Apprenticeship interview questions and tips
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Worried about how hard your apprenticeship interview will be? Feeling nervous is almost inevitable but if you understand the types of questions you’re likely to be asked and have done your preparation you can still perform well. Nerves can even be an advantage – they show that the interview matters to you and give you focus and alertness.
Interviews can take many different forms.
- You might have a video or telephone interview before you meet anyone face to face.
- You may be invited to a first interview followed by a final interview, or be given interviews that focus on different areas such as your skills or technical knowledge.
- You could be interviewed by one or two people or a whole panel, and your interviewer(s) could be a senior partner, a member of the HR team or your prospective manager.
Our tips below will help you prepare. They’ll work best if you combine them with research into the employer and the apprenticeship in question, and carefully read all the details the employer provides about the interview format.
Some recruiters will give you an apprenticeship interview that combines competency (skills), motivational, strengths-based and technical questions. Others hold more than one interview and give each session a different focus. Generally speaking, larger employers are more likely to invite you to more than one interview.
Competency interview questions and tips
Competency interview questions are widely used and you are highly likely to be asked them at some point. This style of interview question focuses your skills and competencies and aims to find out if you are a good match for the role. They often start 'Give me an example of a time when you...' or 'Tell me about a time when you...'. For instance, you might be asked 'Give me an example of a time when you worked successfully as a team' or 'Tell me about a time when you used your problem-solving skills to overcome an obstacle'.
You may have already mentioned examples of your skills in your online application form and the interview is an opportunity to talk about these in depth, or to mention further examples.
- Prepare yourself by finding out more about the skills and competencies most employers seek.
- Make sure you know if there are any skills and competencies the employer is particularly keen on and check what’s required for the role you are applying for.
- Come prepared to discuss times when you’ve shown the competencies they are looking for. For example, if you are asked about teamwork you could bring up your involvement in sports teams or voluntary organisations such as the Guides or Scouts.
Motivational interview questions and tips
Motivational interview questions aim to find out whether you are genuinely motivated to take on the opportunity on offer. Your motivation will make all the difference to your performance at work, so it’s hugely important to your prospective employer.
- Typical motivational questions include asking why you are applying for an apprenticeship, why you are applying to this particular employer for this particular apprenticeship, and what you expect to be doing during your first year, so make you you can answer these.
- Knowing some detail about the role and employer will really help you here – it shows you've taken the time to research the opportunity and are still keen on it now you've got the full facts.
- For example, naming some key tasks you'd be doing as an apprentice and saying how they tie in with your favourite school subject or hobby is a lot more impressive than saying you want the job because of how great the company is without having any facts to back this up.
Strengths-based interview questions and tips
Strengths-based interview questions are intended to find out what you enjoy doing and are good at. Recruiters pay attention not only to what you say but to how you say it – they're interested in what fires you up. In a strengths-based interview you might be asked which subjects you most enjoyed studying at school or about a time when you achieved something you were really proud of. Other typical strengths-based questions include asking about what you find easy to learn, who most inspires you, and the kind of tasks you enjoy least.
- Be yourself and give genuine answers that you feel enthusiastic about, rather than ones you think will sound impressive.
Technical interview questions and tips
Technical interview questions are typically used for roles in science, engineering or IT. The aim is to assess your ability to learn and understand information about the technical side of the business you are applying to. You may also be asked about your understanding of what the company does and the different areas in which it operates.
- Make sure you understand roughly what the employer's work involves, what your job would involve and what subjects you would study as part of the apprenticeship. This will help you identify the types of technical skills you'll need to develop if you get hired.
- If you've done anything that relates to these already – for example studying a relevant module or going on a work experience placement – brush up on what they involved so the details are fresh in your mind. This is particularly important if you've mentioned them in your CV or online application, as your interviewer may decide that these are good topics to question you on.
Phone interviews are typically used to screen candidates after the application form stage. You might be interviewed by someone from the HR department or from the team you are applying to work with. The questions are likely to be competency-based.
- Make sure that background noise is kept to a minimum.
- Pick up the phone with an appropriate greeting to kick off your interview.
- Aim to sound committed and enthusiastic.
- Have a couple of questions prepared in case you get the chance to ask them. However, this isn’t the place to go into detailed discussions about pay, terms and conditions – save that for the final, face-to-face interview, which you will get through to if you succeed at this stage.
Video interviews or online interviews are used by some employers instead of phone interviews. These may be live – for example, they may be conducted via Skype – but you are more likely to be asked to use a video interview format in which you are presented with a series of pre-recorded questions and invited to record your answers. For example, Grant Thornton includes this type of assessment for its school leaver trainee programmes – you can find out more via blog posts from previous interviewees on Grant Thornton’s site for trainees.
- Set the scene for your video interview. Think about lighting and check what is going to be visible in the background. If your room’s a mess, clear a suitable space.
- Dress as you would for a face-to-face interview – a smart, dark-coloured suit is the safest bet and makes a good first impression.
- Take time to familiarise yourself with the set-up and try out the practice session. You might prefer to turn off the video view so you’re not distracted by seeing the video of yourself as you make it. Remember to look at the camera – this is the equivalent of making eye contact with your interviewer.
Panel interviews involve being asked questions by a group of people.
- Try to find out who you will be interviewed by before the day; if you are not told this as a matter of course, ask your contact at the organisation you are applying to. Once you have your interviewers’ names it is well worth looking them up online; you may find profiles of them on the employer’s website.
- On the day, make sure you know who’s who and who does what.
- Direct your response to whoever asked the question, but make sure you make brief eye contact with the others as well.
You may be asked to give a presentation when you come in for interview. For example, candidates for Deloitte’s BrightStart higher apprenticeship who are invited to a final interview will also give a presentation while they're there (details about what's required are provided before the day).
- Check what visual aids and equipment will be available. Are they expecting you to turn up with a PowerPoint presentation on a memory stick? Make sure you know what they are looking for.
- Make sure your presentation has a structure – a beginning, a middle and an end. Five minutes is probably just about long enough to set the scene, make a few points and wrap up. When you are planning your presentation you will probably include too much information to start with and will then need to prune it back. Practise if you get the chance – it will help with your timing.
- Try to keep your body language positive and confident. Smile, make eye contact and don’t rush. Give particular thought to what you are going to say at the very beginning to introduce yourself and the subject you are going to be talking about. First impressions count.
Most interviews include the opportunity for you to ask questions. Good ways to make the most of this include:
- Getting further detail about the apprenticeship or the organisation you’d be working for. Just don’t ask questions to which you’ve already been told the answer, or to which the answers would have been easy to find online if you’d looked. For example, if you’ve hunted round the employer’s website, done a Google search and still can’t find out whether you’d be based in one team for the duration of your apprenticeship or move from team to team this would be a good question to ask. Similar topics include the types of clients you’d work with, the types of projects you’d be involved in, the qualifications you’d gain and what you’d do in a typical day.
- Asking your interviewers about their jobs and what they enjoy about working there. Tailor your question to their job – for example, if you’re being interviewed by the HR manager for an apprentice engineer role, it would be fine to ask what they like about working for their organisation but would seem odd to ask for detail about what their job involves. In contrast, this would be a good question if you were talking to an engineer in the team you hope to join.
- Asking about opportunities after the apprenticeship and what previous apprentices have gone on to do. The employer will probably hope you’d want to stay on there if there were a job available, having taken the trouble to train you up, so be careful what you ask if you don’t see yourself staying long-term.
- Checking practical details such as where you’d be based or what the next step in the recruitment process would be.
Whatever you want to ask, try to give your questions a positive spin. For example, ‘Do apprentices tend to go out on site visits?’ or ‘Would I get the opportunity to go out on site visits?’ sound a lot better than ‘Would I have to go out on site visits?’.
- Brush up on your research into the employer, the industry and the role.
- Make sure you’ve looked through any advice available on the employer’s website.
- Re-read your application and make sure you know what to expect from the interview – contact the recruitment team directly to ask if you’re not sure.
- If you are going to have to give a presentation or talk in depth about a specific project, make sure you’ve prepared.
- Think about the key competencies required for the role and prepare examples of times when you’ve shown them.