I spent an interesting and enjoyable afternoon last Friday working with a team of Sixth Formers as part of their Recruitment day. The idea was that the girls were in role as applicants for a job with a company they’d been role-playing with in the morning and staff and governors were in role as employers.

The recruitment exercise I worked on was based on a model that is becoming very common nowadays, not only at graduate recruitment centres but at job interviews for many companies across a range of sectors. No longer are candidates always interviewed one-to-one; they will often be interviewed as part of a panel or will be observed taking part in a group task.

The girls I role-played with were great – they collaborated well and yet managed to convey their strengths as individuals. We moved in and out of role so that we could evaluate each other’s performance.

What the exercise showed is that there is a raft of competencies that our girls will need when they seek employment that go way beyond having academic qualifications and good presentation skills. They will also have to know themselves very well: one of the first things an observer will try to ascertain is the natural role someone will adopt in a team – are you a shaper or a coordinator; an evaluator or a completer?

Off-timetable events like the one we held last week are one way to help girls develop these competencies but we probably need to start much earlier that post-16 and we need to acknowledge the importance of areas in the curriculum that naturally foster skills such as collaboration, team work and the ability to listen (actively) to others. Sport is an obvious area, but so, too, are Dance, Music and Drama. There are also lots of extra-curricular activities that are supportive (and were ones on which our Sixth Formers referred to a great deal during the exercise): Duke of Edinburgh, Young Enterprise, House activities and so on.

A reminder, perhaps, that it cannot all be about the EBacc!

If you want to read a bit more about this, look at these helpful downloads from University of Leeds Careers Centre.