How to stand out with a winning apprenticeship application

An apprenticeship is nothing new. It’s one of the oldest forms of education and one of the most effective for developing practical and valuable skills. More and more entrepreneurs are seeking out apprentices to help grow their business.

More and more entrepreneurs are seeking out apprentices to help grow their business. Click To Tweet

A good apprenticeship has tremendous upsides for both the entrepreneur and the apprentice. The entrepreneur gets creative labor at a very affordable rate, and the apprentice gets the opportunity to get some hands on experience with a valuable skill.

This is a guide for how to apply for an apprenticeship and stand out from the competition.

Applying for an apprenticeship

We recently went through over 150 applications for our content marketing apprenticeships. I have spoken with other entrepreneurs who have received around 500 for a similar position.

It’s surprisingly simple to stand out in a pool of over 150 people; most of the applications we looked through were missing 1 or more key elements that we were looking for in a candidate.

Research the person who is hiring

Before you apply, it’s best to have a good understanding of the person that is hiring you and what their needs and interests are. Take some time to look at their social media channels and research what they are posting about. Find their personal blog and read through some of their posts.

Look at what kind of language they use. What is important to them? How can you relate to them?

Look for opportunities to engage with them outside of the job application. This small extra effort can get you noticed and create some familiarity. Here’s a few easy ways to do this:

  • Share their content – Sharing their content and adding your thoughts and takeaways is an easy way to flatter and get noticed.
  • Add thoughtful comments to their blog – Show that you can contribute to the conversations they are already having through a comment. You can ask a thought provoking question or respond to some of the ideas and statements in their content.
  • Share useful content with them – As you get a better feel for what they are interested in, you may come across some new content to share with them that is interesting or would help solve a problem that they have. It does not have to be related to the job either, if they mentioned a book or a band that they were excited about, see if you can find something similar that they might also enjoy.
  • Find mutual friends or connections that could serve as a recommendation – Do you have shared connections on Linkedin? Or mutual contacts on Twitter? These people may help you get your foot in the door.

Here’s 1 big thing you shouldn’t do:

  • Add them as a friend on Facebook unannounced – Depending on how people use social media, some accounts may be more geared toward their personal lives. If you don’t know them personally, adding your potential employer as a friend on Facebook out of the blue may not work in your favor.

Lead with “you” not “I”

When you are writing your application, focus on the perspective of the person hiring you, not your own perspective. Instead of stating everything about yourself, i.e. “I have this experience… I have these skills…”, frame it in the context of something they want, i.e. “You need someone with this experience to help you with X.” This makes it easier to visualize how you would fit in with the company and what problems you would solve.

This also forces you to write about yourself in relation to the position, since you need to frame it as something they are looking for. This is a top quality sought after by Travis Jamison from Supremacy SEO, who recently made 4 new hires.

“The people who do best getting my positions are the ones who realize that their job is to grow my business while making my life easier. Babbling on in too much detail about hobbies, school or world travels only makes me annoyed. Tell me how I can’t live without you. Tell me how you can grow my business and take responsibility off my plate. That’s the way to my heart and the way to your paycheck.”

Tell me how you can grow my business. That's the way to my heart. @Travis_Jamison Click To Tweet

This is 1 thing that made the difference for Ben Kruger’s choice when hiring for Cashflow Podcasting:

“How the candidate highlights their skills and experience IN RELATION to the position I posted. I don’t care about their skills in general, I want to know what are they bringing to the table that applies to this job and how are they going to leverage those skills to produce results in this role.”

I want to know how are they going to leverage their skills to produce results. @BenWKrueger Click To Tweet

Pro Tip: Do an “I” check. It’s possible to search for specific words in most word processors. In Google docs press F3 to make the search bar appear. To check for the word “I” and not every letter I, just have a space before and after “I”. It will tell you how many times the word appears in the document and will take you right to every instance. Almost every “I” has potential to be a “you.”

Be a natural fit

Dan Andrews from Tropical MBA has been through a few application cycles. When explaining how to get your dream job he emphasizes how you want to frame yourself as a “natural fit”:

“The best way to show that you are enthusiastic about the position is to underscore the things that you are already doing and why those projects and passions lead naturally to something like the position you are applying for. This is critical for me: I don’t want to be a “big” opportunity for people. That’s a risk. I want to be a “natural” opportunity. Understanding this difference is critical for successful deal-making in general.”

I don’t want a job to be a “big” opportunity. I want it to be a “natural” opportunity. @TropicalMBA Click To Tweet

Many apprenticeships require you to be working side by side with your boss for the first few weeks or months. But it is a big effort to get someone on-location.

For example, if your apprenticeship needs you to be on location in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, you could mention you are already heading to Asia to try to start your business and already have your visa to Vietnam. This shows that you are coming out to be a part of the community and will be continuing to build your own business if they don’t take you.

This makes you a much easier sell compared to the person who is in the US or Europe, unsure if they will move, and who won’t change anything about themselves if they don’t get this opportunity.

The optionals are not optional

Completing the optional steps demonstrates that you are really interested in the job. So never miss an opportunity to complete one of the optional steps. They’re often a small extra investment in effort, but could make the difference between making the short list or not.

We had an optional 90 second video in our application process. Very few people took the time to make a video. Though we did not require one, it was one of the first things we looked for when sorting our applications.

Never miss an opportunity to complete one of the optional steps when applying for an apprenticeship. Click To Tweet

Build a landing page

Building a landing page as a digital resume for yourself can have a lot of benefits. A well designed page with good copy will demonstrate your skills in an interactive way, instead of just listing off things that you have experience with in the past. A landing page also gives you a chance to tell more of your story.

Here’s an landing page I created when applying for the WP Curve apprenticeship.

This page should be laser targeted on your potential employer. I’ll break down a few of the things I did on my landing page to make it compelling:

Images – Show yourself engaged with communities that interest your potential employer. This could be from events, conferences or meetups related to the apprenticeship.

One of the first things you can see on my landing page is a picture of me at an event where I am engaging with a community that Dan Norris was also a part of. This demonstrated I was a good cultural fit and had similar values and goals.

DC Austin

Testimonials and recommendations – Back up the key points you make in your application with a recommendation or testimonial from people you have worked with in the past. I’ll talk more on how to get a perfect recommendation later in this post.

A freebie – Create something with the skillset you want to show off and adds value to the person who is reviewing the application.

For example, I was trying to demonstrate my conversion optimization skills when applying for several of these apprenticeships. I used Attention Wizard to create an eye tracking map of the Badladz website, and added annotations and an assessment with suggestions on how to improve their website.

badladz

Links and embeds – Link to other content you have created that is relevant to the position. Podcast interviews, videos or other case studies from previous work.

Call to action buttons – I added a few call to action buttons to my page that said “Hire Kyle Now.” I tried to draw extra attention to it by putting it next to a testimonial and placing the image of the testimonial so that it looked up at the button, which draws the viewer’s eye to it.

manson testimony

The button had HTML code that automatically generated a message with my email in the “to” form, a complete subject and body. The body said:

“Kyle,

We love your work and we want you to join the WPCurve Team ASAP.”

I didn’t expect the email to ever be sent, but I thought it was an entertaining way to demonstrate some basic coding skills.

Here’s a template code:

mailto:email@address.com?&subject=test&body=type%20your%20message%20here

How to get the perfect recommendation

apprentizeship testimony

Receiving recommendations from someone we knew or respected immediately got people on our short list in our hiring process. The problem with most recommendations is they are often bland or only loosely related to your application. They also can take a while to get back after you request them, and if you are on a short deadline, it can create an uncomfortable situation for both you and the recommender.

Receiving recommendations from someone we knew or respected immediately got people on our short list. Click To Tweet

A recommendation or testimonial can be tedious for the recommender. You’re asking someone not only to take the time to write something, but to dedicate mental energy to remembering what you did for them, how it added value and how to frame it in a way that is relevant to the apprenticeship you are applying for.

You can accelerate this process tremendously and make it much easier for your recommender by simply writing the recommendation for them, and then asking for permission to use it.

Look at the requirements and language used in the job posting. When writing the recommendation, pull exact language from the posting and use it in your recommendation.

For example, if you see this in the posting:

“Your monthly goals are performance based and you will be responsible for hitting them each month. You’ll need to find ways that you can add value without being prompted.”

You could create a recommendation with this as one of the lines:

“[your name] always hit their monthly goals for [project] and on top of that they were constantly finding ways to add value to their work [add an example]”

Keep your recommendation concise; 300 words or less is best.

Make sure it is completely ready to go when you send it to your recommender. Give them everything they need to send it off without a second thought.

Send them an email with the recommendation attached.

Here’s an example of an email you could send if you wanted them to send the recommendation in for you. This could also be easily modified if you wanted to use it as a testimonial on a landing page or in any other way you see fit.

Hello [Name],

I am applying for my dream job at [business]. I was thinking of great people who know and trust me for recommendations and you immediately came to mind. I know you’re busy, so I took the time to write out the letter for you. Feel free to make any changes you wish, or send it as is. I have included the email/address for you to send it.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Cheers,

[you]

They will almost always respond with a quick yes, not make any changes, and be thrilled that they could help you in a big way with minimal effort on their part.

Warning: Don’t send these without permission. If you violate that trust you will ruin your chances at getting the apprenticeship and you’ll likely ruin the relationship with your recommender.

Tips on a video application

Many apprenticeship applications request you create a video that introduces yourself and gives you a chance to show your personality.

With all the antics and shock value that we see from videos on Youtube and Facebook these days, it’s easy to be tempted to try and do something that you think will be funny or memorable on these videos. This is usually a bad idea.

I made the mistake of being creative in one of my application videos and it cost me the job. I tried too hard to make the video different and funny, when in the end, it was just distracting from the real value I created, and they didn’t get the joke.

Keep things very simple. Just have you sitting in front of a camera and talk about yourself and expand on what you wrote in your application. Be confident, smile and address specific points of the job posting.

You don’t have to make a video as long as the maximum required time. If you can get your message across in 30 seconds but you have 90, all the better. Don’t waste your time adding low value or irrelevant information.

Here’s a great example of a video from Rye Taylor in his application for Cashflow Podcasting.

Conclusion

When it comes down to sifting through hundreds of applicants you want to do everything possible to stand out.

These simple tactics should dramatically increase the chances of getting your application noticed and landing your apprenticeship.

What have you done to successfully stand out in an application for an apprenticeship? Let us know in the comments.

About

Kyle is the founder of Conversion Cake . He is the author of "The College Entrepreneur" A book for students who want to break into entrepreneurship. Follow him @kylethegray

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