CIPD finds majority of recruiters fail to ask about volunteering experience

Employers are routinely missing out on top talent by not asking them about relevant volunteering experience on either their application forms, or during job interviews, a CIPD report has revealed.

The findings – published in the ‘Unlock new talent: How can you integrate social action in recruitment’ report – found that only 16 per cent of employers invite applicants to talk about volunteering in their application process, while only 31 per cent ask them about it in a face-to-face interview.

This means that swathes of people with the skills employers seek are being missed, the CIPD warned.

Peter Cheese, CIPD chief executive, said: “Candidates often fail to highlight their social action experience unless given the opportunity to do so, as many still regard traditional work experience as being more important to employers.”

He added: “By failing to uncover this experience during the recruitment stage, employers could be missing out on enthusiastic individuals who have precisely the types of employability skills organisations tell us they need and struggle to find.”

Although less than one-fifth of employers currently ask about volunteering experience, employers do value it, with 67 per cent of employers reporting that entry-level candidates with previous social action experience demonstrate better employability skills. 

According to employers surveyed, the top three skills developed through volunteering are teamwork (82 per cent), communication (80 per cent) and understanding the local community (45 per cent).

In response to the results, Cheese urged more employers to ask about the experience candidates might have in this area. He said: “We believe there is a strong case for social action to be integrated more widely into organisations’ people development and resourcing strategies.”

The report highlighted a number of organisations in the report for their best practice approach in making sure that volunteering skills were discussed, including PwC, Barclays, British Gas and National Grid.

Richard Irwin, PwC’s head of student recruitment, said: “Our experience shows that whilst A-Level assessment can indicate potential, for far too many students there are other factors that influence capability. Providing opportunities for candidates to demonstrate skills gained outside of academia, including social action, is one way of ensuring we are a progressive employer.”

The Prince of Wales is backing the #iwill campaign, which aims to increase the number of young people taking part in social action by an extra 1.5 million by 2020 (up from 40 per cent participation to 60 per cent). 

The report was jointly published by Step up to Serve.