Tips & Tricks

Congratulations!!! You’ve sent off your CV and made it through to the interview stage. Believe it or not, the hard part is over. Getting through to this stage means your application has made an impression, and the employer believes you can get the job done. After all, they wouldn’t waste their time meeting you if this wasn’t the case.

Now for some insider knowledge. The interview is all about getting to know you on a more personal level. And no, that doesn’t mean asking you what your favourite colour is or what your star sign is. They know you’re qualified for the job, they’ve seen your CV, and now need to confirm you are someone they want to work with. There is a lot to be said for human intuition, and the interview process allows them to look into your eyes and get a sense of who you are.

Don’t panic!

We created this page to help guide you through the process. Taking you from start to finish to give you a better chance at securing an apprenticeship or job.

Preparing for the Interview

This is a step you will have ideally completed before sending off your CV. Understanding the job and your responsibilities will be vital to making it through the interview stage. Don’t worry if you’re not the perfect candidate on paper. The key is to understand what you’re good at and how that’s relevant to the job and the business.

For example, maybe your summer job stacking shelves at the local supermarket taught you a lot about attention to detail. Take what you have and polish it till it shines. Nobody likes selling themselves, but the more you understand how your skills and experience relate to the job description, the less painful it will be.

Knowing how long the interview is due to last will give you an idea of how detailed it will be and allow you to start to prepare for it. Some employers also ask that you complete a task when coming in for an interview, which can make up a large part of the interview. So take that into account.

Part of your preparation should include doing some professional stalking of the business you are interviewing with. Visit their website, social media pages, anything that will give you an idea of who they are and what they do. As well as this, you want to find out:

Remember, they’re offering you an opportunity to join their business and want to know why you’re interested in working for them in particular. So, it can also be beneficial to research competing businesses to see how they stand out.

During the interview, it is highly likely there will be questions about your previous work experience, skills, and knowledge of the business. So practise as much as you can beforehand with a friend, family member or just by yourself. Coming prepared and knowing answers to popular interview questions will help you stand out from all the people who just wing it. Common interview questions are:

Asking the employer questions is a good way to show you’re engaged and have been actively listening throughout the interview. In fact, it’s become expected for you to ask some questions at the end and can help them start picturing you in the role straightaway. So, have some ready but don’t go on and on. For example:

This is a key step of your preparation. Once you have received a date, time, and location for the interview, plan how you are going to get there. Google Maps can be helpful with this, whether you’re driving or using public transport. However you plan on getting there, consider traveling to the location the day before the interview to check how long the journey will take.

What you wear to an interview can depend on the kind of job you are applying for. But, it’s usually a good idea to dress smart. Once you have your clothes picked out, prepare them the day before, so you aren’t running around the house like a headless chicken searching for things. You don’t have to go extreme just aim for neat, clean, and tidy.

Before going into their offices, employers may want to conduct an interview with you over the phone. If this is the case, make sure you prepare. This means having your personal information ready in front of you and a copy of the job advert for you to reference. If you need to practise, compile a list of probable questions, and ask a friend to run through them with you beforehand.

Attending the Interview

CV or Application Form – Even though the employer should already have a copy of your CV or application, it’s always a good idea to take a copy with you. Just in case they need an extra or if you need to reference it. Bringing it along will also show them you are ready for any outcome and have come prepared.

Notes or Cue-Cards – You wouldn’t be the first person to have practised and practised for an interview and then forgot everything the moment you walk in the door. Taking notes or cue cards will help to jog your memory and keep everything moving forward. However, don’t write notes in complete sentences because it will come across as unnatural and scripted. 

Requested Material – Bring any information the employer has asked for, e.g. references, certificates, driving licence, etc. You don’t want to give the employer any reason to doubt you are right for the job, so be sure to remember what they asked for.

The Job Advert – Whether it’s on your phone or printed out, have a copy of the job advert with you. This is so you can go over it before the interview as a refresher and reference key points during the interview.

Arrive Early – In life, first impressions can make or break a relationship, and it’s the same for business. Planning out your route and getting there 10 minutes early goes a long way in demonstrating good time management skills. It also gives you some time to get settled and quiet those butterflies in your stomach.

DON’T arrive any more than 15 minutes early as this can still demonstrate poor time management, and the interviewer may be in the middle of something. The last thing you want to do is interrupt them. 

The Handshake – Discreetly wipe your hand first. Everyone gets nervous at interviews, and while they would understand, the last thing the employer wants is to shake a sweaty hand. Also, remember to use a firm grip, as this will display confidence. Just don’t try to break their hand!

Professionalism – Exercise the same level of grammar you used throughout your CV and cover letter. No calling the interviewer(s) fam or bro, don’t even try to fist bump them and remain polite and friendly throughout. You are interviewing for a job, this is a professional process, do not ruin your chances when you’ve worked so hard to make it this far.

Eyes and Ears – During the interview, maintain good eye contact with the interviewer, especially if there’s more than one, but don’t stare. This shows you are actively listening, paying attention, and interested in what the interviewer has to say.

Listen carefully to what the employer has to say, as they will ask you questions about it later. Paying attention also allows you to start thinking about questions you can ask them. When answering a question, avoid just saying Yes or No and provide examples.

Treat every employer differently and give answers to questions you truly believe, not just what you think they want to hear. They want to see the real you, and when you can bring that level of authenticity to an interview, people take notice. It’s also important to keep your answers to the point and never criticise previous employers or colleagues. It’s not an attractive quality in a potential employee.

Remember, you don’t have to answer questions straight away, so take a moment to think about it, and feel free to ask them to repeat the question.

Once the interview has ended, thank the employer for taking the time to interview you, shake their hand, and leave. DON’T start another conversation or lurk. Just leave.

Waiting for a response

After you’ve finished the interview, gone home, and obsessed over every little thing you could have done better, rest. Remember, this stuff isn’t easy. Going to an interview can be very stressful, so be sure to let your mind and body recover.

Employers can take about a week to get in touch after an interview, sometimes more, sometimes never. So, keep an eye out for any emails, check your junk folder, and keep your phone nearby. With any luck, they’ll be in touch and let you know you’ve moved onto the next stage or got the job.

However, if at first, you don’t succeed, keep your head up and move on to the next one. If you can, ask the employer for feedback on what could have gone better and keep that in mind for next time.

If you are interested in applying for an apprenticeship, give us a call on 0121 236 2634, to speak directly to a member of staff.