Take a look at our article, “What are Internships?” for more information on internships and how they can advance your career.

  • Note: This is the real advantage of being at a highly ranked or reputable school or business program. It’s simply because employers are looking for talent. They assume that if a student made it in to a university with rigorous academic intern requirements, that these students are hard workers and again, they will perform well in the job or task assigned to them in the business environment. The schools will do on-campus interviews and directly recruit the students.

The students will generally start in an internship at the end of their sophomore and junior years. At the end of their junior year internship, they generally receive an offer of employment to begin upon graduation in less than 12 months. If you land such an internship, assuming you don’t run into issues in your internship, it is an 80-90% chance that you will receive an offer of employment.

Oddly enough, it’s not 100% necessary to do an internship at a specific company to be on the list for consideration for full-time employment. Students who do internship programs at other Fortune 500 companies are still sought after by the other companies that recruit at the school. These companies will entertain applications for student employment from similarly situated students.

  • Note: If, however, you have not completed an internship, it is very unlikely that you will be considered for employment by a company. The major exception is if you attend one of the country’s most elite universities. It is common for students at Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, etc., with no experience (and who have not majored in business) to receive large corporate offers. This is attributable to employer perceptions about the link between ability and the quality of school one attends.

The above discussion applies to business students at schools where the companies recruit. If the company does not recruit at the school, generally it requires some level of personal or professional connections to get your resume to the right person. For example, you may need to attend recruitment fairs or employer networking events. Sometimes the societies or clubs on school campuses will have excellent professional connections.

The important thing to remember is that, if you want to work in one of these companies and are not at an academic institution where they actively recruit, you are going to have to take additional steps to secure an interview.

This generally means networking very hard. For more information on networking, see our articles Networking & Employment Opportunities, One-on-One Networking, and LinkedIn Networking.

Now, let’s take a look at where the other 50% of US employees work – Small and Medium Businesses.

Small Businesses

We begin with small businesses (generally less than 100 employees); as their recruiting process is the most unique for large companies.

These firms may not have the same resources, the same human resources department, the same organized summer internship programs, or the rotational management programs that these larger corporations have.

So, small firms use a completely different technique to bringing on new employees.
First off, they do not generally do on-campus recruiting at colleges.

They may, however, list positions with the school for interested students to apply.

  • Note: For more information on job postings on campus, via our material on Business Career Resources

They may also list their jobs locally on internal and external job boards and with professional recruiters.

  • Note: For more information on the emerging for of professional recruiters, read our article on Professional Job Recruiters.

In reality, however, these firms often never publicly list their job offerings.  Instead, the number one way they recruit is through personal connections or internal referral. They ask their current employees, customers, suppliers, or other professional organizations that are affiliated with them in some way, for referrals for positions. These companies also commonly receive unsolicited applications from potential employees. This also means that proactive business students have a major opportunity.

Not surprisingly, job candidates who reach out in a professional manner and present themselves well may readily secure an interview for internship or employment. Even if no position is available at the time, these students now have somewhat of a connection and are often considered for positions that may arise in the future.

Further, if these firms do take on a student intern, it is highly likely that the business will later offer the student a permanent position if the need is present and resources are available.

Mid-sized Firms

Mid-sized businesses may employ a combinations of the methods discussed above. They generally have more resources at their disposal than the small business; but, they do not as many as the large company. As such, they may use all of the aforementioned approaches, such as job boards, professional recruiters, personal referral, etc.

It is very common for mid-sized firms to employ student interns. They may undertake some level of on-campus recruiting; and, they’re are often recruiting on campuses where larger firms may not actively recruit. The internships they offer are generally far more flexible than the rigid structure required by large firms. They may be part-time or full-time, and they generally take place year round (not just during the summer).

While the internship may be less structured than in large companies, the effect is largely the same. It is very common for interns to be offered full-time or continued part-time employment during their internship experience. In fact, it is very common for these firms to create a position for a strong-performing intern – even if a position did not otherwise exist.

As such, there is a distinct opportunity for students to land an excellent internship or position in a company by being proactive and making connections with the company. This can be done through active networking to make contact with company employees, or by simply applying to the company.

  • Note: My best advice for applying to a company without existing connections is to do so in person. Do not simply sit behind a computer and send an email. Dress appropriately and show up to the company. Ask for the opportunity to meet the manager in the department in which you wish to work. Shake the manager’s hand, introduce yourself, and leave your resume. This will have far better results than simply sending an email.

What do Employers look for?

Large companies often rely on GPA, prior experience, and other performance metrics to determine whether to grant interviews and whether bring you into the company as an intern or employee.

As previously discussed, they often recruit at select schools with exceptional reputations.

For this reason, it is important to build your credentials to meet these expectations.

  • Note: If you don’t have the best GPA or don’t attend the most prestigious school, you can still be an attractive candidate with large firms. You can do this by getting relevant experience, creating a network, and putting forward a professional appearance. Take a look at our material on Professionalism & Etiquette.

Smaller businesses look primarily for employees that fit with the business culture.

They place far less weight on name of school, academic performance, and prior experience.

  • Note: This may be the case because the managers in these businesses may not have been the most advantaged, well-connected, or strong academic performers. Yet, they are successful in their professional lives and perform as well anyone else in their positions. These individuals seek to hire someone similar to themselves. For more information on this tendency, see our articles Competence & Fit and Fit, Privilege, and Overcoming.

Once again, the most important aspect for securing a position in a mid-sized company is to establish a network, be willing to reach out for an opportunity, and demonstrate competence and fit.

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