Let’s face it, job hunting can be a little daunting at the best of times. Not only do you have to identify a vacancy that seems a good fit for your skills, you’ve then got to put yourself out there and sell your strengths to potential employers to convince them you’re the right person for the job. Then there’s the waiting game, where you sit back and hope you get a call for an interview …
No matter your age or level of experience, securing a job is challenging – and a global pandemic certainly doesn’t make it any easier. But the good news is, that there are still employers out there looking to hire a new apprentices and trainees and with the right cover letter and resume you can put yourself front and centre and in the best position to secure an interview.
Writing a cover letter and resume that looks the part and has the key information is obviously important – but with a few small tweaks and insider tips you can elevate your application from everyday-okay to stand-out-from-the-crowd interview-worthy.
So, if you’re ready to prepare a cover letter and resume that will get you noticed (and hopefully secure you an interview), read on to discover our top tips.
The cover letter – why it matters
While your cover letter may seem like nothing more than an aside to the more important resume, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is, that your cover letter is often the first thing any recruiter or employer will read – and if it doesn’t grab their attention or spark their interest, it may mean your resume is relegated to the bottom of the pile.
So why is this? Doesn’t your resume include all the important stuff about your skills and experience? Yes, it does – however, for recruiters and employers who are pressed for time, working their way through tens or even hundreds of applications, reviewing each one in detail may not always be possible. That’s why a winning cover letter can be your secret weapon in standing out. Many recruiters will read the cover letters first and start organising their shortlist from there – so it’s essential that you put the time and effort into crafting a compelling and original cover letter that will get you noticed.
Cover letter writing tips
If you are writing your first cover letter or updating one that has not been effective so far, it can be hard to know where to start. Using an online template as a guide can be really helpful, especially when it comes to presenting it well and organising the information in a way that makes sense. But, avoid at all costs copying and pasting the generic information – be sure to add your own flavour and personality to the letter. It should always sound professional, but have a conversational tone at the same time. A good way to achieve this is to imagine you are writing it as an introduction, to a real person you will meet soon at the interview (which is hopefully exactly what will happen).
Cover letter must-haves
Now that you’ve got a template ready and an awareness of how to write it, here’s a list of what you must include in your cover letter:
- your current and best contact details clearly at the top (your name, address, phone number and email)
- address the letter to the person in charge of recruiting (if you’re not sure from the advertisement who that is, you can always call the business and find out)
- briefly explain why you are interested in the role and why you are a good fit (mention the job title and name of the business to avoid sounding generic)
- touch on any skills and experience you have that are relevant to this role (even if you haven’t specific work experience in a similar role, highlight a relevant skill or attribute)
- finish by thanking them for their time and mention how you are looking forward to discussing the role and your suitability soon (it’s good to end on a positive and invite a follow-up).
As mentioned above, try to add a little personality while keeping it professional. Avoid using too many stock-standard statements – if you need inspiration check out some examples online, or ask a friend, relative or teacher to review your letter and offer advice.
The resume – making it count
Once you’ve nailed your cover letter, you’ve got to back it up with a resume that cements your position as a valuable potential candidate. Don’t be disheartened if you have little or no previous work experience – with a little creativity, you can highlight your skills and attributes in other ways.
For example, if you have a track record of getting your assignments done in time at school, this is a great way to highlight your motivation, time-management and organisational skills. And if you play team sport, this demonstrates working well within a team.
Resume writing tips
As an aspiring trainee or apprentice, your resume doesn’t need to showcase a long list of work experience to meet the selection criteria – however, it does need to tell the recruiter enough about you and your skills to convince them you are someone who could do the job.
You can search online for templates or samples to get the layout right, and this will help you organise the information in a logical and structured way. A resume that is 1–2 pages long is ideal – shorter than a full page will look too brief, while more than two pages is a bit long.
If you use a template it will have suggestions for different headings, but feel free to tailor these to suit the position and your experience. At a minimum you should include the following:
- your full contact details again (your name, address, phone number and email)
- a career objective that summarises your aspirations (2-3 sentences is good)
- your skills that relate to the position (including any that are listed on the job description)
- your work experience (include dates, job title, company name and a summary of your role)
- your qualifications (this could be your driver’s license, first aid certificate or apprenticeship)
- referees that can be contacted (try and list at least two and always notify them when you have included them in an application, so they are not caught off guard if they receive a call).
Try to keep the information you include as relevant to the trainee or apprentice role you are applying for as possible. A good way to achieve this is to make sure you have covered all of the skills and attributes mentioned in the job advertisement somewhere in your application.
Final tips for aspiring apprentices and trainees
It can seem a bit of a task to prepare a cover letter and resume and it will take a little time initially to get it right. But putting in the effort is well worth it. Not only does it give you more chance of getting the all-important interview, it also means you have a cover letter and resume that you can use as a base for your future applications, tweaking as needed.
Once you’ve finished, always proofread it to check for spelling or grammatical errors – these are very off-putting to a potential employer! Even better, ask a friend or family member to have a read through for you, as a second set of eyes can sometimes pick up things you may have missed.
And finally, good luck!