The Most Common Apprenticeship Interview Questions (and how to answer them)
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Apprenticeship Interview Questions
So you've applied for an apprenticeship...
You have found the perfect scheme, the employer is delightful, and they have read your CV, cover letter and application form with the joy of a child eating Nutella for the first time.
They invite you to an interview, and suddenly it becomes clear - you are but one step away from securing the apprenticeship.
Here is your guide to the most common apprenticeship interview questions, with advice on how to answer them. Preparation is key for a successful interview, so read on, and give yourself the best chance of securing the job!
Q1) Tell me about yourself...
An interviewer will pose this sort of question as an ice-breaker, early on in an interview. The will want to know more about you; more than what your CV, cover letter and application has revealed.
Talking about yourself is often the hardest thing to do in an interview. The most important thing to remember is not to ramble.
When an interviewer says 'Tell me about yourself', they are not asking for your life story. They are not interested in a detailed, descriptive account of everything that has happened to you since birth. An interviewer does not care for the venue of your first birthday party, your trip to Great Yarmouth in 2007, or the wondrous shepherd's pie your mother made last Tuesday.
Discuss your personality and your interests. What kind of person are you? Keep it short - if you are talking for more than a minute, you will be venturing into ramble territory.
A short, vague answer will also not do. Sharing too little information is just as bad as oversharing. It will convey a lack of confidence, or that you are uncomfortable in the present situation.
If you have very little to say for yourself, the interviewer might think you have nothing to say.
- AVOID discussing the more controversial topics, such as politics or religion, as you would avoid a madman wielding a chainsaw.
Q2) Why do you want this apprenticeship?
If you can't answer this question, you probably shouldn't be in the interview. It would indicate a lack of interest in the apprenticeship, or that you are absolutely clueless about what you're applying for.
Give a sub-standard or uncertain response to being asked why you want the apprenticeship, and the interviewer's mind will start drifting to the next candidate, or what they're having for lunch. The last thing you want in your apprenticeship interview, is the interviewer thinking about a cheese and pickle sandwich.
Before your interview, think about the reasons why you applied for the apprenticeship.
Were you attracted to the company? Was it the course content that convinced you that this was the way to go? Perhaps it was the combination of professional work experience and further qualifications that charmed you...
Consider the reasons why, and convey them to the interviewer.
Q3) What are your strengths?
What are your strengths? This is an easy question to answer. All you have to do is think to yourself, 'What are my strengths?'
It is unwise to read out an exhaustive list of adjectives, buzzwords and things you are good at. Your interviewer will be rather taken aback if you respond with -
'I'm a creative person, very good at working with other people, with strong leadership skills, and a talent for tennis, water polo, Monopoly, crosswords, picking dandelions and playing the fiddle.'
Instead, focus on two or three soft skills, such as good communication, problem solving or a strong work ethic. Then, give an example of a situation in which you have used that skill. Here is an example...
'So Kevin, what are your strengths?'
'Well Julie, I've always possessed strong organisational and time-management skills. I developed these skills when I worked on the cheese counter at Waitrose. It was my job to organise the cheese, and ensure we didn't run out of brie.'
If you can link your strengths to past experiences, the interviewer will lose their mind.
Q4) What is your biggest weakness?
Do not be afraid of this question. When an interview asks you to discuss your weaknesses, they are not looking to trick you, or find a reason not to employ you.
The interviewer is simply trying to find out which areas YOU think you could improve in. It is an opportunity for you to show that you are honest, self-aware and can evaluate your own performance.
Therefore, do not say that you have no weaknesses.
It is possibly the worst response you could give to this question, unless of course you admit to having a weakness for stealing vegetables from supermarkets.
Also try to avoid giving weaknesses that sound like you're giving yourself a back-handed compliment. Avoid answers like 'I just work too hard' or 'I'm so efficient, I run out of work to do.' It doesn't reflect well.
This is one of the most common apprenticeship interview questions, and most interviewers will expect candidates to have faced this question previously, or have practiced it before the interview. A poor response will make the interviewer think you haven't prepared properly.
When the interviewer asks 'What is your biggest weakness?' respond with something like this...
'I have always been an enthusiastic and passionate person, which means I have a tendency to want to be involved in projects that don't concern me.'
Choose a small aspect of your personality that affects work performance, and highlight it as an area in which you could grow and improve. The ability to identify a weakness is a strength.
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If you enjoy fun videos, brilliant tips and you have an interview coming up, watch the Top 5 Interview Tips...
Q5) Why do you want to work for this company?
It is important that you do some research on the employer/company before your interview. Look at the company website, any publications they have, and recent projects that they have been involved in. Have they been in the news recently?
In addition, look out for descriptions of company values and vision. This sort of information is incredibly useful, specifically for explaining why you want to work for the company.
The chances are, there will be 10 other candidates interviewing for the apprenticeship you are applying for. All of whom will give similar answers to the question, 'Why do you want to work for this company?'
'I've dreamed of working for this company ever since I was a young lad... '
'The apprenticeship scheme that this company offers is a wondrous opportunity for me to start a career in... '
These responses are perfectly reasonable, but an interviewer is looking for more than the perfectly reasonable. They are looking for candidates who are enthusiastic about the scheme, who can give specific reasons why they want to work for the company over their competitors, and who they think will fit in with the company culture.
Below is an example of a response that will separate you from rival interviewees...
'I would like to work for this company, over its competitors, because of the social and corporate values that run through the heart of the business. This is a company I would enjoy, and be proud to work for.'
Q6) Do you have any questions?
The interviewer will ask this at the end of your interview. They will have spent the majority of the process finding out more about you, and if you're a good fit for the role and the company, before putting you on the spot one last time...
'So Kevin, before we finish, do you have any questions you would like to ask?'
You will be exhausted as the interview comes to a close, worn down by the difficult questions, the pressure, and your effort to appear focused and enthusiastic. There might a voice in the back of your head, imploring you to shake your head, to ask no questions and to escape from the interview room.
Do not listen to this voice. Interviews are a two-way street, and it is crucial that you ask one or two questions at the end of the interview...
- It will convey that you are seriously interested in the role you are applying for, and enthusiastic to find out more
- You can ask specific questions relating to company culture, job responsibilities and perks to find out if the job/company is right for you.
- It shows that you have prepared for the interview.
Your questions should be focused and open-ended. Do not ask your interviewer a question just for the sake of it, or to fill the awkward silence.
Something vague, like 'So, um, what's it like to work here then?' will not do. Below are some quite brilliant examples of questions you can ask at the end of your interview...
- Where do you think this company is headed in the next 3-5 years?
- What is the typical career path for a someone in this job?
- What are the next steps in this interview process?
- Are there opportunities for further training?
- How will my work performance be measured and reviewed?
Ask one or two of these questions, and the interviewer will write an acoustic album about you. They will be thinking, 'Wow! This candidate is amazing!'