The keys to a successful application for an apprenticeship are a good CV and cover letter. This is how you create them.

A CV and cover letter are your opportunity to show your prospective employer that you have the skills and experience that make you suitable for the apprenticeship you’re applying for.

Before you start make sure you have researched the role, employer and apprenticeship standard.

Writing a CV can be stressful, especially if you’re starting from scratch. Although there is no right or wrong way to create the perfect application, there are a few things you should always remember to include.

Here are a few pointers on how to write them:

How to produce a good CV for your apprenticeship application

Clear presentation: Type up your CV using a clear, uncomplicated font (Times New Roman or Arial tend to work best, in around a size 12 font). Most employers will ask for CVs in a PDF or Word Doc format. Having a clean and tidy CV is the most important thing; awkward or very visual CVs might get filtered out if the employer uses any kind of screening software.

Keep it concise: Keep your CV to one page. Managers and other professionals focused on hiring will be busy and have many applications to consider. Plus, keeping to a single page will force you to be concise and stick to the important points.

Organise your skills: Categorise your skills, experience and achievements under the following headings: work experience, education and extracurricular activities. Part-time jobs go under work, secondary school under education, and anything you’ve done in your own time should go under extracurricular activities. List them in chronological order, with the most recent first. Restrict the information you include to dates, locations and, most importantly, achievements. Employers want to see what you’ve accomplished.

Customise it to the job you want: Tailor your CV to the job you’re applying for. Use the job description to match the skills you include with the ones the employer is looking for. There’s no points for subtlety – don’t be afraid to be obvious about which criteria you match, and why!

Check it: Make sure your CV is mistake-free, including spelling and grammar. Read it over several times and then ask someone else to check it. Show it to a careers advisor who is trained to help you do this kind of thing. Then check it again.

How to produce a good cover letter for your apprenticeship application

Why you want the job: Lead with what attracted you to the job in the first place, keeping it to two or three sentences. You might be attracted to the company, the position may offer certain benefits, or the career area is something for which you have a passion. Let them know why you’re interested.

Key person specifications: Almost every job advert will list the key qualities that a person must have in order to get the job. These will range from previous experience in the particular field, to demonstrable skills such as teamwork and organisation. Depending on the job you’re after, they may include more specialist requirements, such as experience in certain software packages, or familiarity with certain methodologies and regulations. Match your own experiences and achievements with as many as you can in your cover letter, outlining what you meet and how you’ve met it, as succinctly as possible.

Anything else you bring to the table: An avid reader? Keen on sports? Add some personal details to close, to give the employer an insight into you as a person.

Other points to remember

References: You’ll need at least two references when applying for a job. These are usually sought once you’ve been offered the position. They’ll be former employers, teachers, or anyone who knows you well, although relatives and friends are out of bounds.

Format: Every employer will accept CVs and cover letters in different formats, but as a rule, expect to submit both as Word documents or PDFs, via email. There may be application forms to fill out online instead of submitting a CV and cover letter. Rest assured, these almost always follow the path of a CV, so you’ll be able to transfer the information from one to the other with relative ease.

Accompanying evidence or information: Certain jobs, such as graphic design or journalism, will require a portfolio of work, to demonstrate previous experience. This requirement will be made explicit, but it’s worth remembering that it may come up, so you can take the time to build one.

Track your applications: Remember to keep a record of all the apprenticeships you apply to, along with their closing dates. If you don’t hear back after a few weeks, contact the person dealing with your application to ask about the interview process or to provide any feedback if you were not successful this time.

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