Apprenticeships are a great way to boost your academic learning with real-world work experience. The unique ‘earn while you learn’ feature of apprenticeships is what makes them such a popular career choice for those about to leave school or college. In this blog we’ll look at:
- How to find an apprenticeship
- Top apprenticeship interview questions
- How to prepare for an apprenticeship interview
How to Find an Apprenticeship
The UK government website is a useful resource to find an apprenticeship. You can browse by category and choose sectors that interest you – including Information and Communication Technology, Retail and Commercial Enterprise, Business Administration and Law, etc. Fill in your location and apprenticeship level to find a list of apprenticeship schemes relevant to you.
More and more companies are now running apprenticeship programmes. According to UK government data, 156,500 apprenticeships were completed in the 2020/21 academic year. This is a 6.6% increase from the period of 2019/20. Given the growth of apprenticeship schemes and the various advantages of apprenticeships, it’s important to put your best foot forward when applying for a role as an apprentice. This means being prepared for your interview and being able to confidently answer interview questions.
Here are six common questions you can expect at an apprenticeship interview along with sample answers:
5 Top Apprenticeship Interview Questions
1. Tell Us About Yourself
This is one of the most common interview questions you’ll come across. When employers ask you to describe yourself, it’s intended as an ice-breaker. They don’t want to know your life history. The best way to answer this question is to prepare a few key points that you’d like to mention about yourself that describe your personality, interests, and experience. Try to keep your introduction to a maximum of one minute. Remember to avoid controversial topics like politics and religion.
If you’re nervous about speaking in front of people, it’s helpful to write down an introduction and practise reading it out loud in front of the mirror or with a friend. If you have any work experience, a mention it in your intro. Here’s an example to give you an idea –
I’ve recently finished <insert school year or exam>. I used to work part-time as a retail assistant. My role was client-facing, so I had a chance to deal directly with customers. I also assisted in stock-keeping. I’m now looking for the next steps in my career.
This shows the transferrable skills you’ve picked up in your previous job that could be applied to the new role. You can also mention some related hobbies or interests. For example – if you have an interest in coding, it would be good to mention this when applying for an apprenticeship at a tech company.
But remember, employers also want to get a sense of your personality so feel free to mention something interesting about yourself – like if you’re an avid traveller or enjoy adventure sports.
2. Why Did You Apply to this Apprenticeship?
This question can also be phrased as ‘why do you want to work for this company?’. Employers use this question to understand an applicant’s motivations and get a sense of their industry knowledge. This is an important question because it also shows how interested you are in the apprenticeship. Consider explaining how the apprenticeship can provide practical work experience which will help steer you towards your career goals.
Once again, it’s a good idea to list your reasons for applying and do a practice run before the interview to make sure you’re prepared. The first rule of thumb for any interview is to do your research on the company you’re applying to. When answering why you want to work for this company, mention something specific about the company that interested you.
For example – it could be the company culture and their D&I policy or their reputation as an industry expert in their sector. Whatever your reason, make sure you demonstrate that you’ve done your research and avoid giving vague answers that could make you seem disinterested.
Consider this sample response –
I want to use this apprenticeship as an opportunity to gain practical work experience that will build on my academic training. I also read about the growth prospects for apprentices on your company website and how you internalise those who successfully complete their apprenticeship tenure.
3. What are Your Top Strengths and Weaknesses?
This may seem like a tough one, especially when asked to list your weaknesses; but employers ask this question to gauge how self-aware you are and what skills you can bring to the role. Try to match your strengths to at least one key requirement of the role. So, whilst baking maybe one of your top skills, it might not be relevant to an apprenticeship at an investment company!
The trick to talking about your weaknesses is to show a willingness to address them or finding a clever way to make them work in your favour.
For example –
In my last role as a retail assistant, I’d often take on additional tasks because I wanted to learn new things. As a result, sometimes I found myself facing multiple deadlines at once. However, I work very well under pressure so that means I’ve managed to meet deadlines so far. Going forward, I think I have to learn to say no to some tasks and only take on as much as I’m comfortable with.
As for my strengths, having worked in a customer-facing role I think I’ve developed good interpersonal skills that help me communicate well with different types of people.
4. What are Your Future Goals?
This is an opportunity for employers to understand your targets for the future and to find out if you have a strategy for reaching your goals. Your answer should demonstrate that you have a clear vision of where you want to be headed in the next three or five years and how you intend to get there.
I want to use this apprenticeship as a foundation for my career in this industry. For the course of the apprenticeship I want to pick up the relevant skills that will let me progress in this field. I would love to continue as a full-time employee at your company and build on my skills and experience and in due course be able to mentor new apprentices who join.
5. Do You Have any Questions for Us?
This is usually the last question that employees ask at an interview and is also one of the most important ones. In fact, you should prepare a list of questions to ask after an interview.
An interview is a two-way street i.e. it’s an exchange between an applicant and recruiter. Conventionally in the first half, the recruiter asks the questions but towards the end, gives you the floor. This is your opportunity to find out anything that you need to know about the role.
For example –
What would my first week as an apprenticeship look like and is there any skill you’d recommend brushing up on before starting in this role – like Excel?
This shows that you’re keen to be prepared and don’t hesitate to ask for suggestions to improve your chances. You could also ask about the flexible working policy if applicable and find out how the company managed remote working during the lockdown.
This is also a great time to ask about a specific project or campaign that the company recently launched or if they were in the news for any achievement. It shows you’ve done your research and are interested in both the role and the company.
How to Prepare for an Apprenticeship Interview
There are several resources with helpful tips on how to ace your job interview. To make sure you put your best foot forward in an interview:
- Do your research – read up on the company you’re applying to. Go through their website and social media channels so you’re aware of their products or services and the company culture.
- Dress professionally – it’s important to dress smart for an interview. Remember, first impressions are lasting.
- Be on time – it’s important to be punctual for an interview. Being late is disrespectful and makes recruiters doubt how serious you are.
If you’re about to finish school or college and wondering how to choose a career, check out FDM’s apprenticeship scheme. Our 3-year programme combines work and training and runs 4 days a week. At the end of the apprenticeship, you have the opportunity to join FDM as a permanent employee or join our Graduate Programme.
Read what some of our apprentices have to say about FDM’s Apprenticeship Programme and apply today.