Employers care less about qualifications than about spelling, grammar and work experience, says Luke Johnson
Research has been published today that reveals employers are far more likely to be impressed by a CV that demonstrates attention to detail, good spelling and grammar and work experience than one which focuses on qualifications.
Over 250 HR Directors around the country were asked by the Career Colleges Trust about what they look for most when considering CVs from schools leavers and graduates. These findings were then compared with responses from over 1000 14-19 year-olds.
Interestingly, 56% of the 14-19 year-olds assumed employers look for GCSE and A-Levels, when actually only a third of HR Directors were in agreement with this.
In fact, GCSE and A-Levels were not even cited in the HR Directors’ top five, beaten by attention to detail (spelling and grammar) work experience and evidence of real life skills.
This evidently reveals a disconnect between the skills employers look for and the skills that job-seekers THINK employers look for.
Considering the exam-focused nature of our education system, this is no real surprise. After all, children spend years at school working towards a set of examination whilst being taught very little about the real world of work.
"Making tea in an office doesn’t count"
What is needed is a much greater focus on employability skills and understanding of the workplace from an earlier age. Employers need recruits who can hit the ground running, and are able to deal with the new demands and responsibilities that will be asked of them.
But this can’t happen if young people are not getting adequate experience of real working environments. The reality is that the gulf between school/college and employment is huge – and as a result, potential employees are not understanding the real requirements of businesses.
Work Experience was cited as an important feature of a CV by both employers and 14-19 year-olds. Yet, what an employer means by the term ‘work experience’ and what school leavers understand it to be, can be quite different.
‘Meaningful work experience’ is a term coined to represent a placement in which someone gains real insight into a workplace and develops some job-specific and employability skills. The token one or two weeks that many young people undertake making tea in an office certainly doesn’t count.
As an employer, I want to see evidence of commitment, enthusiasm and passion towards a specific role or industry. Yes, core academic knowledge is important, particularly maths and English skills – but what makes a CV stand out are the extra, richer details highlighting why you are the person for the job and the extra value you can bring to it.
"First impressions really do count"
Additionally, attention to detail is hugely important. In today’s research, this came top of the list for HR Directors, with over two thirds saying that this is a priority for them when assessing a CV.
Employers generally have a large numbers of CVs to go through for any one position. The first CVs to be discarded will always be the ones with spelling and grammatical errors. First impressions really do count, there are no two ways about it.
In the current economic climate, the job market is a tough place to be. However, there are some very exciting opportunities in many expanding sectors, such as digitech, construction and healthcare.
These are sectors in which our network of Career Colleges specialise, with employer-led curriculums for 14-19 year-olds. The skills taught are relevant to the world of work and the vocational training is delivered alongside high quality academic teaching.
Career Colleges not only put an emphasis on work experience, but focus on giving their students access to employers, so they are aware of the skills needed for career success.
This is a model that other schools and colleges should look at adopting if we are to close the gap between education and fulfilling employment.
Luke Johnson is chairman of the Career Colleges Trust and owner of several businesses. He was previously chairman of Pizza Express and Channel 4.
Photo: Hannah Wei