How to apply to retail apprenticeships and jobs
Each retailer has its own way of recruiting, but there are some similarities.
Stage one: the pre-screening test
Before you apply for an apprenticeship, retailers will often expect you to undertake a pre-screening test. You will not be assessed on this – it is aimed at helping you to decide whether a job in retail is right for you. For example, it might take the form of an online slideshow that asks you to think about what you’d do in certain situations. If you complete the test and are still keen, that’s the right time to apply.
Stage two: a formal application process
The typical application process involves these stages:
- completing an application form, which usually includes filling in your personal and education details and potentially answering some application questions or uploading a CV
- completing online ability/aptitude tests.
Stage three: retail interviews and assessment days
The number of interviews you are invited to will vary according to the retailer, but you will usually be asked to complete at least one of, or a combination of, the following:
- a first-round interview
- an assessment day, which might include a group exercise or presentation
- a store visit or ‘on-job evaluation’ day.
Different types of retail interviews
You might come across different types of interviews for a retail apprenticeship or entry-level job. These include
- Telephone (or Skype) interviews – these are often used as a first interview
- Video interviews – these may be as straightforward as a normal FaceTime or Skype conversation, but they may also involve you recording answers to questions that pop up on screen throughout.
- Face-to-face interviews – these are usually the final stage of the interview process and sometimes happen at an assessment centre.
Retailers have different apprenticeship application deadlines – some are open throughout the year, with vacancies advertised as they arise. Others have one intake a year and are only open to applications for a couple of months a year. You will need to investigate individual retailers to see when they invite applications as deadlines vary from employer to employer. Marks & Spencer holds its assessment centres in January and February, for example, so its deadline will be before that.
Attend careers events
'Going along to careers events is a really helpful experience,' says Faye Sawyer, talent acquisitions at McDonald's Restaurants. 'You can pick up brochures with lots of application tips inside and you can speak to people who can answer any questions and give you advice.'
Ask your school if they are aware of any events coming up and check employers' websites – they often have a list of events they will be attending.