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Job applications reveal a lack of basic skills, finds survey


Students are not acquiring the skills or focus necessary to secure good jobs after graduation, according to Lewis PR.

The company's third annual graduate review - based on over 1000 applications for trainee positions - highlighted problems with presentation, lack of research and an ignorance of the media. The company receives around 100 CVs per week, the majority of which contain spelling mistakes, are addressed to the wrong person or refer to the wrong job. Lewis is calling for universities to earn their increased fees by taking more responsibility for preparing undergraduates for the job market.

Toni Castle, HR director at LEWIS said: "Only six applications were worth following up by phone out of 80 we’ve received this week. A Swedish applicant demonstrated a better understanding of the UK media than his UK counterparts by knowing facts such as the differences in readership of the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph."

"On this evidence students are needlessly acquiring debt at university. They’re simply not acquiring the skills worthy of a job that will enable them to pay off their loans," she concluded. "In many ways the best educated people in the country are also the greenest when they leave higher education. It's certainly an area where universities must do better."

The record for the worst application contained 17 spelling mistakes in the covering letter. An incredible 90 per cent of applicants disqualify themselves before the end of the first page.

In an effort to gain attention many applicants go completely over the top. One wrote: "I exist! I live! Seize me!" Another burnt the edges off their CV, saying: "As you can see from the singe marks on my application, I’m red hot."

Even if they pass the CV stage another recurring problem among candidates is lack of interview preparation. Many have done little or no research into the company before attending. Applicants just as frequently do not have an adequate understanding of how PR works, let alone a vague idea of what the role might involve.

"More A-levels are being passed every year, and more students than ever are attending university so there is no shortage of academically competent candidates," said Chris Lewis, founder of the company. "PR requires good presentation, but graduates don’t seem to realise that attention to detail is equally important. The falling standard of literacy is perhaps the most alarming development. In an age of increased course fees, this needs to be urgently addressed. How else can you explain this introduction from an arts graduate, ‘I’m looking for a career in pubic relations...’?"


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