Young job seekers should play up their personal attributes and passions when applying for work, according to new research released today to mark the finals of the Brathay Apprentice Challenge 2014.

The study of over 900 line managers, conducted by ICM Research, found that  nearly two fifths (38%) want young people to give greater prominence to their personal achievements and real-life experience (‘soft skills’) in job applications.

Furthermore, nearly one fifth (19%) complain that young people’s CVs often all look the same, and a third (33%) admit good candidates sometimes miss out on interviews because their application is not exciting enough. The research also finds:

  • One fifth (18%) of line managers say candidates with volunteering or community work under their belts 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 line managers who see CV’s/applications at their company 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, Chief Executive of organisers of the Brathay Apprentice Challenge, 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.”

Richard Morris, Global Learning and Development Manager at Innovia Films who won the Brathay Apprentice Challenge last year 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”

“Once employed, helping staff further develop their skills is a priority for us. One way we do this is by entering the Brathay Apprentice Challenge. We are still enormously proud of our win last year.”

The survey also went on to reveal that it’s not just would-be recruits for whom soft skills are important. 30% of line managers say staff who proactively try to improve their soft skills outside of work are more likely to get promoted and nearly a quarter (24%) believe it is their employee’s soft skills that set their company apart from the competition. For 35%, providing opportunities for employees to continuously grow their soft skills is a core business priority.