Apprentice interview guide: How to find the right talent for your business

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By Jessica Houston – School of Marketing Ambassador ◦ 6 min read


Become an apprenticeship interview pro using our fail-safe approach to hiring.

The board has signed off your apprenticeship scheme, and you’ve got the green light to kick off the recruitment process. But, what steps should you be considering to ensure you find the right talent for your business? 

Our new guide will provide you with a fail-safe approach to hiring the best apprentices for your business.  Including: how to write a winning job spec, advertise your role, prepare for the interview and a comprehensive list of interview questions to get you started. 

 

Where to start when hiring an apprentice 

Hiring an apprentice is very different from your standard interview process for hiring experienced recruits. Although you may have years of experience sifting through CVs and challenging candidates to find the creme de la creme of marketers, apprentice interviews are slightly different. So the first step is to forget most of what you think you know. 

Apprentices often have less experience. They are likely applying to your apprenticeship programme to get a foot into the industry and gain new skills and experiences while working. These are all key considerations when setting expectations of the interview process. It should be more focused on learning about the individual, their passions and hobbies, and whether they have some of the softer skills that will transfer nicely into the team and role. Not (and I can’t stress this enough) whether they have three years of related work experience. Look for passion, enthusiasm and willingness to learn instead, and this will help you to shortlist candidates that have the potential to shine.  

 

How to write a person specification and job description

Getting the person specification and job description right is crucial in so many ways. It will help you identify suitable candidates for the role and help the apprentice understand whether the position is of interest and right for them. Nailing this is the first step to kicking off the recruitment process. 

The person specification should include a split of essential and desirable knowledge criteria and the specific skills you’re looking for in the successful candidate, including soft skills. A great apprentice candidate should demonstrate self-awareness, professionalism, organisational skills, passion for the role and industry, and ultimately be a good culture fit.

The job description should include a job title, the primary duties and purpose of the role, information about the company and the job location. 

Try to be as specific as possible with both the person specification and the job description. This will only help provide more clarity at each stage of the interview process.

 

Where to advertise an apprenticeship role

Once you’re ready to advertise the role, there are several different places that you can advertise in: 

  • Find an apprenticeship website: this is a free service where employers can advertise their apprenticeships. It allows candidates across the country to search and apply for jobs that suit their career interests, and it makes it easy for you to attract and recruit suitable apprentices into your company.

  • Popular job boards: Besides using the free government service, you could consider advertising the role on popular job boards to attract a wider pool of candidates. 

  • RSS feeds: Your training provider may also be able to list available apprenticeship roles via their connections, and therefore it is worth working alongside them should you require the support.  

  • Local newspapers or trade magazines: Another place worth considering is the local newspaper to find local talent or people who are already engaging with trade content (this also demonstrates their current interest in a role in the industry). 

Larger companies may already have a robust recruitment process in place. However, we recommend you review this process to ensure it is fit for purpose. Always consider your audience and ensure that you are making the process as transparent and fair as possible.  

To compile your shortlist of candidates, refer back to the job description and person specification to match applications and eliminate those who do not meet the job’s basic requirements.

 

Preparing for the interviews 

You’ve advertised your role, and shortlisted your candidates, so now it’s time to prepare for the interview. The main thing is that you provide clarity around when the discussion will occur, who will be attending, the time, and how it will run to familiarise themselves with the process beforehand, putting them more at ease when joining. Remember, your candidates are less experienced when it comes to the interview process and can be nervous, so the first thing to do is think about the interview environment. How can you put them at ease? 

If you are running the interview in person, we recommend finding a spacious room with a window for fresh air, you have water for each guest ready, and ensure there will be no interruptions by placing a sign outside the door. 

If you are running a virtual interview, please ensure you’ve provided the candidate with clear instructions on joining and testing their equipment beforehand. It might be helpful to factor in time for any tech issues.  

 

Gold standard apprenticeship interview questions 

Heading into the interview, it’s helpful to note any information in the candidate’s application that you’re not clear on or that you would like to know more about so that you are prepared to ask these questions or probe when needed.

At the beginning of the interview, try and start with some small talk to introduce yourself and make them feel comfortable with how the session will run. It is likely that most candidates will be aged 16 – 24 and therefore might not have a great deal of experience outside of the educational environment - something to bear in mind. It is also recommended to refer to the same set of initial questions to help make the process fair and provide you with an excellent way to compare candidates to decide who is the best fit for your business. 

Here is our shortlist of great apprentice interview questions: 

  1. What appeals to you about this apprenticeship programme? 

  2. What skills do you think you can bring to this role? 

  3. How would you organise your time between work and study on this apprenticeship scheme? 

  4. What accomplishment in your life are you most proud of and why? 

  5. Describe a problem or challenge you’ve had to deal with and how you overcame it?

  6. What are your main interests outside of work, and how would these help you to be successful during your apprenticeship? 

  7. Tell me about a time when you contributed positively to a team goal or objective? 

  8. Is there anything else you would like to tell us to support your application? 

Once you’ve asked your questions, allow the candidate time in the end to ask their questions. Remember, the interview process is a chance for both parties to assess whether they are suitable for each other. It provides the candidate with an opportunity to ask their questions to get a sense of the company. 

Then explain the following stages in the recruitment process, giving them an idea of the timescales involved. Lastly, thank the candidate for attending. Ensure you write up accurate notes as soon as possible after the interview to provide feedback to the candidate. 


Making an apprenticeship offer 

Congratulations! You’ve been through the interview process, and you’ve found your star apprentice. Now it’s about making the offer. A best practice is to call the candidate in the first instance to speak to them on the phone, followed up by an official offer letter that sets out employment and the apprentice contract details.  

It is also essential that unsuccessful candidates be informed promptly and given honest and constructive feedback to support future applications. 

So that’s it. The lowdown on how to find the most suitable apprentices for your business to thrive and succeed. Good luck with your search for your new marketing superstars!