The brilliant Kai Williamson shares his thoughts on how to stand out in the application process to land that dream apprenticeship. We were lucky enough to meet Kai in our first round of delivery in spring 2019. We hope you enjoy the read and find his four principles a handy guide to application success.
Nothing worth having is easy
Getting the apprenticeship of your dreams isn’t an easy feat. But the age-old maxim ‘nothing worth having is easy’ exists for a reason.
An apprenticeship, in a field you’re passionate about, will have a long-lasting impact on your future trajectory. But if you’ve got your eyes on a great apprenticeship opportunity, it likely a whole host of others have too. And as apprenticeships are now open to people of all ages – even candidates with degrees – the competition is tougher than ever!
If you’re a school leaver looking to do an apprenticeship with little work experience, this can be even more daunting. Well, fear not, as here’s a framework for standing out amongst a sea of applicants, guaranteeing you greater success at landing that amazing opportunity about which you have been dreaming.
To write this post on job application tips, I had to reflect on what’s helped me secure every job I’ve applied for since leaving school. And what helped me secure a life-changing apprenticeship in an industry of which I had little to no experience.
I managed to boil it down into four words, all conveniently starting with the letter ‘H’. I’ve listed them roughly in order of how they would manifest in each stage of your typical job application journey;
Working to the assumption that you’ve mastered the basics of job application skills (well-written CV, appropriate dress code for job interview etc.), the four H’s exist to (hopefully!) enhance and improve your application process.
Every action begins with a thought that much we can agree. Likewise, every job application begins with the thought of actually wanting the job. Let me pose a question to you; next time you’re trawling the ‘gov.uk/apprenticeships’ website on a Thursday evening with your eye on an awesome apprenticeship in a great company – ask yourself, ‘how badly do I want this?’.
If your answer is ‘sort of’ or ‘quite a lot’, then I’ve got news for you. There are people out there who would bite someone’s hand off for the chance to secure that position. And I’d bet that your average entry-level position at companies such as the industry-leading Universal Music Group, tech powerhouse Google, or creative pioneer AndRising, will probably have applications in the hundreds, if not thousands!
If you apply for a job with a wishy-washy attitude, it will show in your application and interview. And you need that authentic hunger and desire for the job to stand out.
This point is especially true for all you school leavers looking to get your teeth stuck into an apprenticeship:
The beauty of apprenticeships is that they provide an opportunity to get your foot in the door to companies that would traditionally be tough to get into without going to university. Apprenticeships offer you a way in when you have no real work or industry experience.
Given the immense competition for roles, how do you stand out? For your application to have a fighting chance, it’s so important to do your homework on the industry, company, department, and job role etc. Building on hunger; if you want the job and want it bad, you’ll want to stand out by learning everything you can about it.
There are many stages along the application process that allow you to show you’ve done your homework, And it typically starts with the covering letter. A covering letter that boasts about how great you are for the role will always be less impressive than one that demonstrates knowledge of the role and company. And that also shows how your personality and attitude are a perfect fit.
Stand out at interview
Another incredible chance to show you’ve done your homework is at the interview stage. If you’ve spent the better part of a week doing a free online Digital Marketing courses and studying the intricacies and challenges the company faces, it will naturally show in the way you answer the interviewer’s questions.
It also creates an excellent rapport with the interviewer when you start wowing them with questions about the role on offer and department that you’ve discovered in the pre-interview prep you’ve done on the company.
‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ — do your homework before even applying for the role!
So you’ve decided to apply for the apprenticeship. You’re hungry for it. You want it real bad. You’ve done your homework, and have spent all the time you can teaching yourself the basics of marketing, engineering, or whatever field you’re trying to break into. You’ve watched YouTube videos and read articles about the industry you’re looking to venture into, and you feel you’re ready to smash your job application and covering letter out the park.
At this stage, you’re probably already in the top 50% of applicants for doing so. The question is, how can you push your application even further to get into the top 10% of candidates?
By thinking big, thinking outside the box, being fearless with your methods, getting seriously creative with your ideas. Stand out by going above and beyond in your application. If I were to boil all of that down to one word, it would be hustle. It’s not easy to teach someone how to apply a hustler mindset to a job application in a single paragraph, so I’ll try to show you a few real-life examples of job application hustle:
A few years ago, my cousin, aged 17 at the time, wanted to work in his local Apple Store. At that time working at the Apple Store was the ultimate young person’s customer service job – stellar hours, great pay, and killer discounts – as such they received a tonne of CVs daily for upcoming positions. Keep in mind this was back in the day where one had to print a CV and hand it out,
After several attempts at applying for Apple and hearing nothing back, he decided to do something extraordinary to get the job. Realising that his CV was just one in a hundred piled on some manager’s desk, he set about making his CV stand out, not only in content but in aesthetics.
So he paid close to £20 to have his CV printed professionally on thick duck egg yellow parchment paper, with gilded gold edges and personally handed it to the manager with a huge smile. And his CV immediately caught the managers eye, and he was asked for a call back the same day and started his first shift the same weekend.
Stand out by being creative
Nice hustle! The moral of the story isn’t that paying to have your CV professionally printed will get you the job, but the reality is that my cousin came up with a creative solution to increase his chances of getting noticed. Think outside the box and hustle.
Another great demonstration of hustling came from a colleague at a contact centre in a bank. She had zero customer service experience and no banking experience, but she didn’t let that stop her from applying, getting the job and eventually becoming one of the top performers in her department.
It went something like this: She realised she had to do two things to compensate for lack of experience. Firstly, she got creative by relating the little experience she did have to similar skill-sets that her job would require, And secondly, she did her homework on the company, so she understood it inside-out!
As part of her job application process, she was asked to ‘name a time when she went above and beyond for a customer?’. She answered along the lines of, “as a school leaver, I don’t have any real customer service experience, but as the founder of your illustrious company once said – ‘hire for attitude, train for skill’. So despite never having to deal with customers directly, I am excellent with people due to my calming tone, active listening, and understanding, caring nature. And I’m eager to learn the skill of turning your customers into customer advocates!”.
Make it relevant
Genius! Not only did she drop a contextually relevant line in there from the founder, but she also related how her personality matched the job, irrespective of experience (call centres need good listeners, with great telephone manner, which she described herself as innately having!). She didn’t let her lack of experience stop her from getting a banking job. And neither should you when applying for your dream apprenticeship!
My final example of hustle is the entire movie, The Pursuit of Happyness. If you haven’t seen it, watch it, and you’ll witness a masterclass in the 4 H’s – particularly hustle.
All of these examples are more than doable with apprenticeship applications. And show that getting creative and applying a bit of hustle takes and application from good to great. This is especially true if you’re applying for a creative apprenticeship!
I believe humility is an extremely underrated trait. And that being humble accelerates personal development and greatly improves interpersonal relationships. Applying humility to the job application process, particularly entry-level, will undoubtedly assist you at every stage. Including when you’ve been successful, and you find yourself in the workplace.
Strictly focusing on apprenticeship positions, employers are almost invariably looking for capable applicants who are teachable. People who are eager to learn, and are a pleasure to work alongside. Humble candidates who are aware of their lack of experience and knowledge. And ones that recognise how much they have to learn in their role. This comes across far better than the candidate who thinks he knows it all.
Humility shows your prospective employer that you’re willing to ask questions if you’re unsure and avoid errors and mistakes. And that you’re willing to work hard to learn about their role, and much more. Humility tells your prospective employer that you’re not the type to cause any disharmony in their team.
To stand out, look within
This particular H isn’t a simple fix to your application process. To allow true humility to shine through, look within and adjusting your demeanour and approach. One of the best ways to demonstrate you’re humble is to ask questions at the job interview stage. Make sure you have some intelligent, thought-through job-relevant questions at the ready.
Another great way to express humility is through politeness and courtesy. Starting an interview with ‘Thank you so much for inviting me in today’. And finish with ‘I hope to hear from you, I’d be honoured to be a part of your company’. Two simple ways to make a great first impression, and get your name and face remembered.
Stand out with the four H’s
Hunger, homework, hustle, humility: four H’s to apply to your job application and interview process. If you ponder on them and implement them, I’m confident you’ll land the apprenticeship of your dreams. And if you have any questions or fancy a chat, drop me a line on my LinkedIn.
Good luck with your applications!
How do you stand out in applications?
Please do share your comments and experiences with us. What’s helped you land that dream role? What preparation tips help you stand out?