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  • Stacey Baker

Personality boost: make your CV shine by giving soft skills the hard sell

In an increasingly competitive job market, where there are often dozens of applicants for every vacancy, companies are looking for stand-out candidates. First impressions count, so a CV or application form is sometimes the only chance a jobseeker will have to grab an employer's interest and bag themselves an interview.

So, how do you make sure your CV excites a boss and doesn't get lost in the keep-on-file pile, and what is it bosses want to see? Of course, there are no hard and fast rules, and criteria will differ from employer to employer, but the study suggests that focusing primarily on qualifications, whether they be academic or vocational, is probably not going to be enough to get that interview invite.

Far from being a catalogue of qualifications, our study indicated managers want applicants to tell them a story in their CV. They want to get an understanding of the personal qualities you might bring to the table, both now and in the future.

In fact, nearly two fifths of the managers surveyed said they want young people to give greater prominence to their personal achievements and real-life experiences (so-called soft skills) in job applications and more than a quarter said they would actually like to see this information listed ahead of qualifications. One fifth also said candidates with volunteering or community work on their CV go straight to the top of the interview pile.

The study delved further into demand for soft skills. It revealed a strong work ethic, commitment, communication skills and team work are the traits managers look out for most in CVs, providing some indication of the attributes young applicants might want to focus on selling.

The research also investigated the value of soft skills to businesses, not just in new recruits but also existing staff. A third of managers said their employees' soft skills are critical to the future success of the business. A quarter also agreed it is their workers' soft skills that set them apart from their competitors.

Young people shouldn't be disheartened if they feel they don't have strong examples of these personal skills to share with potential employers. Many can be developed, with volunteering and community work being just two potential avenues for doing so. Remember, many young people may already have a lot of valuable soft skills, but just need to find a way to better package and sell these on their CV.

All in all, it's clear that better promotion of personal qualities and life experience in CVs is one way young applicants can make their applications pop. So they shouldn't be afraid to get up close and personal with potential employers, put their passions on paper and tell them what they're all about.

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