Young people should play up their personal strengths and interests when applying for work, according to new research.

A survey of more than 900 managers conducted recently by ICM Research for the Brathay Trust found that  nearly two fifths (38%) want young people to highlight their personal achievements and work experience in job applications.


Furthermore, nearly one fifth (19%) stated that applicants’ CVs are often standardised and boring and a third (33%) admitted that good candidates risk missing out on interviews because their application form or CV is not exciting enough.

Richard Morris, Global Learning and Development Manager at Innovia Films, said:

“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”

The research also found that:

  • One fifth (18%) of recruiting managers say candidates with voluntary or community work go straight to the top of the interview pile.
  • A strong work ethic (33%), commitment (31%), communication skills (29%) and team working skills (28%), are the personal qualities (or ‘soft skills’) line managers say they look for most in young applicants.
  • Over a third(37%) felt young people were not aware of the importance employers place on soft skills.
  • More than a quarter (26%) think soft skills should be listed ahead of qualifications.

Godfrey Owen of Brathay Trust 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 employers want.”

“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 employers say apprentices are 15% more employable than their peers.”

And  it’s not just would-be recruits who need to work on their soft skills.  Thirty percent of line managers say existing staff who improve their soft skills outside of work are more likely to get promoted and nearly a quarter (24%) believe it is these skills that set their company apart from the competition.  For 35% providing opportunities for their staff to develop their soft skills is a core business priority.