You persuaded your line manager apprenticeships are awesome, set up some stellar apprentice roles, put the feelers out there—and now (phew!) there’s a bunch of rockstar-potential candidates waiting for interview. 🙌
Launching your own apprentice program is awesome! But what happens next?
To recruit apprentices who shine above the rest, you need to get familiar with the whats, whys and hows of interview best practice.
Because from getting to know the best interview questions, to making sure your interviewees feel super comfortable, there’s a lot more to interviewing apprentices than simply ticking a box.
It might sound daunting—but don’t worry, as usual we’ve got your back with some awesome apprenticeship advice. 😉
This one-stop apprenticeship guide to all things interviews will take you from anxious to upbeat in just a few short minutes—and with 15 usable apprentice interview questions to boot, you’ll have everything you need to discover the true potential of your next superstar apprentice.
Apprentice interviews v normal interviews: What’s the difference?
We get it—you’ve aced a million hires so why would this one be any different?
The thing is, apprentices often come from a totally different pool than your usual candidates. They’re often young, inexperienced and sometimes unprepared (AKA eager, mouldable and willing to learn!).
In other words, your main aim in this interview is not to figure out your candidate’s experience but whether they have the motivation, ambition and dedication your company needs.
That means careful preparation, a different angle of questions and knowing exactly what you’re looking for.
Apprentice interview tip #1: How to nail your interview prep
Your interviewee isn’t the only one who needs to be ready to make a great first impression.
Before an apprentice shows up, you need to get yourself prepped to the max.
From creating a relaxed office space to acing your interview questions, by the time your candidate steps through the door you need to have everything ready to roll.
Here are some top tips on what to think about before the interview starts:
- Think about how you’ll conduct the interview: Are you planning to pick up the phone or invite your candidate into the office? Or both? How you conduct the interview will have a direct impact on your candidate experience. If you can, invite them to meet the team personally. It will help them to relax and help you get to know them better.
- Help your candidate feel confident: Apprentices often don’t have much experience—and that applies to the interview process too. In fact, this may be their first ever interview so it’s your job to help them feel as relaxed and happy as possible. Remember, it’s in your best interest too—the more chilled they feel, the more likely their best features will shine through. ✨
- Plan the interview format: To really ace this, make sure to plan the interview way in advance. That means planning a handful of really relevant questions, deciding whether your candidate will need to do any additional projects (ie, a short presentation), and prepping your interviewee in good time before the big day. When it comes to extra tasks, ask yourself if it’s really necessary to put your candidate through the extra stress. For example, if the role involves a high level of communication, a presentation might be the right route—but if they’re going to mostly sit in front of a computer, why bother?
- Decide the interview panel: When it comes to the panel, you’ll probably want their team leader/mentor, a manager and maybe an extra set of eyes to help avoid bias. Remember, the more people interviewing, the more intimidated your candidate will be—so ask yourself what’s the max number of eyes you really need?
- Prepare yourself for what you’ll hear: If you’re used to hiring professionals, you’ll need to prepare yourself for a different type of interview. The replies you’re used to hearing won’t apply here—instead you might hear stories about school, friendship groups or family. Expect the unexpected and you won’t be thrown off.
Bonus tip: Represent the brand: Even if your candidate isn’t the best fit right now, in five years’ time they could become your next client. Make sure to show them your brand’s best side so no matter what happens, they walk away feeling the company love. 💖
Apprentice interview tip #2: What should you look for in an apprentice?
It’s no secret the right hire will add a bucket-load of good vibes to your company—but when it comes to apprentices, the characteristics of an awesome fit might not be so obvious.
Here are the things you should look for in interview to make sure you get the perfect fit:
- Motivation to turn up and succeed: First thing’s first, you obviously want your apprentice to want to turn up. But more than that, you want them to be motivated to succeed way into the future.
- Awesome communication skills: 99% of jobs require some form of communication—even if that just means chatting to your colleagues at the water-cooler. Look out for the way they present ideas and engage with you during the process. Remember though that as newbies to the workplace, they might be shy—and make sure to give them some leeway.
- Self-awareness: At the end of the day you’re running a business—so you want employees to reflect your professionalism. Ask yourself if they dress appropriately/ have the ability or potential to behave professionally/ respond with interest and respect.
- An explorer mindset: Apprentices are there to learn. That means inbuilt curiosity and adaptability is a must.
- Outside-the-box thinking: Creativity is the name of the game on this one. Does your candidate surprise you? Or offer interesting food-for-thought about your company?
- The perfect culture fit: We all know happy employees = a successful brand. The best way to get people wanting to come to work each day is to surround them with like minded colleagues. Think about your brand’s culture and list the key things you need from an employee to fit with that.
- Ace organisation skills: Apprenticeships are hard work. Your candidate needs to show great organisation skills to successfully juggle the work/study combo.
Apprentice interview #3: What questions should you ask?
Before we dive into the actual questions to ask, it’s important to understand what type of apprentice interview questions are at your disposal.
Thinking about your interview questions within the following 5 categories will help you identify which questions are most relevant to the role in question, and which ones you should avoid wasting your time on.
Category #1. Competency-based questions
Just because your candidate doesn’t (necessarily) have experience in the workplace doesn’t mean they don’t have experience elsewhere. Competency-based questions help you establish what your candidate’s good at, and where they got their skills from.
Top competency-based questions:
- What accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
- What would you say your main strength is?
- Describe an occasion when you’ve demonstrated that skill.
- Apprenticeships consist of a full-time job and study, how would you organise your time?
- Tell us about a time when you’ve organised your time well—and when you’ve encountered a challenge.
Category #2.Technical questions
If you’re interviewing for a technical role, you need to gauge how much your candidate already knows. For example, if the role involves computers or lab equipment, they’ll need basic know-how to hit the ground running. Remember not to expect the world and to reassure them it’s okay if they only know the basics right now—after all, they’re here to learn!
Top technical questions:
- Have you used [a particular software type/equipment] before?
- What [software type/equipment] would you use for this role?
- Have you got any previous experience—including work experience and voluntary work—in a role of this type/using these tools?
Category #3. Reaction-based questions
Nobody wants a live-wire in their tool box. ⚡That’s why it’s important to do some detective work around your candidate’s natural reactions. This type of question will show what they’d do in a tricky situation and how good of a mediator they are—so you won’t be caught off-guard in a stressful situation.
Top reaction-based questions:
- What skills do you think are important to… handle a difficult customer/client Connect with colleagues you don’t click with? Etc.
- Describe a problem or challenge you’ve had to deal with.
- Tell us how you think you’d cope in a stressful situation.
Category #4. Motivation-based questions
A big piece of info to uncover is how much your candidate knows (and loves) your company. After all, the more they’re into you, the more effort they’ll put into the role. So, do a little digging around why your candidate has applied and what they really think of your company. ⛏️
Top motivation-based questions:
- What drew you to apply for a role at our company?
- Why did you apply for this particular position?
- Where do you see yourself in X years?
Category #5. Interest-based questions
At the end of the day, this candidate is potentially someone you’ll have to work with for a while. You want them to be their best to help you be your best—and at the root of it, that means getting to know them from day one to make sure they’re a great culture fit.
Top interest-based questions:
- What was your favourite subject at school and why?
- Do you have any hobbies or interests that will help you achieve results in this role?
- Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your interests or experience to support your application?
Become an apprenticeship interview pro
Apprenticeships are here to stay—and by acing your apprenticeship interview technique, you’re sure to find the best-fit candidates out there.
That’s why it’s so important to get the angle right from day one.
Whether you ask how they take their coffee before they even arrive, or give them room to chat about their hobbies, 90% of your job is to make them feel relaxed enough to allow you an insight.
So, it’s time to grab a pen, sit back and start planning—because by launching your own apprentice program, your company will reap the rewards of some A-player apprentice input