Are unemployed young people getting lost in translation?

How do young candidates feel they present themselves to potential employers? To coincide with the launch of Define Me, YouthNet, with the support of UBS, commissioned a new poll to find out. We then asked British business leaders what they thought of the candidates.

Ollie Drackford
Head of Marcoms
boy at park

Confidence is high

 There are currently over 900,000 young people not in education, employment or training in the UK (2015, ONS), and according to our poll, almost two thirds (64%) felt confident in their abilities to articulate their skills when applying for jobs.

Is their confidence misplaced?

Feeling good about their employment chances is encouraging, but with 13% of the youth population not in employment, training, or education, what is really going on?

When we asked businesses for their perspective we got a very different opinion. Two thirds (66%) of senior decision makers in organisations across Britain said they actually reject many young candidates because they’re unable to articulate their skills. Sadly, most young people aren’t aware of this.

This reiterates the research we carried out in 2014 around youth employability that suggested young people don’t understand how to ‘package themselves’.

Undervaluing skills

Could it be that young people are undervaluing their experiences? Last year’s research, ‘Connecting the dots’, revealed that employers felt young candidates had a very different view on which skills are valued by their organisations.

The scale of this confusion seems no less now. In the new poll we found that almost two thirds (62%) of unemployed young people felt they understood what employers are looking for in terms of responsibilities and qualifications. However, almost half (42%) of employers felt the applicants didn’t truly understand what’s required for a successful application.

(It’s also worth noting that almost a quarter (23%) of young people felt they didn’t understand what employers are looking for.)

What is valued by employers?

So what do young people think makes a successful candidate? Our poll revealed that after academic achievement and relevant work experience, over 60% of young people felt that voluntary work was important,  followed by internships and works placements (55%), with unrelated work experience following close behind (50%).

Similarly, employers also felt that academic achievement, relevant work experience and unrelated work experience was most valued (55%), followed by internships/work placements (39%), and voluntary work.

 Employers also suggested that a candidate’s extra-curricular experiences were also important, with almost two thirds (62%) saying they were valued a little or a lot.

How can we support young candidates?

So how can we help young people make an impact with employers and start their careers?

Understanding how to interpret their skills and present themselves in a knowledgeable, confident way is the first step to landing a job, and we believe that digital will play a vital role in this.

According to the poll, 80% of unemployed young people would go online (68%) or use social media (12%) to support them with their job application or interview. This suggests that tools like ‘Define Me’, which helps them translate their skills into employable assets, can be invaluable to young people and vastly improve their chances of getting a job.


About Define Me:

Define Me – a free online tool that helps young people identify their job-relevant skills and finds ways of articulating these to potential employers.

About the poll:

  • Find out more about the poll via this press release.
  • Total sample size was 293 unemployed 18 to 24-year-old adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14-16 September 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18-24).
  • Total sample size was 590 senior decision makers, excluding sole traders. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14-18 September 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of business size.
  • Current UK unemployment figures for young people (16-24 year olds) stand at 922,000 for April to June 2015 (ONS stats released -Young People Not yet in Education, Employment or training, Aug 2015). This accounts for 13% of all 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK.


Published on 07-Oct-2015