How to prepare for an apprenticeship interview
You’ve applied for a construction apprenticeship and got yourself an interview – well done! Getting this far is a fantastic achievement, and now it’s time to prepare so you can land that apprenticeship.
Think of an apprenticeship interview as a polite conversation, rather than an interrogation. The interview is an opportunity to see if you’d like the apprenticeship and company, as well as a chance for the employer to see if you’re a good fit for the role.
An interview can be a daunting experience, so it is completely natural to be a bit nervous. The key to nailing an interview is to prepare, and the best way to prepare is to research the company, think about the questions you might be asked, and have an idea how you’d answer them before you step in the door.
Apprenticeship interviews - the basics
Interviews can take many forms, from group panel discussions to situational judgement tests, to a simple chat, so this guide will focus on the most common type of interview: competency-based interviews. Simply put, a competency-based interview focuses on the things you can do, so you’ll be asked to give examples to show you have the skills needed for the role.
However, this guide will also include general advice, hints and tips which can be applied to any interview setting.
During the interview, you can expect the interviewer to ask about:
- Your skills and experience
- Your strengths (and potentially your weaknesses)
- Why you want this particular apprenticeship
- Your understanding of the construction industry and the job at hand
- Your future goals.
Preparing for the interview
Remember the 5 p’s (prior planning prevents poor performance) from school? It’s applicable to interviews too – going in well prepared ensures you can portray yourself in the best light.
A good place to start is to conduct some background research on the company interviewing you:
- Visit their website to find out their core values and areas of speciality
- Find out about any key construction projects they’re working on
- Scout for any news related to the company.
You don’t need to get into the nitty gritty, but having some basic background knowledge of the company is something employers really appreciate as it shows you’re genuinely interested in them. It can also serve as a handy way to break the ice.
There are a number of other ways to effectively prepare for a construction apprenticeship interview:
- Read the job description and person specification carefully and be clear on the skills and qualities the employer’s looking for
- Prepare something smart and comfortable to wear
- Check what time you need to arrive and the name of the person you’re seeing – it’s good practice to arrive 5-10 minutes early
- Plan your route to the interview in advance
- If you have a disability and need adjustments to make the interview accessible, you can get advice from Scope on how to ask for them
- Go over your CV or application form and think about the things the employer may ask you about
- Prepare 2-3 questions which you can ask the employer at the end of the interview – this is a great way to show your enthusiasm for the role.
We touched on it above, but the most important thing to prepare for is the questions themselves. It’s impossible to prepare for every question an employer may ask – so let’s go through some of the more commonly asked ones and how best to answer them.
Tell us about yourself
Often the very first question, there are many ways to answer it.
The key thing here is to keep it relevant to construction and the job – you can talk about some of your hobbies or interests, but don’t go into great detail about your love of cats or football.
Instead, discuss what drew you to want to work in construction, why you would want to work for that employer, any work or education related achievements you’re proud of, what useful skills you’ve picked up on your journey. Keep it personal, open and honest – it’s a good way to let the employer know the sort of person you are.
Give an example of when you…
This sort of question is used for finding out whether you have the required skills for the role. Some common ones include: ‘Describe a time when you demonstrated leadership’, ‘Give an example of when you used your initiative’ and ‘Give an example of when you juggled deadlines’.
Answer these questions by using the STAR format: explain the Situation, the Tasks you had to complete, the Actions you took and the Results of your actions. Place the most emphasis on Actions and Results.
You can use examples from your work or education experience, but make sure to place an emphasis on the skills the employer is looking for.
What would you do if…?
This is a scenario-based question which can cover topics such as dealing with conflict within a team or with a client, receiving negative feedback, an unexpected delay to work, a burst water pipe etc.
These questions aim to see how you go about solving problems, so explain your thinking and why you would take a particular course of action. If possible, call upon times in the past when you’ve faced similar problems and how your actions led to a positive outcome.
Again, this can come from work or education experience, and not necessarily from a construction environment.
During the interview
Now you’ve researched the company and prepared some answers, here’s some top tips for during the job interview:
- Confidently introduce yourself to the interviewer(s), smile and make eye contact
- Be polite and use the right tone and language for a formal situation
- If you don’t understand a question, ask them to repeat it or for more information
- Be positive! You will have plenty of skills and achievements to have made it this far, so make sure to highlight them
- If you’ve faced difficult situations, show what you’ve learnt from them
- Tell the truth – don’t exaggerate
- At the end, thank the employer for their time and say you’re looking forward to hearing from them.
Ask the employer questions
It is important to ask the employer questions too, and this usually happens at the end of the interview. Questions may naturally arise from the discussion, but it’s good practice to head into the interview with a few prepared. Some useful ones include:
- What do you find most enjoyable about working for this company?
- What training opportunities are there?
- What kind of challenges is the construction industry facing?
- Ask about the company’s key projects, achievements and things they’re proud of as a whole.