Bosses prefer career starters with volunteering experience

06 July 2015 -


Employers favour entry-level applicants who have social-action work under their belts, says CIPD – but are failing to let jobseekers know

Jermaine Haughton

Entry-level applicants who have volunteered for social causes are considered more employable, according to new research.

Published by CIPD in partnership with the #iwill campaign, the report showed that more than two-thirds (67%) of bosses think that career starters who have taken part in fundraising, volunteering and charity work have more job-friendly skills to offer than those who are coming into the workplace cold.

According to bosses polled for the report, the Top Three skills that candidates with volunteering experience have are teamwork (cited by 82%) communication (80%) and understanding of the local community (45%).

However, the report – Unlock New Talent: How Can You Integrate Social Action in Recruitment? – also found that employers have done little to acknowledge the value of those skills during the recruitment process. In fact, less than a fifth (16%) of bosses currently ask any questions about social-action experience on their applications forms – and only 31% ask about it during interviews.

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese says that volunteering experience must be more widely integrated in organisations’ personal development plans and resourcing strategies. He explained: “A key challenge for recruiters is that candidates often fail to highlight their social-action experience unless given the opportunity to do so – as many still regard traditional work experience as being more important to employers.”

Critiquing bosses who fail to seek out candidates with social-action experience, the report says that HR chiefs run the risk of missing out on talent by overlooking individuals who have developed their skills outside education and standard work experience.

Cheese added: “With the difficulties that many young people also face in terms of securing good quality work experience, it’s clear that social action has a huge role to play in terms of skills development. By failing to uncover this experience during the recruitment stage, employers could be missing out on enthusiastic individuals who have precisely the types of employability skills organisations tell us they need and struggle to find.”

Among its recommendations, the report advises employers to make tangible references to their third-sector work and partnerships in recruitment-related materials; to highlight on job adverts that social-action experience is relevant, and to provide greater guidance to young workers on how candidates should market themselves on applications.

Report partner the #iwill campaign, which aims to make social-action volunteering the norm for young people aged between 10 and 20, is coordinated by social-action charity Step Up To Serve. Its chief executive Charlotte Hill argued that businesses can only benefit from the well-developed soft skills that volunteers tend to have. “We hear time and time again that, first and foremost, employers want young people with resilience, enthusiasm, good communication skills and creativity – not academic ability alone,” she said.

“There is no doubt in my mind that getting involved in high-quality youth social action helps develop precisely the kinds of attributes and skills that all businesses are looking for. Add to this that such participation has a positive impact on the communities in which these young people live, and you have a genuine ‘double benefit’.”

Hill added: “This is why we are calling on employers to recognise the value of youth social action in their recruitment processes. If young people know employers value this, more will take part and more will develop the skills employers are looking for. So please do consider the practical steps in this report, and whether your organisation can commit to helping our young people realise their potential.”

In April, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to grant 15 million people the chance to do paid volunteering if the Conservatives won the General Election – a victory that came to pass the following month. Following Cameron’s statement, Chartered Management Institute (CMI) director of strategy Petra Wilton said: “We welcome this new political focus on the value of volunteering. CMI research has shown that volunteering can be hugely beneficial to employees, their employers as well as to local communities and charities. Volunteering often puts people outside of their comfort zone, gives them new working experiences and leads them to develop new management and people skills that they can bring back to their workplace.

“However,” she added, “any scheme should ensure that days off for volunteering deliver real benefit to the individual, their employer and to the organisation they volunteer for. Rather than making such time off a mandatory requirement, the scheme may be far more effective if workers are given the right to request leave for volunteering. This would better ensure that both employers and employees can be confident that it will be mutually beneficial experience.”

Read the full CIPD report, Unlock New Talent: How Can You Integrate Social Action in Recruitment?.

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