Job candidates lose out through lack of soft skills, say most business leaders.


  • Nine in ten employers believe job-seekers should focus on soft skills just as much as their grades
  • More than a third of businesses look at a candidate’s social media profile to gauge their personality
  • Yet 60 per cent of young people think businesses only care about academic grades
  • Most employers say candidates who volunteer are more likely to develop soft skills and make great hires

As millions of young people await their exam results and prepare to enter the world of work, new research from British Gas has highlighted that soft skills and personality are top attributes the majority of business leaders look for when hiring.

More than half of bosses surveyed look for volunteering experience as evidence of these skills and almost all (94%) say a business can get great results from employees who have volunteered. More than half of employers say they have turned down candidates because they lacked soft skills and personality.

Employers are also scouring the internet to get clues on a candidate’s social skills.  More than a third (34%) say they look at a candidate’s social media profile to gauge their personality before meeting them in person. Despite this, four in ten young people admit their social profile online is not ‘potential employer-ready’.

Almost two-thirds of 16-25 year-olds think businesses only care about academic grades when hiring.  However nine in ten employers say candidates should focus on soft skills just as much as their grades.

Despite soft skills and volunteering being top priorities for employers, four in ten young people have never volunteered, and almost a quarter do not believe that it will help them get a job.  More than a third (34%) admit to being too busy concentrating on exams to make time for volunteering.

 Pippa Morgan, Head of Education and Skills at the CBI, which represents business leaders, said:  The value that individuals with well-honed soft skills bring to a business is indisputable. As this research and our own indicates: business leaders are very clear about wanting to hire people with the right behaviours and attitude.

It’s fantastic to see companies like British Gas highlighting the need for young adults to have soft skills, and should emphasise to all those starting out in their careers that companies are looking for more than just qualifications.”

Eight in ten business leaders say their company should invest more in offering volunteering opportunities to employees, as they believe it would have a positive impact on the company. This is borne out among candidates: a fifth of young people say they actively look for volunteering opportunities when choosing a business they would like to work for.

Claire Miles, Managing Director for Customer Operations at British Gas commented:  “Whilst good exam results can boost opportunities for young people, our survey highlights that employers are also looking for evidence of soft skills and personality before making a final decision on whom to hire.

 “Most young people think that employers only care about their academic achievements – but that’s not the case. There’s a real opportunity for young people to boost their chances of employment through volunteering, which is a great indicator of soft skills.

 “All of our engineering apprentices achieve their Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award or complete the British Gas Award Programme, during which they spend time volunteering in their community. We find that this helps our employees to relate better to our customers and improve service.” 

 British Gas also supports each of its employees to take two days paid volunteering leave in work time. Employees are encouraged to make a difference in their local community by not only sharing their time, but their expert skills as well.

Last year, around 2,800 British Gas people gave almost 35,000 hours of volunteering time to support good causes across Great Britain.

When interviewing new employees, British Gas asks candidates about their volunteering experience, to give them the opportunity to demonstrate skills they may have developed as a result.




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