Written on: 15 September 2021
Written by: Frances Hardcastle
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When it comes to hiring a new apprentice, much of the recruitment process can be quite similar to recruiting any other member of staff. The biggest difference you are likely to encounter is the interview.
If you haven’t interviewed an apprentice before, you can set up your candidates for success with just a few simple tips.
In this blog, we’ll explore how to get the best out of the apprenticeship interview process, share tried and tested interview questions for an apprentice, and help you find the right candidate to thrive in your team.
While a traditional interview is set up to evaluate experience, competence, and pre-existing knowledge, an apprenticeship interview is all about potential.
It’s important not to focus too much on workplace experience or qualifications. Typically, an apprentice will not have years of work experience or many qualifications beyond their recent achievements in school or college.
Instead, look for their passion and enthusiasm. What an apprentice candidate may lack in workplace experience, they more than make up for in enthusiasm and a desire to learn.
Use your interview time to identify whether their attitude and motivations align with your business, and the rest will follow.
When recruiting for an apprentice, it’s important to remember that this could be a candidate’s very first interview. To get the best from each candidate, you’ll need to take a flexible approach, using your questions to guide candidates to successful answers.
It’s a good idea to prepare your questions in advance of the interview. This can help standardise the experience for all candidates and prevent unconscious bias. This can also ensure that you’re gathering the information you need to make the right decision.
Successful interviews should feel more like a conversation than an interrogation. The questions you ask should be simple, well structured, and open-ended – requiring a bit more than a simple “yes” or “no” response.
Encourage candidates to expand on their answers, and follow up on points of interest with a little background information on yourself or your company. This can help candidates get a feel for your organisation and see how the role fits into the bigger picture.
Potential questions to ask during an apprenticeship interview can be split into three main categories: commitment, competency, and career progression.
Questions such as “why have you chosen the apprenticeship route” and “what appeals to you about our products and services” can be great for establishing a candidate’s interest in the role and their commitment to apprenticeship training.
A strong candidate can use these questions to demonstrate that they have done their research about your company and tell you about their career aspirations and approach to learning.
Although it’s not a great idea to ask complex technical questions, you can still ask questions to gauge competency around softer skills, such as problem solving and taking initiative. Encourage your candidates to give examples in their answers, based on their experiences from school or outside hobbies and interests.
These questions can help you determine how confident a candidate in in their own abilities, and how much guidance they might require if offered the role.
At its core, an apprenticeship is a mechanism to kickstart and develop careers. In our experience, the most successful apprenticeships are the ones where employers regularly discuss progression opportunities and long term career goals with their apprentices. Start as you mean to go on – in the interview, ask your candidates what their career ambitions might be, and where they see themselves in the future.
A candidate’s response to these questions could give you some insight into how they see the apprenticeship opportunity: is the role just a job, or the start of an exciting career with your company?
We’ve gathered some of our favourite tried and tested questions for interviewing an apprentice. These can be used alone, or in combination with other interview questions as part of your organisation’s hiring process:
This question can establish whether the candidate understands the commitment they are undertaking, and how this links to their style of learning and career goals.
This question can be adapted to almost any job role or industry. It tells you what makes your apprentice tick, what motivates them, and gives an opportunity to showcase their passion and achievements so far.
Again, this is a question that can be customised to the apprenticeship you’re recruiting for. It’s a question that can establish basic technical skills and extra-curricular experience that can be built upon during an apprenticeship.
This question opens up a positive dialogue about professional development. It can give you some idea of the skills each candidate may hit the ground running with, and which may require initial support.
Has the candidate done their research? What is their understanding of what your company does and how they might fit into it? This question can help gauge interest and preparation, but also create the opportunity for you to provide context around the role.
This question offers a great introduction to your company values, and helps you determine how each candidate aligns to these values.
Depending on the answer, you will be able to determine how each candidate may tackle their workload. Do they plan and schedule tasks well in advance, or do they dive into projects and work it out as they go? Both styles of working can work – it depends on the individual and what you want for your business.
This question offers a great opportunity for candidates to share their achievements and gives you an idea of how much guidance they may need from a line manager as they go forward in the apprenticeship.
This interview question is a classic for a reason: it establishes what your candidate’s career goals for the future might be, and how well they align to the opportunity you are recruiting for.
We hope that this guide has given you some useful tips for the interview stage.
Recruiting an apprentice is an exciting time, with lots to think about. To find out more, check out our apprentice recruitment process, or read more about managing an apprentice to set you up for success after the interviews!