Jobseekers with diverse interests more attractive to employers

School leavers and graduates who take part in extra-curricular activities stand out among job applicants, a study shows.

Such candidates make more successful employees and progress more quickly within companies than those who do not, according to a new study of 500 UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by World Challenge.

The research shows that, at a time when the employment market is more competitive than ever, 70 per cent of SME employers believe that extra-curricular activities, such as taking part in volunteering, educational overseas trips and expeditions, sports and musical pursuits, make young people stand out from the crowd when it comes to applying for jobs.

Two thirds believe that candidates who take part in extra-curricular activities are more successful employees once they start working at a company, due to the experience and range of transferrable skills they possess, while 57 per cent say that these young people progress more quickly within the company than those who have not taken part in these experiences.

Just one in three employers place more importance on academic record in job applications than the ability to be able to demonstrate life experience, while only a quarter believe that life experience doesn’t matter on a CV.

Matt Eastlake, group managing director of World Challenge says, ‘The research demonstrates that at a time when 16-24 year olds are nearly three times more likely to be unemployed, and when there is a fight for jobs for those making their first step onto the career ladder, businesses want to see the person behind the CV to help them differentiate between otherwise indistinguishable applications.

‘Extra-curricular activities allow young people to let their personalities shine through in an extremely competitive environment and also provide them with the skills they need to thrive in the workplace and progress quickly, including resilience, leadership, teamwork and cultural awareness.’

The research also demonstrates interesting regional differences. For instance, employers based in London are more likely to look for excellent communication skills, creativity and cultural awareness in job applicants, due to the city’s multiculturalism.

In addition, respondents from the North and Scotland value extra-curricular activities on a CV slightly more highly than other areas of the country, with the Midlands placing the least importance on such experience.

Medium-sized SMEs with a bigger employee base were also more likely to value applicants with good extra-curricular experience than smaller or micro businesses, and consider those applicants more likely to progress quickly within the organisation.

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Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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