The Most Common Apprenticeship Interview Questions (and how to answer them)
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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 ask this sort of question early on as an ice-breaker and a chance to know more about you.
Talking about yourself is often the hardest thing to do in an interview. The most important thing to remember is not to ramble. Keep it short and aim to stay within max one-minute max.
Remember, an employer isn’t asking for your life story. They don’t care about the wondrous shepherd's pie your mother made last Tuesday.
Instead, discuss your personality and your interests. Think about the following…
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 are 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 is the interviewer thinking about a cheese and pickle sandwich mid-interview.
Before your interview, think about 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?
Here you get to boast a little.
However, reading out an exhaustive list of adjectives, buzzwords and things you are good at will be an instant career turn-off for the employer.
Your interviewer will be somewhat taken aback if you respond with something like…“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.
If you can link your strengths to past experiences, the interviewer will lose their mind in the best of ways.
Here's an example...
Interviewer: "So Kevin, what are your strengths?"
Interviewee: "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."
Check the 'required skills/competencies’ that employers put in job descriptions, and use it as a guide for your responses in the interview.
Q4) What is your biggest weakness?
Do not be afraid of this question. When an interviewer 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 determine which areas YOU think you could improve. It’s an opportunity 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 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 either answered this question previously, or at least practised 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 where you could grow and improve. The ability to identify a weakness is a strength.
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?
Always research the employer/company before your interview.
Look at the company website, any publications they have, and recent projects they’ve done.
In addition, look out for descriptions of company values and vision. This information is gold dust, specifically for explaining why you want to work for the company.
Employers are looking for candidates who are enthusiastic about the scheme and can give specific reasons why they want to work for the company over their competitors. They’re also looking for someone they think will fit the company culture.
The chances are, there will be ten other candidates interviewing for the apprenticeship you are applying for.
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 most 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 be a voice in your head imploring you to shake your head, ask no questions, and 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…
Your questions should be focused and open-ended. Do not ask your interviewer a question just for the sake of it or to fill any 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…
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!'