How To Apply for an AAT Apprenticeship – here are the 9 most common mistakes to watch out for…

Don't let you CV end up in the recycling bin

Thinking of applying for an AAT Apprenticeship? It’s National Apprenticeship week, so make sure you avoid these common mistakes:

So, with that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at some of the things that send applications straight to the recycling bin! We’ll run through the first 5 today and the remaining 4 in our Blog later this week.

One of the services we offer to employers is to advertise their accountancy apprenticeship vacancies for them. This includes reviewing the applications that come in before forwarding them onto the business hiring – we do this as it can be a time consuming process sifting through all the applications. Some applications are passed on to the employer, others aren’t. On occasion, we have seen the same applicant apply for multiple positions (demonstrating that they must be really keen), but they are never called in for an interview due to the poor quality of their application.

In this blog (based on real applications we have seen), we will outline the main reasons why applicants (even those that sound very keen) will never get their CV seen by a hiring manager. The reasons are all “easy fixes”, so hopefully, after reading this; amending your application will give you a better chance of getting that elusive interview!

And if you are just starting to think about applying, these tips should mean that your application has a fighting chance at the outset. (You should also check out Prue’s Blog “Looking for an Accountancy job?” for some excellent job application tips.)

1. Never NEVER trust an online CV Builder

Many recruitment sites and other organisations offer a CV builder where you pre fill the application boxes – it is supposed to put together a professional looking CV – it doesn’t! If you have put together a CV using a builder, make sure you edit and format it yourself after downloading it, don’t just send it off to employers.

There are 3 major problems with using a CV builder.

  • It indicates that you have no idea how to word process and format your own CV (lack of ability or too lazy to).
  • It often doesn’t display correctly and ends up a looking a mess e.g. your employment history being shown under “GCSE French”!
  • Not every box the builder makes you fill in may be relevant to you, so there will be gaps or inconsistencies.

By all means use template ideas to help you structure your CV, but you should be typing it up and formatting it yourself so that it looks presentable. It is also a good idea to save your CV as a PDF, so that when you send it out, the format won’t alter if the recruiter has a different version of Word to you.

2. Don’t rely on autocorrect, they won’t hire someone who can’t spell.

In any article about how to write a CV, spelling and grammar will always be mentioned. If these basic mistakes are apparent in your CV, it looks as though you didn’t care enough to proof read your application. Always get someone else to read it too – you know what you mean to say, but it’s likely some mistakes will be missed.

Further to this (and my personal pet peeve), an application will get nowhere if the applicant uses a little “i” as a pronoun! This looks as though you don’t have a basic grasp of English, or that you are reliant on auto-correct and have failed to notice that the change wasn’t made. It could also mean that you couldn’t be bothered to proof read your CV, or even worse, that you think using a little “i” is acceptable!


“I have good written and verbal communication skills ( i achieved a grade A in English at GCSE)”
This applicant started well, but I’m not sure they deserved that A grade…..
“i like challenging myself and i can use my initiative”
Not much initiative used in terms of proof reading – their application got no further.
“…relevant, I have a good sense of humour, with a can do attitude that means im not quick to moan or be defeated by a situation”
This applicant doesn’t know how to use apostrophes either.

3. Justify a change of direction

It may be that at 15 when you were picking your GCSE options, you had no idea what accountancy even was, but you then discovered it half way through your Fine Art BTEC and have now decided it’s what you really want to do. That’s great! But…. if your education doesn’t match your newly found career path, you do need to explain this. Firms want to see that you are committed and have an active interest in business.

One applicant had the following recent qualifications:

 Example qualifications on CV

Well, maybe after studying hairdressing she realised that it wasn’t the career path for her, but nowhere in her application has she explained this. A recruiter will think that she has either dropped out, is flaky and/or uncommitted. Simply add a section in your covering letter (or in answer to the question “why are you interested in accountancy”), to acknowledge that you started training in something else, and explain that you have decided accountancy is definitely what you want to do now – demonstrate how you can prove this e.g. by undertaking self-study, getting work experience or being treasurer of your local sports club.

4. Don’t waste everyone’s time, including your own.

Look carefully at the job you’re applying for, and only apply if you really want it. Applying for a job you don’t really want is a waste of both yours and the recruiter’s time.


What personal skills would you like to improve? (e.g. time management, questioning skills)
“I would like to become a fully qualified plumbing and gas engineer, who is the best in his field”
I don’t think this guy was truly committed to accountancy…

5. Check what grades you need

If a position requires you to have A Levels, and you have only just taken your GCSEs, you will be very unlikely to get the job.

However, if the job really does interest you, contact the firm directly – ask about work experience, find out what they look for in an application and then, when you have taken your A levels, you will be in the perfect position to apply for their recruitment wave that year.

Similarly, if the position says you must have “3 A Levels, grade A-B including Maths”, and you have A Level English C, Geography D and Psychology C, you probably won’t get the job. Again though, you can always ask about work experience – start an AAT short course through home study, and importantly when you make your application, justify why you are applying even though you don’t have the required subjects.

ALWAYS ADD PREDICTED GRADES! If you are taking your A Levels this summer, then add your predicted grades. This is what the employer will be looking for, and without the predicted grades, it looks as though you finished your GCSEs and have done nothing with your life since.

Look out for Part 2 of this Blog later in the week!

If you are interested in an AAT Apprenticeship and live in Devon, Cornwall or Somerset, you might be eligible to join our Apprenticeship Talent Programme – you can read more about it HERE:

We hope that these study tips have helped you! Whilst we are not able to respond to any specific questions you might have about our posts, do please let us know if there are any further topics you would like us to write about. If, however, you are one of our tutor supported students, please get in touch with your personal tutor who will be more than happy to help you.

Accountancy Learning

Accountancy Learning Ltd specialises in the provision for accountancy training. We offer a wide spectrum of courses in accountancy and bookkeeping from beginner's level to the full AAT Accounting Technician qualification centered around our Virtual Learning Environment, Moodle. We also provide impartial advice on progression options to ACA, ACCA, CIMA, and ATT.

About Accountancy Learning

Accountancy Learning Ltd specialises in the provision for accountancy training. We offer a wide spectrum of courses in accountancy and bookkeeping from beginner’s level to the full AAT Accounting Technician qualification centered around our Virtual Learning Environment, Moodle. We also provide impartial advice on progression options to ACA, ACCA, CIMA, and ATT.

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