Half of the employers surveyed want to see experience from a relevant apprenticeship or work placement, while only a quarter are more bothered about a degree
There was once a time when the lack of a university degree would stifle career progress – but a study has found employers now favour a relevant apprenticeship or experience.
Researchers who polled 1,000 decision-makers found 49% prefer to see experience from a relevant training contract or previous position on a candidate’s CV.
Just 24% said they would be more likely to take on someone who had a relevant degree qualification.
The study was carried out by AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) ahead of A-level results day on Thursday (16 August).
Of those who said they prioritise candidates who have relevant experience from an apprenticeship or previous job, 71% said they prefer it because it shows they have demonstrated their skills in a practical setting.
And 62% said it indicates they have a better understanding of the world of work.
Suzie Webb, AAT’s director of education and development, said: “Ahead of A-level results day, we wanted to inform young people about the things employers are looking for, to help them have a clear idea of what they need to consider as they think about their careers.
“Many people still think that having a university degree will be most valued by employers, but our research suggests this is not always the case.”
Skills an apprenticeship can provide job hunters
The study also found strong communication skills, punctuality and fitting into a company’s culture are among the top things employers look for.
Additional key attributes specified included good references and a desire to learn on the job.
More than a third simply ask that candidates show common sense, and punctuality is key for three in 10.
Another aspect young people should consider when thinking about their future career is their conduct on social media.
Half of employers have used a candidate’s social media profiles to gauge whether they are fit for a job.
Of those who checked social media before making a hire, more than two thirds have denied an applicant the job based on their questionable online conduct.
A key recruiting factor is also the quality of a candidate’s CV.
More than one in 10 employers said they are likely to disregard a CV if it has poor punctuation throughout, and a quarter would do the same if there were any incorrect spellings to be found.
Ms Webb added: “This research shows that employers are looking for soft skills, as well as qualifications, when they are hiring, and is potentially why so many prefer to see an apprenticeship on a CV.
“Many AAT students study our accounting qualifications as part of their apprenticeship, and we see how they are able to learn things such as how to fit into a company’s culture, work as part of a team, and develop communications skills, because they are in a real work environment.
“Young people who are receiving their A-level results should remember that it is as important to build up their soft skills as it is to gain qualifications, to give them the best chance of having the successful career they want.”
Apprenticeship or degree – these are an employer’s priorities when hiring
1. How they’d fit into the company culture
2. How much experience they have
3. Their general personality
4. How well qualified they are
5. A proactive attitude
6. Ability to work in a team
7. Showing a willingness to learn
8. Ability to self-manage and take initiative
9. Showing ambition
10. Communication skills
Top 10 CV must-haves
1. Clear layout
2. Two-page limit in length
3. Appropriate font and font size
4. Clear language
5. Correct spelling throughout
6. Appropriate use of sections and paragraphs
7. Appropriate use of colour
8. Consistent font and font size
9. Appropriate sentence structure
10. Correct use of punctuation throughout