Higher and degree apprenticeships are extremely competitive and they will require a lot of time, commitment and hard work on your part, so preparing for an interview is essential. Employers will be looking for potential employees who can demonstrate a passion for the job role, as well as showing a genuine interest in achieving an academic qualification alongside a full-time job. They will also want to hear about your long term career goals as they will be investing time and money into your career within the company. Here are some tips to help you along the way.
Research the organisation and the role
As with all job interviews, it is vital to do your research about the company as you are likely to be asked what you know about it and why you want to work for it. However, it is also important to make yourself aware of its values, its vision and its long term aim as they will be looking for candidates who fit into their organisation and share its vision. This information is usually available on the company website and it will provide you with an invaluable insight which you can discuss at interview stage. If this information is not readily available on their website, phone the company and ask for it. You never know, the act of making a phone call might help to get you noticed for taking your initiative. It is also essential you familiarise yourself with the role being advertised and why it attracts you. For example, what will be your responsibilities? What skills, experience and qualities do you have which will make you suitable for the role and what do you hope to achieve on a professional level? You might find it easier to address these points by writing down your reasons and then practice voicing your responses. Ensure you find out what form the interview will take (panel, presentation, group discussion) and if you need to submit anything beforehand like a video CV.
Promote yourself online!
Many employers will expect you to have a digital CV or at least, a social media presence. It demonstrates your digital literacy and this is especially important if you are applying for a role where using or promoting the use of technology will be a significant part of it. We all know that the majority of Employers try to find out more about their candidates online, so why not use this to your advantage? Create a digital CV using LinkedIn or use Not a CV which is a student-friendly digital CV platform. Both platforms will enable you to showcase your skills, talents, work experience, achievements and qualifications whilst also giving you the opportunity to network with others. Increasingly, a lot of roles offered in higher and degree apprenticeships are preparing you for careers in management, so networking with others is crucial. If you can demonstrate that you have this skill set, all the better. Creating your own brand also encourages you to sell yourself to an Employer and this can be an extremely useful exercise when answering them, ‘Tell me about yourself?’ question. Of course, make sure you check your online presence by Googling yourself before the interview and delete any inappropriate images as soon as possible.
Prepare questions beforehand and practice
It is possible to anticipate certain questions you might get asked and practice answering them; this can be a highly effective exercise to help you feel better prepared, more confident and enhance your communication skills. Consider the following questions:
- Why do you want to work with us?
- What do you understand about the role?
- What are your career aspirations?
- Why are you the best candidate for this role?
- Can you describe a time that you were successful at managing your time and being organised?
- Can you give us an example of when you worked as a team?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What has been the most difficult challenge you’ve faced and how did you resolve it?
It is a good idea to practice answering them with someone else like a Careers Advisor in a role-play scenario so that you become more comfortable with the interview process. I always recommend to students that they too should have questions they ask the Employer as it demonstrates your interest in the role, so you might want to think about asking some of the following questions:
- What will be my day-to-day responsibilities other than the ones published?
- Will there be opportunities to contribute ideas to the team?
- What projects will I be working on?
- What sort of support can I expect during the apprenticeship?
- What is the workplace culture like?
- Are there opportunities for promotion?
Remember, try to provide examples when answering interview questions as they will lend credibility to your skills, qualities, work experience and achievements. So, when answering the, ‘why are you the best candidate for this role?’ question, you could reply with, ‘I believe I am the best candidate for this role because of my outstanding work ethic which was demonstrated when…’ Providing a context for your answers is much more powerful than simply listing your skills and qualities.
Dress to impress and practice interview etiquette
It goes without saying that you should wear smart dress to an interview so that the Employer can see that you have made an effort. Shake hands with the interviewer before and after the interview and maintain eye contact. Do make sure your mobile phone is out of sight and is on silent or switched off. Remember to smile; interviews are not a life and death situation, so smiling will help you to feel more relaxed as well as put others at ease. Keep your responses polite, professional and positive. If you are not sure where you need to go for the interview, practice a dummy-run so that you are not adding to your stress levels on the day of the interview. Arrive early for the interview so that you have time to relax, prepare and gather your thoughts. You could consider taking a copy of your CV with you and leaving it with the Employer, but it also wise to inform them that you have a digital CV they can access online. Include the URL of your LinkedIn or Not a CV account underneath your contact details at the top of your CV.
It is extremely important that you highlight your skills, qualities, talents and experience at interview, so do mention unpaid work experience you have completed, and highlight sporting activities and competitions you have entered. Also, talk about any positions of responsibility you have held such as Course Representative or Team Leader at work. Perhaps you led a team whilst volunteering; whatever your experience, emphasise the key skills and abilities you feel you gained from it and how these attributes can assist you to perform your job role. It is a good idea to also reflect on your current course if you are studying and talk about specific units you have studied, what you have learned and how this knowledge will relate to your role within the company. Always thank the Employer for their time at the end of the interview. Manners cost nothing but can get you far.
If you would like to discuss higher and degree apprenticeships and practice a mock interview, you can see a Careers Advisor at the college who can assist you. Good luck!
By Sonia Riyait