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Apprenticeship applications can be a little unnerving. If you have only just left school, you might not have applied for a job before, and even if you have, the process is quite different. To help you do your best, Eluceo have put together a guide on what to expect.
Most apprenticeships are offered through the government's dedicated apprenticeship website which allows you to apply for apprenticeships, get email and text alerts about new apprenticeships, and track your applications. When applying, the format is different to that of a normal job application - rather than asking for a CV and cover letter, employers ask you to complete an online form. This includes direct questions to which they want detailed, well thought out answers, as well as general information such as your qualifications and personal details. You have as much time as you need to complete the application, meaning you don’t have to think on the spot and can give considered responses.
Your answers should not be given in bullet point format and it is always best to avoid waffling. Just get straight to the point, answer the question directly and be honest.
All apprenticeship applications include the following three questions:
What are your strengths?
Here it is important to be honest. Explain what your strengths are, how you have gained them and in what situations you have used them. Putting in evidence is really important because anyone can just say they are organised or good at team-work. If you only include a list of strengths, with nothing to back them up, employers will think that your main strength is laziness! Also try and link your strengths to the apprenticeship - they may have asked for people that are good at IT or communicating, or it may just be obvious from the type of industry that these things are necessary. If you are unsure what your strengths are, see Eluceo’s skills page for more information.
An example answer to this question might be: “I think that my biggest strength is my organisational ability. While I was at school I was part of the orchestra and I had a part-time job. This meant that I had to learn to be really good at organising my time. My job at that time was in shop and learning to interact with the customers and be a good sales assistant taught me really good communication skills, I think that this is another of my biggest strengths”.
What personal skills would you like to improve in this apprenticeship?
This question is used to test how interested you are in the apprenticeship and how much you really know about what you will be doing. Don’t choose something basic like “showing up on time” because, as well as making you look completely useless, it is not specific to a particular job. Whatever you choose, point out that you have a basic understanding and skill but that you would like to be much faster and more efficient.
An example answer to this question might be: “During this apprenticeship, I would most like to improve my computer skills. I already have a good knowledge of all Microsoft Office programmes but would like to learn to use them more effectively, in a professional environment. I am also interested in maths so would like to translate these skills into IT skills, by learning to write and manipulate software.”
What are your hobbies, interests and achievements?
This is the time where you can really show off and make yourself sound interesting. List some of your more specialised hobbies, things that not everyone does. Try to chose things that are somewhat linked to the apprenticeship you are applying for wherever possible. This is also a good place to talk about your views on current world events or any volunteering you have done.
An example answer to this question might be: “I am really interested in current affairs and always like to keep up to date with the news. I am also interested in music, I have been learning the flute for four years and I play with the school orchestra. Last year I went on tour with them to America, which was fantastic as I got to combine my interests when we took a tour around the White House”.
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Some employers also choose to ask further questions. These may include:
What would you say your weaknesses are?
Always admit you have a weakness. Be honest, within reason. Don’t reel off a list of twenty weaknesses because that will never look good. Just pick one or two, explain that they aren’t your strongest points but show some ways that you have tried to overcome them. Never try and avoid the question by giving a weakness that is actually a strength, that can come across as a little bit smug.
What skills do you think you would bring to the company?
This is quite similar to “what are your strengths?” but here it is even more focused on the job you are applying for. This is where you can see yourself. Talk about both you hard (e.g. IT) and soft (e.g. communication) skills and make sure you give evidence them. This can either be where you learnt them or how you have used them.
What interests you about this company?
This is the time to show off everything you have learnt about the company. Make sure that, as well as knowing what the company actually does, you understand their ethos. It might be a family run company or a social enterprise and by mentioning this, you will really make yourself stand out. The most important part here is to be honest, there must be a reason that you wanted this particular apprenticeship so say it.
Apprenticeship interviews can vary in structure, some interviewers just want to have a chat and get to know you a bit better, to see how you’ll fit in, some interviewers are more formal and some are conducted in larger groups. If you want to find out more about different types of interviews and how to ace them, see Eluceo’s interview tips page.
The most important thing to remember is to act professionally and be positive. Do your research so that you have got lots of good answers up your sleeve and just relax. They want you to do well, they have asked you in for interview after all!