Matt Mason / 28th March 2019

6 Big Things Interviewers Look For In An Apprentice

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It doesn’t matter whether you’re a school leaver starting your career journey, or a seasoned pro at the interview game – there are things that interviewers look for.  It’s always good to take a second to remind yourself of them. And many of the more impactful things take a little bit of mindfulness and the smallest of effort.  And they make a big impact.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that when you don’t have a lot of experience, interviewers need to consider other factors.  Or even when you’re neck-and-neck with another candidate, what often wins the race goes well beyond your CV.

Here’s our list of 6 things employers look for: 

1. Passion and Enthusiasm

Coming in at No.1 and over and above all else, interviewers look for a passion for their chosen industry, and their company and enthusiasm to dig in and get involved.

They can train you in their systems, processes and knowledge specific to a role, but they can’t give you genuine interest and enthusiasm or a willingness to work hard for them — these need to come from you.  So do your research, re-read the job description and be prepared to share your passion for the apprenticeship you’re applying for.

Tip: This is more than playing ‘bullshit bingo’ and saying the word passionate over and over again.  This is about displaying your passion and an unquestionable hunger to get stuck in. 

2. Showing your potential is more important than talking qualifications

If you’ve got to the interview stage, you’ve passed that point of talking qualifications (They’ve largely done their bit!).  The interviewer had decided you have enough to deserve a chat. Many employers view apprentices as a blank canvas: They know they can welcome them in and shape their experience to their businesses needs.  However, the canvas has to show it can take the paint! It’s all about finding someone who they can grow to fit the company and its specific needs.

Your job at interview is to show you have the right potential: Someone friendly, eager and positive. A little experience is much more likely to be successful in an interview than someone with an impressive CV, but no passion or enthusiasm.  

Tip: If you’re struggling to get interviews and you feel it’s because your qualifications are a bit light – get some life qualifications!  Get volunteering and involved in some local social action projects. Show application and motivation and bring these into your CV and interviews. They impress, and they make you stand out from the crowd.  And be honest about it. School and studies aren’t for everyone and if they weren’t for you, find something to replace them in your narrative.

3. Be yourself

You are the only person who can be you so do it with all the self-confidence and self-belief you can muster! People who are aware of their strengths and their weaknesses tend to show the most potential to interviewers. You’re not necessarily going to have lots of experience to showcase, but if you’re self-aware and happy to talk about areas of growth and how you strive to better yourself, you’ll likely make a great impression at the interview.

Tip: Jessica, one of our colleagues, has written a blog about the importance of self-confidence and self-belief.  It’s here and is well worth a read.

4. Introduce you by introducing everything you do

In an interview, you will likely be asked to give examples of, ‘when you showed [fill the gap with any skill] on a project’.  Or, ‘when you faced [add any particular challenge] and how you overcame it’. These types of questions are pretty stock which makes them easy to prep for. And they are the perfect opportunity to introduce something you’re passionate about.

If digital is your thing, talk about and showcase what you’ve done.  And if volunteering and social action get you revved up (and it should!) then proudly bring them on your journey.

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5. Demonstrate you can work with others

A lot of employers like to know that you have outside interests. It’s a real positive for them to know you play team sports or have hobbies because it shows you have social skills and can engage with others. Again, if you’ve done voluntary work, it shows that you are prepared to work for nothing to increase your experiences and do social good!

If you’re the shy type, try and bring this to life on your terms.  You don’t have to misrepresent yourself, but it is important to think ahead at how you can show your potential in this area.  And it’s fine to talk about what you’re planning to do, and what you’re doing to make it all happen. That approach plays very nicely with point 4 above – you’re demonstrating you know yourself and that you’re challenging yourself.

6. Be punctual, be present, be proactive.

These 3Ps will go along way.  

Be Punctual: Scrap that.  Be early. It’s nearly always totally in your control. Starting off the first meeting with an apology is not the best first impression and likely an end to any chance of landing that role.

Be present:  Phone off, eyes locked on to the target and active listening (seriously, lean in and engage).  And don’t be afraid to go back to a conversation point because you want to add to something that’s already been said.  It shows you’re following the conversation. Changing your mentality from interview to a conversation is often a tactic used in interviews.  It breaks down the fear of ‘all eyes on me’ and frames the chat as a meeting of two people: something we all do, all the time.

Be proactive: Have questions prepped.  It shows you care, you’re curious and you’re engaged.  These are great signals to an employer as their looking 12 to 18 months down-the-line and seeing if you’re the one they can back to get there! Remember, a huge 86% of apprentices stay with the company after completion.  Could that be you?

Sidebar: The other day, a friend of mine had an interview where the interviewer invited questions first.  Terrifying! I’d hate that. But it’s not a bad way to approach finding the right questions to ask. What if that happened to you at your next interview? Could you get through it?  Be prepared!

And that’s our 6  Things Interviewers Look for in an Apprentice.  And there’s a whole host of other stuff (like Smile and have good eye contact etc.), but these are the ones we felt worth focusing on.

Lifting the lid on Apprenticeships

Finding the right career path is tough. But one thing that makes it easier is knowing what all the different paths have to offer.  And we think that not enough people are confident about what modern apprenticeships have to offer.  And especially when you have companies like Google, Facebook and Universal all heavily investing in apprenticeship opportunities.

Apprentice Nation invites you to take a fresh look at Apprenticeships. Check out the Go Far section of our website and discover some helpful links to resources and companies that are there to support your apprenticeships journey.


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