How to help your child apply for an apprenticeship – the application process
The application process for an apprenticeship is very similar to applying for a conventional job and, with the exception of degree apprenticeships, opportunities can arise at any time of the year. Your child will need a CV, to be able to complete an application form, be interview ready and may need to complete aptitude tests. Plenty of practise is a good way to prepare.
Unlike college and university applications where there is a fixed process that takes place at the same time each year, applications for apprenticeships come up throughout the year. This might feel disconcerting if your child’s peers have all made their sixth form or university applications and even received offers, whereas your child has yet to secure an apprenticeship, but the system is different because apprenticeships are tied to genuine jobs. The exception is degree apprenticeships, where most companies have set applications windows i.e. January application for September intake, aligned with the UCAS university application process.
The application process is much more closely aligned to job applications than university applications. The longer the apprenticeship, the more rigorous the application process is likely to be. It differs between organisations and may include:
Online application form – may also require a Curriculum Vitae (“CV”);
Online competency tests (logic, personality assessments, verbal reasoning maths, english.);
Video response (usually this takes the format of your child answering questions that appear on screen, rather than a two-way video interview);
An assessment day, which may include group activity as well as individual interviews.
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The application form
It’s always best to look through the application online, and then write answers in Word (or elsewhere), prepare and spell check them thoroughly, before copying and pasting into the online form. This avoids risking a computer crash and losing the work, gives thinking time and allows comparisons between different questions so that answers are not repeated. Answers will be different depending on the apprenticeship. Preparation for one apprenticeship will not be sufficient for application to another (although it may form a good basis). Applications should be tailored according to the specification outlined in the advert and your child must check the company website for any specific advice and tips offered. Giving examples is a key differentiator in applications. Make sure your child always gives examples to support their statements and does not make unsubstantiated assertions such as “I am a great team leader” and “I am a good communicator” without showing why they hold this opinion.
Writing a CV
A CV is a brief synopsis of experience and qualifications. Whilst it should reflect the personal style of the person it describes, all CVs should include:
Personal information, including address and contact details;
Education and Qualifications;
Professional and voluntary experience with the most recent job first;
Skills, strengths and achievements – including a full clean driving licence if they have one;
CVs should not exceed two sides of A4;
Check for spelling mistakes!
Use a professional font which is easy to read.
Where possible, your child should include a covering letter along with their CV. CVs are generic whereas a covering letter gives them an opportunity to specify why this particular apprenticeship appeals to them and what qualities they have that make them a good match. Make sure they read the job description carefully and use the letter to illustrate how their skills match up to what has been requested.
Interviewing can be nerve-wracking, so it’s worth reassuring your child that interviewers are not looking to catch them out and pick fault with them, quite the contrary, they are just as keen to find the right person to take up their apprenticeships as students are to find the right opportunity! That said, employers like to be taken seriously as there’s a lot of time and money invested in the interview process. There are some fundamental must-dos before moving on to some of the tips that could make your child stand out from others.
Fundamental things they should do for interview:
Dress smartly, irrespective of whether the interview is face-to-face or online. Be fresh, clean and alert (make sure they have not been out partying the night before!). Wear smart, suitable shoes (no trainers, slip-ons or open toes). No brightly coloured nail varnish and minimal cosmetics. If the interview is online, make sure the background is appropriate and uncluttered;
Find out about the organisation. Your child must be able to supply a heartfelt, credible reason why they want to work for whomever is offering the apprenticeship – if they’ve had work experience with them already, so much the better;
Be on time! It reflects very poorly to arrive late for an interview – even if it is just a few minutes. In most cases, interviews will run to a tight schedule; aside from making a poor initial impression by being late, they will have less time than others to make themselves stand out – the interview is unlikely to be extended;
Allow some contingency. Make sure your child plans their journey so they can arrive with time to spare. If there are problems with public transport or traffic en route, they will have factored in a buffer. If they need to visit the rest room, they will have time. If it’s hot outside, they will have chance to cool down in air-conditioning. If they are suffering with nerves, they can get a glass of water;
Check whether they will be expected to give a presentation – and prepare for it if so;
Be able to talk fluently on what they have mentioned in their CV and application. It can be a long time between making the application and getting the interview. Also, brush up on anything relevant that has happened in between.
Preparing for interview
To help your child prepare for their interview, a list of commonly asked interview questions have been included in this article. The aim of this is not to encourage your child to learn answers off by heart, but to help build their confidence in speaking around these topics. Questions on the company itself are likely to be asked - so make sure your child has researched carefully the values and aims of the business. Direct them to the required skills / competencies found in the job description to gain a better understanding of what the employer is looking for and how they can demonstrate these in their responses. You might also want to get your child to write down some short-hand answers to of the questions at the bottom of this article. Preparing thoroughly prior to the interview gives your child thinking time and will help them to provide considered responses to difficult questions. One of the key things employers will be looking for is good communication skills. Encourage your child to practise their responses out loud to improve their interview skills. You may wish to role-play interviews with your child using the list of questions at the bottom of this article. Pay particular attention to what your child says, how they speak, their body language and whether they can support their answers with specific examples. Finally, make sure your child prepares their own questions. It is very common for interviewers to ask their applicants if they have any questions at the end of the interview. This is a great opportunity for your child to demonstrate their interest in the apprenticeship. Help your child to prepare some questions in advance - some ideas are included below:
Questions about the company
Why do you want to apply for this apprenticeship?
Why do you want to work for this company?
What do you know about this company?
What qualities do you think are important to this role?
Which part of the job role do you think will be the most challenging?
What do you think are the most challenging issues facing the company at the moment?
Questions about the applicant
Tell me about your self.
What skills can you bring to the role?
What makes you stand out from the other applicants?
What are your three key strengths?
Do you have any weaknesses? (the answer is always yes!). What are they and how are you addressing them?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
What do you think you would like least about this role?
Give an example of why you feel you are a good communicator / team member?
How have you influenced team decisions?
How do you respond to stressful situations / under pressure / difficult customers
Questions your child might ask the interviewer
Where do you think this company is going to be in the next five years?
What do apprentices usually go on to do?
Will there be the option to continue my training after the apprenticeship finishes?
How regularly will my work performance be reviewed?
TIP: Get your child to find a recent news article on the company / industry they are applying in. Based on what they have read, help them think of a question they might like to ask at the interview.
Is your child applying for an apprenticeship?
For more information on apprenticeships and how you can help your child apply and prepare for an interview, you may be interested in The Parents' Guide to Apprenticeships
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