Before the new year, Skyzack got together with Damian Capper from the DWP (Department of Work) Macclesfield to discuss challenges faced by many young people in finding work today. He mentioned that sometimes the difficulty, among other struggles, lies in the application process itself; from CVs and cover letters to interviews. He then introduced us to their Mentoring Circle initiative that has been successfully implemented in various locations nationwide. The Mentoring Circle initiative comprised of businesses offering 6 hours of their time across 3 weeks to groups of 3 to 6 young people looking for work, to help them look over application processes, discuss obstacles when looking for work and giving them guidance and advice on standing out from other candidates. As part of Skyzack’s mission is to help young people get into business for the first time, we were thrilled to partake in this initiative.
Our first session was spent getting to know the individuals within the group. We discussed the worries and annoyances that they faced when looking for work and the negative impacts of these issues. The concerns raised in this session included the following…
Lack of experience
This has been an age-old issue faced by many young people when looking for work for the first time. Companies want candidates with experience; however, they are not willing to hire them to give them the experience to begin with.
Unfortunately, smaller companies are more reluctant to hire candidates without experience. This is often because they do not have the time or capacity to train someone completely new to their line of work. Smaller companies also tend to be family run, hence less likely to hire someone outside of their circle.
The candidates mentioned how highly competitive the job market is these days. Companies with 100’s of applicants will usually skim through CVs, dismissing many of the candidates without a second thought.
Lack of Feedback
The group expressed how frustrating the lack of feedback from companies that rejected their application is. They also stated how this, in turn, discourages them from bettering their application for future job prospects.
CV vs Interviews
Some members of the group expressed that they had positive reactions to their well-presented CV and covering letter, but struggled to progress beyond the interview stage. On the other hand, others said that they preferred and excelled in face-to-face interviews, yet found it difficult to secure one perhaps due to their CV/application being filtered out at the initial screening stage.
Goals for the sessions
After learning more about the candidates concerns and struggles, we discussed what they would like to achieve by the end of our 3-week mentoring sessions. We eventually funnelled it down to the following three main aspects.
- Enhancing CVs and covering letters
- Gaining confidence in applying for jobs
- Improving interview skills
For our second session, we asked the group to bring in their individual CVs. We quickly saw that the CVs were either too long and unconcise or irrelevant to specified job roles. What’s more, we have found that candidates do not always include covering letters with their applications. By not doing this, they’re foregoing the opportunity to show potential employers why they are the right person for the job. This in mind, we advised researching the company before writing a covering letter. This, along with demonstrating an interest in the business, allows them to keep the company values in mind whilst applying themselves to the job role. During this session, we also gave them basic advice on what to be mindful of during interviews. We shared what Skyzack looks out for when conducting interviews; how to present yourself, questions to ask, conversation points, body language etc.
In our third and final session of the Mentoring Circle initiative, we conducted mock interviews using the candidate’s new CVs and covering letters. We could see that their confidence had grown from the first time we met, as it came across well during the individual mock interviews.
The overall feedback of the sessions was very positive as expressed to DWP. The candidates said that they found it helpful that active employers were giving them meaningful advice that they can utilise in their ongoing job search.
From our perspective, as a small business who are always on the look-out for giving opportunities to young people, we found taking part in the mentoring circle initiative to be very valuable. It gave us an insight to their viewpoints and various challenges they face when applying for jobs. It made us realise the importance of being open and considerate towards young people applying for jobs and that they are more than just their CVs and covering letters. We would highly recommend other businesses big or small to take part in the fulfilling initiative.