Once you’ve decided that an apprenticeship is the right route for you, you’ll need to apply for the apprenticeship and then prepare for an interview if you are asked to do one. Whether you’re hoping to get a degree apprenticeship or dive straight into a hands-on subject like a gas engineering apprenticeship, making a good impression is absolutely vital.
It’s a big step and experts agree that it’s wise to think carefully about the role and why you want it, as well as getting your head around the detail and the background of the company. It’s also important to look smart, be friendly and smile.
While the nerves might be eating away at you, try to relax, take your time with your answers and follow these top tips for getting that apprenticeship in the bag.
By the way, don’t forget that your application and CV have already done the hard work and got you in for an interview, you just need to nail the rest.
1. Do your homework before an apprenticeship interview
It’s really important to know a little bit about the company you are being interviewed by. It makes sense for you, so you know whether you want to work for them, but also so you can seem knowledgeable in the interview. I
f they are a big business, they will have a website with lots of information. If they have one, check out the ‘In the Press’ section too because it will highlight some of the more noteworthy elements of the business. Check for things like awards, new contracts etc and try to reference these during the interview.
2. Read the blurb about the apprenticeship
It’s the stuff you need to know. You will have been sent details of the apprenticeship you are applying for. For example, if it’s a gas engineering apprenticeship, it is likely to be a Level 3 qualification that takes 22 months to complete with training completed at a registered training centre like the Apprenticeship Academy in Nottingham. Look at the detail of this and don’t be afraid to ask any questions if there’s something you don’t understand, or feel is missing.
If it’s a degree apprenticeship, it is likely to be a three or four year apprenticeship course, with structured study at a university. Look at how they have described the sort of candidate they want and think about how you match that description.
3. Have a think about why you want the apprenticeship
It’s undoubtedly a question you will be asked, so give it some careful thought. The great thing about an apprenticeship is that you can earn while you learn. But while that’s a brilliant answer, it has to be about more than the financials! Think about why you want to go into the field but also think about why the experience element of the apprenticeship alongside the training is important and could be helpful for your career.
Are there any areas that you think will particularly benefit from ongoing work experience? For example, if you are looking at a plumbing apprenticeship or want to be a gas and heating engineer, you might want to talk about how you feel the practical experience with a mentor will help you absorb the lessons learned in the classroom. It’s about getting your foot onto the career ladder that will give you that advantage over others that may come out of further or higher education without any real experience of what it’s like to work in the field.
4. Create a strong first impression
This bit is about standing out from the crowd once the interview panel has seen all the candidates. You don’t have to do cartwheels through the door (unless gymnastics is part of the brief, of course) but there are some key things to remember…
According to leadership coach Vanessa Fudge, you need to dress in a way that makes you feel confident, because the brain is wired to behave based on how you feel you look. Once you have decided on your outfit, make sure it’s clean, nicely ironed and lay it out the night before so you don’t have to worry about it. When you get into the room, the important thing to do is to make eye contact and smile. You might not feel like it at this point, but trust us on this one. For now, shaking hands may not be appropriate, so just be friendly and offer an elbow if the occasion calls for it.
5. Body language during your apprenticeship interview
It’s all about positivity. Once you’re sitting in your chair, take time to make sure you are comfortable and sitting upright. Try not to cross legs awkwardly or fold your arms. Whether you like it or not, these both send signals that you’re not confident, you’re being defensive etc.
If it’s warm, ask if you can remove your jacket and place it neatly on the back of your chair, or somewhere convenient. Make sure your phone is off and safely tucked away in a pocket or bag. Do not hold it during the interview because that would be distracting and could make it look like you are not interested.
6. Get ready for questions and have questions ready
Because you’ve done your prep, this should not be a problem, but it’s useful to run through the interview with a teacher or careers adviser, or just someone you know can help. It will get you used to listening carefully and having some answers ready.
Take your time answering. Give yourself a little gap to think through what you are going to say. Once the interview is over, you can ask your questions and it’s always good to have some prepared, whether it’s about the job role specifically or about the apprenticeship training you’ll receive. Don’t be afraid to ask further questions if you need more information.
7. Send a follow-up email or letter after the interview
Think about it, they’ve got a huge pile of candidates to go through. It can’t do any harm to pop an email across, thanking them for the opportunity. Recruitment specialist Indeed suggests jotting down a couple of points the interviewer focused on and mention them and why you’re excited to join as an apprentice. Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference.
Good luck! You’ll be great!