Securing an apprenticeship may mean tackling your first interview. Interviews have a notorious reputation, but like most things in life, the worst part about them is not knowing what to expect.
To help beat those dreaded nerves, we've compiled the most frequently asked questions and provided an explanation of what the employer is looking for. With guidance on how to best answer the questions, you're guaranteed to make a great impression.
1. Tell me about yourself?
You’ve been selected for interview because of the information you’ve shared in your application and CV – congratulations! This question is commonly asked because you are now at a stage of the selection process where it is important to get to know you better and one way to do that is to share information that the employer doesn’t already know about you. Avoid repeating what’s in your CV and use this question to illustrate your uniqueness.
Remember, you are in a professional setting so stick to facts that could be relevant to the job and positively convey your personality and interests. Avoid talking in a way that might lead the interviewer to worry about your work ethic too.
For example, if you love social media explain that it's not just about sharing selfies or scrolling. Here's an example that would impress us because it shares what’s important to you and shows a willingness to learn and initiative:
"I'm a pretty open-minded person, who likes to try new things. I love social media and use Instagram for following fashion bloggers – because I’m mad about clothes and vintage upcycling. So that I can produce better photos for my own socials I've just completed an online course on iphone photography."
2. Why have you applied for this apprenticeship?
Make this answer all about the job and not about yourself. Saying that you could walk to work in 10 minutes if you get the apprenticeship is not the right approach. Instead, focus on how this apprenticeship will help you achieve your career goals, the skills you know you will learn, how you anticipate it will help you develop personally as well as what a good fit you are for the role.
"I know this apprenticeship is going to provide an excellent start to my working life. As well as learning practical skills, I'll develop transferrable skills, such as using my initiative and working things out on my own as well as in a team. I hope it will help build my confidence and communication skills because I’ll be learning from the more experienced people around me."
3. Why do you want to work here?
In this question the interviewer really wants to hear how much you know about them. You should specifically mention the research you've done and why you think the company is a great place to work. If you've discovered that the business has a set of core values talk about which value resonates most with you. Here's an example to explain what we mean:
"I'd like to work for a company with a great reputation, and I can see from the online reviews that your company scores high customer ratings. I enjoyed reading about the values and internal training programme on the company's website – it sounds like the business really invests in its workers. I've also seen the company mentioned in the press for its fundraising activities which I’d love to get involved with if I get this position."
4. Completing an apprenticeship means combining work with study. How are you going to manage your time successfully?
This question is trying to find out how good your time management is, how organised you are, and your attitude towards work. Include any real-life examples of how you managed your time, perhaps by creating an exam study timetable or juggling a part-time job with studying or taking care of people in your family.
5. What skills do you have that would be relevant for this apprenticeship?
Keep your answer relevant to the position – it makes sense that the skills for a finance apprenticeship will be different from a trade apprenticeship. But there are also transferable skills that are valued in every role. Here's another of our suggested responses, we wrote this one specifically for a finance apprenticeship:
"I'm already a user of Excel and am pretty familiar with spreadsheets, although I'd like to learn a lot more. Some of the coursework at college involved working in groups so I'm used to that style of working. I also like to take a lot of care with my work, being accurate is important to me and I think I show a high level of attention to detail."
6. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
The dreaded and predictable strengths and weaknesses question! First off – no one is good at everything, we all have weaknesses, but in an interview scenario it is better to talk about areas of improvement. Public speaking is a great example because you probably haven't had many opportunities to practice being good at it yet.
Secondly, because this question always gets asked, prepare ahead by having 2 or 3 relevant examples that you can talk confidently around.
Don't get bogged down worrying that you may not have the right experience for the job – attitude is so important and this question allows you to convey positivity and "can-do" spirit.
7. What would you consider your most significant accomplishment in life so far?
This is a great question to be asked because your answer can relate to any aspect of your life. Everyone faces different challenges and being honest about yours will provide insight into your strength of character and life experiences. It could be anything from winning an award, overcoming a fear, helping others, completing a course, passing an exam, or a physical challenge.
8. What are your goals for the future?
Another way to ask this question might be "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" This is quite a tough question to answer because no one has a crystal ball but, like in all your responses, honesty is the best policy. Illustrate how undertaking the apprenticeship will help you achieve your plans for the future, and don't be afraid to ask your interviewer a question, something like this:
"I don't know what's in store over the next few years but once I've completed my apprenticeship, I'd like to continue learning as much as I can, hopefully progressing my career here. What roles have previous apprentices gone on to undertake in the company?"
Your turn to ask the questions
Talking of questions, use your interview as an opportunity to gather the information you need to help you decide if this is the right place to undertake your apprenticeship. It’s important to remember that an interview is really just a conversation and asking questions is a great way to show initiative too. A few examples include:
- What type of projects will I be working on?
- Can you tell me a bit more about the structure of the team I will be working in?
- What is the next step in this process?
- If you are being interviewed by a line manager or someone who started out doing a similar apprenticeship, ask them what they most enjoyed about their apprenticeship and what their career path has been.
For many more top tips on making a great impression at an interview download, TMM Recruitment's Preparing For Interview booklet.