As we’ve blogged about before, Hireserve supports a local charity, The Basingstoke Consortium. Established over 28 years ago, the Consortium works to build links between businesses, schools and colleges to enhance young people’s employability skills.

In offering access to employers, the Consortium aims to open young people’s eyes to the opportunities that exist and how they might pursue them.

Earlier this week we took part in another Digital Skills Workshop (our first was in June), where we spoke to students about the opportunities social media offers when it comes to securing jobs or work placements. We suggested using social media and blogging platforms to create a positive digital footprint, using social media as an ‘alternative CV’ to showcase their soft skills and hobbies.

So it was rather apt to stumble across this article from Brightwave on The Guardian Small Business hub, which asked this question of employers: ‘What can you find if you look beyond the CV?’

It’s interesting that many of the school and college students we’ve spoken to still place excessive importance on exam grades. They’re right to – formal qualifications open doors that otherwise might remain shut – but good exam results don’t necessarily correlate to strong soft skills. A candidate could walk in with an A* in Computer Science, but without a good telephone manner, would you be happy to put them in front of a customer?

Our Operations Director often tells of a young graduate she interviewed. His grades were fantastic, but his CV told her little about the person beyond the qualifications. During the interview he was nervous and Karen couldn’t gain a sense of what he was really like or how he would fit into the team. She asked him to tell her about himself and his hobbies – how he liked spending the weekends, what life was like for him beyond studying. The young man in front of her turned into an inventive, enterprising individual – someone who enjoyed projects in their spare time, taking apart cars and machines and putting them back together. Someone who had tenacity, who could problem solve and who enjoyed completing a finished project. In those few minutes, Karen learnt more about the graduate than his degree could ever have told her.

We work closely with the University of Reading in raising awareness of the need for employers and academia to communicate more about what skills employers are really looking for. But these conversations also need to be happening school level, so that younger children are more aware of what they need to demonstrate on a CV, at interview and in the workplace, well in advance of pursuing a job, placement or internship.

During our workshop, we drew attention to the importance many employers put on the ‘person behind the paper’, and explained how students can use social media to communicate this. By creating a WordPress site or maintaining a Tumblr blog, people can create their own corner of the internet to promote their work experience, volunteering or extra-curricular activities. They can showcase their portfolio of art, of web design, of copywriting. They can share updates on their placements and what they’ve learnt. They can demonstrate commitment and a desire to contribute through clips of their football tournaments, their singing exams, their latest Warhammer creation! With limited industry experience, shining a light on these parts of their life can communicate so much to an employer about a young person and those essential soft skills: time-keeping, commitment, team work, communication.

The value of soft skills to the economy is valued at around £88billion, with a report recommending formal frameworks for soft skills aimed at schools, employers and employees. Until then, let’s keep on strengthening the links between business and academia. Let’s continue to support the vital work of organisations like the Basingstoke Consortium in our local communities. And let’s do what we can to educate and inspire the young people in our families and friendship circles with insights into the working world and what employers are really after.

Find out more:

Discover how an office visit can make a difference

Read up on why our attitudes need changing

Download the NCUB’s State of the Relationship flagship report

About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.