Apprenticeship

10 top skills to look for when hiring an apprentice

Apprenticeship Team
01.02.24

The apprentice market is filled with talent who are often overlooked when up against candidates with more experience or hard skills. While technical skills are useful, they can always be developed on the job. The approach to hiring an apprentice will be slightly different to hiring a regular employee using traditional recruitment methods.

At FDM, we believe in hiring for a candidate’s potential. Here’s our guide to the best skills to look for when hiring an apprentice to make sure you get the top talent with the greatest potential to grow and bring value to your business. We’ve also included example interview questions to give you an idea of what you should be asking during apprentice interviews to find out more about each candidate’s skill sets.

10 Skills to look for when hiring an apprentice

  1. Adaptability
  2. Communication
  3. Problem solving
  4. Teamwork
  5. Time management
  6. Tech savviness
  7. Critical thinking
  8. Initiative
  9. Resilience
  10. Curiosity

1. Adaptability

Adaptability is a valuable skill for navigating dynamic work environments and evolving tasks. In a rapidly changing work landscape, apprentices may encounter various tasks and challenges. Being adaptable allows them to embrace new responsibilities, technologies, and processes, contributing to their overall growth and effectiveness. In interviews, ask about instances where they faced unexpected challenges and successfully adjusted their approach.

Example interview question: Describe a scenario where you had to adapt to unexpected changes or challenges in a project or task. How did you approach the situation, adjust your strategies, and ensure successful outcomes despite the changes?

2. Communication

Strong interpersonal skills, including effective written and verbal communication are essential for working with mentors, team members, and clients. The interview process can be extremely useful for gauging communication skills by assessing each candidate’s ability to articulate ideas, respond thoughtfully, and ask questions that demonstrate active listening and engagement.

Example interview question: Can you share a situation where you had to convey complex information to a team member, classmate, client, or stakeholder? How did you ensure clarity and understanding?

3. Problem solving

The ability to analyse situations and find practical solutions independently is valuable for apprentices who will be constantly faced with new challenges and gaining new skills in the process. Whether troubleshooting technical issues or finding innovative solutions to tasks, adept problem-solving abilities enable apprentices to navigate challenges with confidence and efficiency. One way to find out whether a candidate has this skill is to look for instances within their resume where they have solved complex problems, whether through coursework, personal projects, or previous work experiences. In interviews, present hypothetical scenarios and evaluate their approach to finding solutions.

Example interview question: Can you provide an example of a complex problem you encountered in your educational or professional experience? Describe the steps you took to overcome the issue and identify potential solutions.

4. Teamwork

Collaboration is key; candidates should work well with others to achieve common goals. Many apprenticeships involve collaborative projects, therefore, the ability to work well within a team enhances productivity, facilitates knowledge sharing, and contributes to a supportive and inclusive work culture. When hiring, ask candidates about their experiences working with diverse teams, addressing conflicts, and contributing to collective success, or look for examples of collaborative assignments or team-based achievements within their application.

Example interview question: Share an example of a collaborative project or team-based experience you’ve been a part of. How did you contribute to the team’s success and navigate through differences of opinion?

5. Time management

Time management involves the efficient use of time and the ability to prioritise tasks effectively. Apprentices often juggle multiple tasks and learning opportunities simultaneously, especially as their time is split between practical work and working towards exams. Effective time management ensures that they meet deadlines, allocate time wisely for learning, and maintain a balanced workload, ultimately maximising their productivity and the value they gain from their placement.

Example interview question: Describe a time when you had to manage multiple tasks or deadlines simultaneously. How did you prioritise your responsibilities and which strategies did you use?

6. Tech savviness

In today’s working world basic digital literacy skills and a willingness to learn new tools and are crucial. Look out for technical skills, software, or tools the apprentice is familiar with on their CV, or ask them about their interests in learning new technologies during the interview process.

Example interview question: Could you discuss your experience with <insert specific> technologies or tools? Additionally, how do you stay informed about emerging technologies and their potential impact on your work?

7. Critical thinking

Critical thinking refers to the capacity to assess information, foresee potential challenges and make informed decisions. It is an important attribute for an individual’s professional growth and success. During interviews, explore the candidate’s problem-solving approach and how they handle ambiguity to accurately assess their critical thinking skills.

Example interview question: Can you share an example from your past experiences where you were faced with ambiguous information or a challenging decision? Walk me through your thought process in approaching the situation and the outcomes.

8. Initiative

A candidate that proactively takes on responsibilities and seeks opportunities to contribute makes a highly valuable asset to any team. Taking initiative demonstrates a willingness to go beyond assigned tasks, contributing positively to the team’s success and showcasing a strong commitment to personal and professional development, which is very important for apprentices, many of whom are learning a profession from scratch. Look out for instances where the candidate has taken initiative in previous settings or led projects, and ask them about situations where they went beyond assigned responsibilities.

Example interview question: Can you provide an example of a situation where you took the initiative to go above and beyond your assigned tasks or responsibilities? How did your proactive approach contribute to the success of a project or team, and what were the outcomes of your initiative?

9. Resilience

The learning curve in apprenticeships can be steep. Resilience helps apprentices bounce back from setbacks, learn from challenges, and maintain a positive attitude, ensuring they stay focused on their goals and continuously improve. When it comes to the interview process, ensure your questions probe how candidates handle adversity, learn from failures, and maintain a positive mindset.

Example interview question: Tell me about a specific challenge or setback you encountered in your academic or professional journey. How did you navigate through it and what did you learn from the experience?

10. Curiosity

Curiosity fuels a passion for learning and innovation. Apprentices should actively seek knowledge, explore new concepts, and stay abreast of industry trends, adding value to their teams and the organisation as a whole. While many apprentices will not have past work experience, their previous life experiences should indicate a passion for continuous learning in other areas, such as through relevant coursework, certifications, workshops, or personal projects.

Example interview question: Can you share an example from your academic or professional experience where your curiosity led you to explore a topic or technology beyond what was required, and how did this additional exploration contribute to your understanding or skills?

Are you looking to hire an apprentice?

While technical or role-specific knowledge are desirable skills, they can be acquired through training. However, an individual’s soft skills and overall attitude are inherent qualities that are not as easy to learn. The importance of soft skills cannot be underestimated, especially when it comes to hiring apprentices.

Need more support hiring an apprentice for your organisation? At FDM, we take care of the hiring process for you, making sure that you gain access to talented apprentices who have both the soft and technical skills required to make a real difference within your teams. Our Apprenticeship Programme provides aspiring tech talent with expert training and ongoing learning and development support. And if you’re looking for something short-term, FDM is also on the government’s Flexi-job apprenticeship agencies register, which means you can benefit from apprentice talent without the long-term commitment.

Get in touch to start building your future talent pipeline with the top apprentice talent!