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Helping apprentices progress into Higher Education

Making Applications

CVs

A Curriculum Vitae (CV) provides an employer with a summary of your education, training and experience. You are likely to see CVs requested in job advertisements. The CV gives the employer the basic information on which to decide who to interview for a post. This may also relate to application forms or letters of application. In terms of applications to Higher Education Courses - the CV may or may not be required - dependent on whether the normal application process has its own forms. However, you are likely to find the CV a useful template from which to ensure that you include all relevant information in the application form.

In responding to a job advertisement a quick way to summarise your achievements and qualifications will be to send out your CV.

If you have to supply your CV, always follow the instructions in the job advertisement and ensure you include the information requested. In some cases you may decide to send out a speculative letter to a particular employer seeking employment opportunities. Again, the CV can be sent when a job has not been advertised (speculative CV). However, you should always send a covering letter with your CV.

To save time, and reduce the effort involved in the application process, it’s often worth putting together a general, all purpose, CV. This is one that can be copied and sent for a range of job applications. The basic template of the general CV can then be amended to make it more job specific.

What do you include in a CV?

The CV should summarise relevant personal information about your qualifications, training and work experience. It is a personal marketing tool which gives you the chance to sell yourself to potential employers. Use it to highlight your strong points. Keep in mind your objective is to get an interview.

CVs can also include details about personal qualities, skills and achievements. As these are likely to change as your apprenticeship and work experience progresses you need to spend some time in keeping your CV up to date.

Where do I get the information from for the CV?

In order to put together an appropriate CV you will need to collect a range of appropriate information about yourself. Concentrate on collecting together pieces of factual information about yourself - for instance dates of starting and leaving schools, courses etc, grades of qualifications you have undertaken as part of the Apprenticeship and of other courses. If you have completed a record of achievement, you can use this as the basis of your information.

Other important information to include is any other activities that you have undertaken that would show you in a positive light. - these could include voluntary and community work, part-time jobs, hobbies, sports, school activities, any neighbourhood groups and activities you have taken part in.

Do some research on the organisation

You should also spend some time researching the company or organisation with whom you are seeking to get an interview. This can be done in the local library, or by the internet. The more information you have on the company the easier it is likely to be to consider the types of skills they may be seeking and try to match yours to likely requirements.

Read the job advertisement carefully and list the requirements - job title, experience, skills, qualifications, and match how you meet the requirements in your CV.

How should I structure my CV?

Personal details
Generally your name and personal details should be given at the top i.e.

Name, address, telephone number (including day contact number), date of birth.

(NB The Equality Act 2010 prevents discrimination on age, however, age relating to Apprenticeships and funding is still taken into account).

Other personal details can go either under the name or at the end of the CV. There is no hard and fast set order for the structure of your CV, but it is important to apply common sense to the structure. Likely categories you will want to include are education, qualifications, and employment; however you might want to emphasise skills, abilities and achievements gained through other life experiences, if these are important to the job role or the course you are applying for. This is especially important if your work experience through employment or voluntary means is limited. In structuring your CV to emphasise skills, abilities and achievements you are producing what is referred to as a ‘functional CV’.

Follow this with:-

Education
Dates, names of schools, colleges and years of attendance.

Qualifications
Course undertaken and qualifications achieved - including examinations, subjects, grades and dates.

Work Experience/Work History
It's normal practice to start with your current or most recent job role. You also need to give the dates (month and year) of employment, name of organisation and address. Give a brief account of your responsibilities. Achievements in your various jobs can also be included here as bullet points.

You can also include any holiday jobs or temporary and voluntary work you have undertaken.

Achievements
You will want to highlight any specific achievements. Important elements may be in the sporting field or for any voluntary activities or organisations you have been involved with - for example Scouts, Guides, and Community Service Volunteers. They could also be work related, i.e. ‘apprentice of the year’ or personal, such as prizes, or non-academic qualifications like first aid or sports coaching.

Interests and Hobbies
Interests and hobbies may be of interest if they are related in any way to the potential job - or could just demonstrate your aptitude and awareness.

Additional Information
Perhaps you have other information that hasn’t fitted into the other parts of the CV that might support your application. Do you have special knowledge or experience or perhaps speak another language? Are you a member of any organisations, clubs or societies that also reflect your interests and activities?

References
It may not be appropriate to list referees until a later stage in the process. You could just add a note under the section that referees can be provided if requested. One thing that is essential is, if you do provide the names of referees, make sure you have their agreement by asking them first! If you don't then the glowing reference you planned on receiving may not be quite as fulsome as you anticipated.

Presentation
Presentation of the CV is most important. If your CV is scruffily or unattractively laid out, or has unintelligible hand writing, crossings out or is daubed with correction fluid it is likely to be rejected. The best CVs are presented in a word-processed format, FULLY SPELL-CHECKED, and effectively laid out.

Be brief, but to the point. Keep the overall length to a maximum of 2 sides of A4. Always put a positive spin on the information, and don't feel the need to explain any omissions or gaps in your work, training or other information. Be prepared to cover these at interview - a good interviewer is likely to explore these issues.

A recent innovation with CVs has been the video CV. Here is a useful video that gives you tips on the use of this form of media.

Related CV websites

Application Forms

Completion of the application form is the first stage in securing a job, or being accepted on a course. It is therefore an important document and should be completed with thought and care.

The following sites will help you with this:

Other sites for guidance on letter writing

Bear in mind the following points:

  • Read and carefully follow ALL the instructions
  • Complete all the relevant parts
  • Run off a practice copy on the photocopier-or practise on blank paper and making sure your answers are neat and clear, with no spelling or grammar errors
  • Make and keep a photocopy of the completed form in case you get an interview

Information required on application forms
Use your CV template to assist with completion of information such as personal details, education, qualifications, work experience and referees.

Where relevant use the additional information/supporting statement section to give additional weight to your application details.

You might need to consider what the organisation is looking for from applicants - the requirements of the job. Include examples of how you match the required interests, skills, experience, personal characteristics and the like.

Preparation

Bear in mind that the aim of any job or course application, by letter, CV or application form, is to get an interview. If you are lucky enough to secure an interview it is important that you spend time preparing yourself thoroughly for the interview itself.

Remember you may only have this chance to get a hearing. Try to do as well as you can at the interview, by being positive and looking sharp. If the ball doesn’t roll for you and you are unsuccessful, then it’s worth trying to learn from the experience.

Preparation

Find out about the organisation -

  • Is it part of a bigger group?
  • How many sub divisions do they have?
  • How long have they been established?
  • What business are they in?
  • What is their main product or service?
  • Who are their customers?
  • Does working for the firm give any particular benefits that others may not? Try to find out as much as you can about the organisation. A library or internet search may assist in gathering some information.
    Think about yourself - What skills, qualities and achievements have you got that would interest the interviewer and be particularly relevant to this organisation. Read your application form again and highlight anything you think is important to raise at the interview, or include in some of your answers.
Know how to get there

It sounds pretty obvious - but it’s easy to make a miscalculation and arrive late.

This doesn’t look good. Plan your journey - make sure you know exactly where and when the interview will be and don’t forget to acknowledge the offer of an interview by informing them that you will be attending. Plan your journey and aim to arrive at the reception area of the organisation in good time - and this means comfortably 10 minutes before the interview starts. If possible, have a dry run to the establishment, so you can gauge the length of time it will take you.

Check the location on a map if you are unsure of the exact location. Internet mapping websites are invaluable for this. If locations are still not clear telephone them and ask to be sent exact location details. Decide on which methods of transport you will use to get to the venue - and check timetables of the bus or train rather than relying on luck - you need to arrive at the interview in a composed state rather than hot bothered and fraught after a dysfunctional journey.

Personal Appearance

Despite the increased casualisation in dress codes in recent years you must dress appropriately for the interview. If you don't wear appropriate clothes or pay attention to your general appearance you risk facing the possibility of inbuilt prejudice in the interview process. Aim to look clean, neat and tidy. Get your clothes ready the day before - rather than relying on a last minute wardrobe rummage that is likely to rack up your stress level before even setting off of the interview.

It’s a good idea to prepare a list of questions. These can cover key points you may wish to know, and it also makes it look as though you are interested in the job, and have thought about some of the issues beforehand - giving the impression that you are prepared. Keep it short, take it with you and ask the questions when the interviewer/s ask you if you have any questions to ask.

On arrival at the interview

It is important to remember that the interview starts as you arrive at the organisation. The process may involve a tour of the site or building. Jungle telegraphs operate in most organisations. Your approach attitude and behaviour will be under the microscope. Reception staff may be asked for their impressions of you. Take a deep breath to calm yourself before you go in and step into the interview situation with confidence.

Ask appropriate questions and take the opportunity to find out whether you think you'd like working for the organisation. Look at the appearance and demeanour of staff already employed. Do they look happy? Are they harassed and stressed? Do they look effective and efficient or casual and sloppy?

During the interview
A few common sense things to remember during the course of the interview are:

  • Be polite, courteous and respectful at all times and thank the interviewer(s) for seeing you at the end.
  • Be alert and enthusiastic and appear interested.
  • Be positive, you have at least been successful at getting an interview.
  • Try to cultivate a pleasant demeanour - people will not warm to you if you appear sour and churlish.
  • Listen carefully to the questions and think before answering.

Turn the tables - think about what the interviewer is looking for!
The interviewer’s aim is to get the right person. The interviewer is assessing if you:

  • are well motivated
  • have initiative
  • have prepared well
  • have evidence of the qualifications and experience required for the role

Some likely questions you might face
Work out some responses to these typical questions:

  • Did you have a good journey? How did you get here? Have you been to this part of town before? (These are ‘icebreakers’ to make you feel more at ease)
  • What can you tell us about yourself?
  • Why do you want to be a...?
  • What can you offer us?
  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • What do you see yourself doing in 5-10 years’ time?
  • What are your hobbies/interests?
  • What do you consider your greatest strength and weakness?
After the interview

Thank the people you have met. Take note of what will happen next, for example they might write to you formally offering you the placement/job/place on the course. If you have been unsuccessful, try to get some feedback from the interviewers. If this is not offered contact the interviewers and ask for someone to give you feedback on your performance. Remember there are likely to be many applicants for each job and each is competing with you. You may not have made the grade because of only minor deficiencies, some unprepared answers or the fact that someone has got experience or attributes that you haven’t. Overall the reasons for not being successful may be minor.

Take some time to reflect on your performance:

  • Consider whether you prepared well enough
  • Review what you said - or check with a friend or family member on what your responses were to certain questions - for instance your strengths and weaknesses, and make notes on these for future reference
  • Learn from the experience and try to improve in the future
  • Remain positive
  • Keep trying!