Should Graduates Prefer SMEs or Large Companies?

For many graduates, wondering about what type of organization they would like to work in still seems to be a minor issue. Yet the daily working life in a SME generally is completely unrelated to that in a multinational. How are you to choose the type of organization that suits you best?

Each type of organization has its advantages and disadvantages. Depending on your personality and values, the business sector involved, your aspirations and the stage of your career, one of the two professional environments will certainly suit you more than the other.

The general operation

In large companies, the hierarchical structure is stronger. This environment is more appropriate for workers who prefer to grow in an environment where positions and responsibilities are more specialized and compartmentalized, the rules are well established, the internal policies for communication and decision-making more formal.

SMEs, on the other hand, have a more flexible structure which generally favours direct and more spontaneous links. There is a greater expectation of versatility and adaptability from their employees, who often also have more autonomy and initiative. The results of their work are seen more quickly, and it is easier for them to have an overall view of the company.


In large organizations, salaries are higher than in SMEs. In 2015, the Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés (CRHA) found a difference of 10% in Montreal between the median total direct compensation for SMEs and that of large enterprises.

However, although salaries at hiring are in general lower in SMEs, their margins for negotiation are wider. They also evolve more easily and independently of the ranks and scales of large companies.

There are usually more in-kind benefits in large organizations, such as daycare centres and sports rooms.

Career and training

On the one hand, SMEs generally offer more limited prospects for development and horizontal mobility. On the other hand, large companies have more resources for continuing and formal training.

These difference are not systematic, however. The salaries of some large, franchised or network-integrated SMEs benefit from a professional environment similar to that of large companies. Similarly, large companies organized in smaller units operate like an SME and offer the benefits!

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