Managers call on young to put personality into job applications

11 June 2014 -


Highlighting unique experiences and character qualities will help to put budding employees’ CVs at the top of the pile

Young job seekers should be ready to emphasise their personal attributes and interests in interviews and on job applications instead of putting forward generic and clichéd responses, according to new research from the organisers of the Brathay Apprentice Challenge 2014. Undertaken by ICM Research on behalf of the Brathay Trust, the study of more than 900 line managers shows that 38% of them want applicants, especially those aged between 16 and 25, to play up and focus on their soft skills – particularly by explaining interesting real-life experiences.

Employers say that job seekers could help to distinguish themselves from competitors by showing their uniqueness, as suggested by the 19% of respondents who complained that young people’s CVs often all look the same. Similarly, one third (33%) said that some very good job candidates sometimes miss out on interviews because their applications are too boring.

Significantly, young jobseekers looking to give themselves the maximum chance of securing their desired job are advised to take on extra-circular interests. The study shows that one fifth (18%) of line managers put candidates with volunteering or community work at the top of the interview pile. Other standout personal qualities which pique the curiosity of recruiters looking for young staffers are a strong work ethic (33%), commitment (31%), communication skills (29%) and team working abilities (28%).

However, the importance of those non-technical skills is often underestimated by a significant proportion of young job seekers, with over one third (37%) admitting they were not aware of the value that employers place on soft skills.

Brathay Trust chief executive Godfrey Owen said: “Qualifications alone are not enough to get a job.  Employers are increasingly looking at the personal qualities candidates can bring to the table, both immediately and in the long term. The good news is that many of these soft skills can be developed. Volunteering or community work, such as the projects undertaken by apprentices involved in the search for the apprentice team of the year, are just two great ways for young people to get some of that real-life experience that employers want.”

He added: “Apprenticeships and Traineeships are enabling thousands of young people to develop both the hard and soft skills they need for a successful career.  And it is, therefore, no wonder that employers say apprentices are 15% more employable than their peers.”

Although soft skills are key criteria that employers look for in their recruits, that doesn’t mean that those skills become disposable after the hiring process is complete. Almost one third (30%) of line managers say that staff who proactively try to improve their soft skills outside of work are more likely to get promoted. Almost a quarter (24%) believe it is their employee’s soft skills that set their company apart from the competition. For those reasons, 35% agree that employers have a responsibility to prioritise the development of soft skills among their staff.

Richard Morris – global learning and development Manager at last year’s Brathay Challenge winner Innovia Films – confirmed: “We get hundreds of applications for our apprenticeship programme and need to be able to differentiate one candidate from another. You can tell a lot about a person from their interests and life experience so we ask for this information during the application process. Once [they are] employed, helping staff further develop their skills is a priority for us.”

For CMI resources on apprenticeships, click here

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