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14-19 year olds unsure of what employers look for in a CV

14-19 year olds unsure of what employers look for in a CV Wednesday, November 30 2016

Employers are far more likely to be impressed by a CV which demonstrates attention to detail/spelling & grammar (66%) and work experience (64%) than one which focuses on qualifications, according to new research published today.

However this has come as a surprise to 14-19 year olds. 56% of those asked said they think that employers look for GCSEs and A-Levels (55%) when in fact the reality is that only around a third of HR decision makers actually do look at GCSEs (38%) and A-levels (33%).

Less than half of the 14-19 year old respondents identified attention to detail / spelling and grammar (47%) as something they think employers look for – when in fact, two-thirds  (66%) of HR decision makers flagged this up, putting it at the top of their list.

The study, conducted by the Career Colleges Trust, questioned HR decision makers and 14-19 year olds to see what employers actually look for compared to what young people think they want to see.

The top five things that HR decision makers look out for from a school leaver / recent graduate:

·         Attention to detail and good grammar and spelling (66%)

·         Work experience (64%)

·         Real life evidence of skills (60%)

·         Example of where the applicant has added value (57%)

·         Achievements (54%)

Interestingly, details on A Levels and GCSEs did not make their top five, with only 33% and 38% respectively of HR decision makers noting these as something they look for on a CV of a school leaver / recent graduate. This is in contrast to young people who had both GSCEs (56%) and A Levels (55%) in the top five things they think employers are interested in seeing.

However work experience was identified as key for both groups – with 74% of 14-19 year olds and 64% of HR, decision makers recognising the importance of gaining exposure to industry.

There was also agreement between employers and young people on the skills that HR decision makers most value and like to see on CVs – these being teamwork and verbal communication.

Other highlights of the research are:

  • HR decision makers rate written communication (49%), interpersonal skills (38%) and integrity (36%) as the next most important skills - while young people stated time management (41%), ability to work under pressure (33%) and decision making (31%) as what they thought those at looking CVs would value the most.
  • More than half of HR decision makers (56%) say they would like to receive more CVs from young people where they highlight their skills and real life experience.
  • Just under half of HR decision makers say that if they were to receive two very similar CVs the volume of work experience would make one stand out from the other (45%).

Ruth Gilbert, CEO of the Career Colleges Trust who conducted the research, says:

“Working hard to get good grades in exams is crucial for young people – but what is equally important is that they are fully aware of what employers look for and as our research show, this goes way beyond academic qualifications.

“Schools and colleges need to ensure that they give students access to work experience opportunities and ensures they are equipped with all the softer skills desired by employers. Evidence of these skills is crucial and this is something our Career Colleges work hard to ensure their students can demonstrate.

“The employer-led curriculums of our Career Colleges give young people the chance to understand the workplace and get exposure and access to both the environment and the people working there. This is essential if we are to get young people into fulfilling employment across a range of so many exciting industries.”

Associate Director of HR at Yeovil Hospital, Mark Appleby, says:

“Our partnership with Yeovil College sets out to instil a sense of confidence in young people when applying to work in a healthcare setting, as well as an introduction to the life skills we look for in candidates applying to work here at Yeovil Hospital. Skills such as organisation, good communication, diplomacy and reliability are crucial in a career in healthcare, as well as the requisite academic qualifications, and offering young people a chance to gain hands-on experience via the career college is an important step towards achieving these.”

Director of HR at London South East Colleges, Carolyn Woolley, says:

“It is very interesting to see what young people think employers are looking for on CVs. Although qualifications are absolutely essential to secure careers of choice, these don’t necessarily make a CV stand out. I look for candidates who have something extra to offer, alongside their academic qualifications, including work, voluntary and life experiences which can demonstrate ability to adapt to the work places and the many challenges this brings.

“Attention to detail is most definitely important. Securing a job is a competitive process, employers generally have large numbers of CVs to review and many employers may initially discard them without considering the content (including those with the best qualifications!!) where a lack of care and attention is evident. Spelling mistakes in a CV really are unacceptable if you are trying to make the best first impression! My strong advice would be to take time and care with your CV – as your CV is the first thing your future employer will ever see of you and first impressions really do count!”