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'Soft skills' | Recruiters reveal CV must-haves in fierce jobs market

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The last few weeks and months have highlighted growing concerns about the future of the jobs market, as more companies have announced job cuts as a result of the pandemic.

Research from LinkedIn revealed that the UK jobs market is currently three times more competitive due to the coronavirus pandemic and is only likely to increase over the coming months.

The professional networking site’s data said that the UK is bracing for the toughest jobs market in a generation as COVID-19 has forced many employers to cull jobs and slow or stall hiring.

John Lewis and Rolls-Royce are just two examples of organisations that have recently announced job cuts in light of the pandemic.

In addition to the stats, the current level of competition within the UK jobs market has been highlighted several times over the past few weeks as employers have received an overwhelming number of job applications for roles.

For example, the BBC reported that a Manchester restaurant advertised for a receptionist role and received almost 1,000 applicants in one day.

Carol Cairnes, Director of People at the restaurant’s Owner D&D London, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: "On Monday we placed an advert for a receptionist role for our 20 Stories restaurant in Manchester.

"The next day, James, our Head of Talent, went to look at applications and was amazed to find that in less than 24 hours we had 963 people apply."

Elsewhere, the General Manager of a South West London pub took to Twitter explaining that he had been inundated with 484 applications for two £9-an-hour jobs at his pub.

In addition, research from CV-Library found that 106% more applicants are battling it out for every job than there was a year ago, highlighting just how tough the current climate is.

With job competition levels high, HR Grapevine spoke to several recruiting experts to find out the CV must-haves to help candidates increase their chances of bagging a job.

Read on to find out more.

Focus on ‘soft skills’

Spencer Symmons, Director of the specialist tech recruiter CPS Group UK, said that many employers are looking for ‘soft skills’ – which typically include people, communication and social skills, as well as character traits and attitudes.

“Many employers are looking for ‘soft skills’ at the moment – adaptability, flexibility, agility. Though things appear to be improving, there may still be some difficult times ahead, so candidates must explain how they have successfully overcome challenges. Demonstrable experience of working in a risky or disrupted environment is a real plus,” Symmons explained.

‘Positivity and honesty’

Another trait that employers will likely be looking for during this time is honesty and positivity – two things which Symmons said he “cannot stress enough”. He added: “Often, candidates feel the need to cover up gaps in employment, but no hiring manager is going to think you are to blame for being made redundant – especially at this time. Employers are looking for people who are upbeat, and who can directly explain the value they will bring to the organisation. Be honest and positive and you’ll be much more likely to succeed.”

‘The ability to adapt’

Simon Winfield, Managing Director of Hays UK & Ireland said that the most sought-after skills range from managerial and leadership skills through to the ability to “adapt to change”. Winfield added: “The latter will be all the more important for professionals to develop in order to thrive in the new era of work and, as we start to see an increase in hiring and employee mobility as we ease out of lockdown, employers must think about the steps they need to take in order to secure the most in-demand professionals with these skills.”

‘Rolling up your sleeves’

For the more senior candidates, Lauren Maddocks, Associate Director of Murray McIntosh, said that being able to direct strategy but also be willing to “roll up your sleeves to implement it” is a vital skill to employers. “While budgets are tight, companies appreciate those who get involved rather than always delegating, so being able to demonstrate both will position you well when applying for new roles,” Maddocks added.

'Employers want to identify genuine talent'

While Mandy Watson, Managing Director at Ambitions Personnel, explained that : 

"Recruiting during a pandemic isn't all that different from hiring in more stable times, except there is a higher volume of candidates. Of those candidates, more seem to be applying for work that they don’t really want. Ultimately, this can be futile as well as a waste of time and resources for both the employer and employee. Employers should always be identifying talent that is genuinely interested in the vacancy and company, as they’re looking to develop and engage with your business’ growth.

Candidates who claim to be keen to take on any challenge may not truly have their heart set on a position, so the challenge comes in finding the genuine candidates among a sea of jobseekers who are just desperate for any employment. Many may well leave for something better suited at the earliest opportunity. More in-depth interviews or analysis of potential candidates may be needed.


"Employers particularly concerned will likely be seeking to identify candidates that they can see are keen to develop. In seeking suitable members of their team they may also be looking for those who have developed their own skills during the pandemic, be this through voluntary work, study or gaining qualifications. At the end of the day, intuition, fit and a solid work history still win out."

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